Sagrada Familia Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, commonly known as the Sagrada Família is the symbol and one of the most popular attractions in Spain. It is the unfinished masterpiece of the Spanish Catalan architect and figurehead of Catalan Modernism - Antoni Gaudí. It's a giant Basilica that has been under construction since 1882 and the construction will continue for at least another decade. Though it has already become Barcelona's most important landmark. The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.

The construction

The idea for the building of a new church was launched by a organisation who wanted to bring an end to the de-christianisation of the Barcelonese, which had started with the industrialization and increasing wealth of the city. In 1877 this organisation purchased a plot of land in the new Eixample district. After five years a neo-Gothic church was designed by the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, he also led the constructions works.
In 1823 the lead architect become the modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. From the age of 31, Gaudí dedicated more than 40 years (the last 14 of them exclusively) to the project, and is buried beneath the nave. He changed the design drastically, the original plans were abandoned. Gaudí was constantly improvising and changing the design while construction was going on. The neo-Gothic style made way for Gaudí's trademark modernist style, which was based on forms found in nature. In 1926 he managed to build only one tower, one façade (the Nativity Façade), the crypt and the apse. A lot of designs and models were destroyed in 1936 during the Civil War.
Natheless, architects know exactly what gem Gaudí wanted to build. The last version of his design called for a church 95 meters long and 60 meters wide. This church could potentially fit some 13,000 people. When finished, the Sagrada Família will have a total of 18 towers. Four towers on each of the three façades represent the twelve apostles. The towers reach a height of 90 – 120 meters. Another four towers represent the four evangelists which will surround the largest one – 170 meters tall tower - dedicated to Jesus Christ. The last tower, dedicated to Virgin Mary, will be built over the apse.
Because of the outbreak of the Civil War and lack of funds, the construction works slowed dramatically after Gaudí's death. In 1950s the construction pace started to pick up again and now eight towers and two façades have been completed. In 2000 was roofed the main nave. At that time construction was expected to last for another hundred years, but modern technology has enabled architects to speed up construction so that the Sagrada Família is now slated for completion before 2030.
The first façade, facing east, is known as the Nativity Façade. It was finished by Gaudí himself and is ornamented in a Baroque fashion with motifs of animals and plants. Opposite the Nativity Façade is the Passion Façade, its construction started in 1954 and only after 33 years were added the sculptures depicting the crucified Jesus Christ. Immediately after they were installed, the abstract figures caused discontent because the style was very different from Gaudí's. The Glory Façade is the third and main façade. Construction of this façade started in 2002 and is still ongoing. This façade, on the south side of the church, will picture life and death.

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Visiting Sagrada Família
The Sagrada Família is a must-see in Barcelona, even it is far from finished. When you visit the building you will see the contrast in the stone colour between the front and back of the building. Also the actual style of construction appears somewhat different between the new and old parts of the building. The building is still under construction so be prepared to see a lot of work continuing when you visit. Open to the public is the crypt were Gaudí is buried, as well the transept and central nave with its giant, tree-like pillars and spectacular vaulting. Inside the building there is a museum that narrates the history of the church and tells the story of its great architect. The towers also can be visited. An elevator and a long walk will lead you to the top of a tower from where you have a magnificent view over Barcelona. The climb is not recommended for those with fear of heights.
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