The Sagrada Família is an iconic church in Barcelona, Spain, known for its stunning architecture and intricate details. The church has been under construction for over a century and is still incomplete, making it a unique and ongoing project.
Designed by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, the Sagrada Família is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Gaudi’s design for the church combines elements of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles and features unique structural and decorative elements that have made it one of the most remarkable buildings of its kind.
Sagrada Familia Technical Information
- Architects: Antoni Gaudi
- Location: Barcelona, Spain
- Topics: Gothic Revival, Art Nouveau, Modernista, Unesco Heritage
- Area: 4,500 m2 | 48,500 ft2
- Dimensions: length: 90 meters (300 feet), width: 60 meters (200 feet), width of nave: 45 meters (150 feet)
- Project Year: 1882 – 2026
- Photographs: Various
The Sagrada Familia is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.– Antoni Gaudi1
Sagrada Familia Photographs
History and Architecture of Sagrada Familia: A Comprehensive Exploration
The idea for Sagrada Família originated in the late 19th century when a local bookseller named Josep Maria Bocabella envisioned a grand church that would be a symbol of Barcelona’s Catholic faith. The project was then assigned to architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, who resigned a year later due to disagreements with Bocabella. Antoni Gaudí took over as the lead architect in 1883 at the age of 31.
Gaudí devoted the rest of his life to the project, and Sagrada Família became his masterpiece. He incorporated various architectural styles, including Gothic and Art Nouveau, to create a unique and awe-inspiring structure. However, Gaudí died in 1926 before the church was completed, and several architects have continued the project since then.
Sagrada Família is a perfect example of Gaudí’s style, characterized by its intricate details and organic forms. The church’s facade features three grand portals, each representing a theological virtue – faith, hope, and charity. The towers, which are still under construction, will eventually reach a height of 172 meters, making Sagrada Família the tallest church in the world.
The interior of the church is equally impressive. The nave is designed to resemble a forest, with columns that branch out like trees and support the ceiling like a canopy. The stained-glass windows, designed by Joan Vila-Grau, create a mesmerizing play of light and color inside the church.
Gaudí’s innovative construction techniques and materials use is also evident in Sagrada Família. For example, the church’s interior columns are not straight but have a slight curve, giving them greater strength and stability. Gaudí also used natural materials such as stone, wood, and glass to create a harmonious relationship between the church and its natural surroundings.
Design Elements of Sagrada Familia: An In-Depth Analysis
The Sagrada Família’s style is often compared to Spanish Late Gothic, Catalan Modernism, or Art Nouveau. While it was built during the Art Nouveau period, Nikolaus Pevsner notes that Gaudí, like Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, went beyond using Art Nouveau solely for surface decoration.
Although not intended to be a cathedral, the Sagrada Família was designed to be a large building comparable in size to one. Its ground-plan shares similarities with earlier Spanish cathedrals such as Burgos Cathedral, León Cathedral, and Seville Cathedral. Like many Catalan and European Gothic cathedrals, the Sagrada Família is shorter than its width. It has many complex parts, including double aisles, an ambulatory with a chevet of seven apsidal chapels, numerous steeples, and three portals, each with a different structure and ornamentation. One unusual feature of the Sagrada Família’s plan is the covered passage or cloister that forms a rectangle around the church and passes through the narthex of each portal. Although influenced by Villar’s crypt, the plan only hints at the complexity of Gaudí’s design and its deviation from traditional church architecture. A few straight lines or exact right angles can be found inside and outside the church.
The Spires of La Sagrada Familia
Gaudí’s original design called for eighteen spires, representing the Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists, and the tallest, Jesus Christ. As of 2022, eleven spires have been built, including four apostles at the Nativity façade, four at the Passion façade, and two of the Evangelists, Luke, and Mark, as well as the Virgin Mary. Drawings signed by Gaudí and recently found in the Municipal Archives indicate that the spire of the Virgin was meant to be shorter than those of the Evangelists, and the height will reflect Gaudí’s intention.
The spires of the Evangelists will be topped with sculptures of their traditional symbols: a winged bull (Saint Luke), a winged man (Saint Matthew), an eagle (Saint John), and a winged lion (Saint Mark). The central spire of Jesus Christ will have a giant cross on top, and its total height (172.5 meters) will be lower than Montjuïc hill in Barcelona, as Gaudí believed his creation should not surpass God’s. The lower spires will be topped with communion hosts with sheaves of wheat and chalices with bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist. Tubular bells will be placed inside the spires, driven by the wind, to create sound within the church. Gaudí performed acoustic studies to achieve the desired sound results. However, only one bell is currently in place. When the spires are completed, the Sagrada Família will become the tallest church building in the world, 11 meters taller than the current record-holder, Ulm Minster, which stands at 161.5 meters.
The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is designed to have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South (yet to be completed).
The Nativity Façade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct influence of the architect Antoni Gaudí.
The Nativity façade The Passion façade was built according to Gaudi’s design in 1917. The construction began in 1954, and the steeples, built over the elliptical plan, were finished in 1976. It is especially striking for its spare, gaunt, tormented characters, including emaciated figures of Christ being scourged at the pillar; and Christ on the Cross. These controversial designs are the work of Josep Maria Subirachs.
The Glory façade, on which construction began in 2002, will be the most significant and most monumental of the three and will represent one’s ascension to God. It will also depict scenes such as Hell and Purgatory, including elements such as the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues.
Sculpture of the choir of angel children Constructed between 1893 and 1936, the Nativity façade was the first façade to be completed. Dedicated to the birth of Jesus, it is decorated with scenes reminiscent of elements of life. Characteristic of Gaudí’s naturalistic style, the sculptures are ornately arranged and decorated with scenes and images from nature, each a symbol in its own manner. For instance, the three porticos are separated by two large columns, and at the base of each lies a turtle or a tortoise (one to represent the land and the other the sea; each symbolizes time as something set in stone and unchangeable). In contrast to the figures of turtles and their symbolism, two chameleons can be found on either side of the façade and are symbolic of change.
The façade faces the rising sun to the northeast, a symbol of the birth of Christ. It is divided into three porticos, each representing a theological virtue (Hope, Faith, and Charity). The Tree of Life rises above the door of Jesus in the portico of Charity. Four steeples complete the façade, each dedicated to a Saint (Matthias, Barnabas, Jude the Apostle, and Simon the Zealot).
Originally, Gaudí intended for this façade to be polychromed, for each archivolt to be painted with a wide array of colors. He wanted every statue and figure to be painted. In this way, the figures of humans would appear as much alive as the figures of plants and animals.
The Significance of The Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Família is a beautiful work of art and a symbol of Barcelona’s Catholic faith and cultural heritage. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts millions of visitors annually. The church is also a testament to Gaudí’s genius and innovative architectural approach.
Despite being under construction for over a century, Sagrada Família continues to evolve and adapt to the times. In recent years, the church has embraced new technology, such as 3D printing, to help speed up construction. However, the church’s construction remains a complex and time-consuming endeavor.
Sagrada Familia Plans
Sagrada Familia Image Gallery
About Antoni Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was a renowned Spanish architect known for his distinctive style and unique approach to design. He was born in Reus, Catalonia, and is best known for his work on the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, as well as other notable buildings such as Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, and Park Güell. Gaudi’s designs were heavily influenced by his love of nature and his deep Catholic faith, and his work is characterized by the use of organic.
- The Sagrada Familia: The Astonishing Story of Gaudí’s Unfinished Masterpiece by Gijs van Hensbergen