There is a unique church in Barcelona that is still under construction since 1882. This is the only case in the history of architecture when a long-term construction has such colossal world fame, is a source of attraction for millions of tourists and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Many great cities have their own business card building, where thousands of inquisitive tourists from all over the world flock every year. So, with only one mention of Paris, the image of the Eiffel Tower instantly pops up, when you see the image of the Statue of Liberty, the letters USA flash in your mind with a flashing beacon, and the Cheops pyramid icon may well replace the name of Egypt on a geographical map.
However, perhaps no other country in the world has such a specific feature that distinguishes the business card of the Spanish city of Barcelona from other world-famous buildings. We are talking, of course, about the famous work of the great architect Antonio Gaudi – the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.
The Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia, simply known as the Sagrada Família, is a unique church in Barcelona, Spain that began construction in 1882 and is still under construction. The unusual appearance of the temple has made it one of the main and most visited attractions in Barcelona. When completed, it will be the tallest Christian church in the world.
According to the decision of the initiators of the construction of the temple, the financing of the work should be carried out exclusively at the expense of donations from the parishioners, which is one of the reasons for such a long construction. Also, the completion of construction delays the difficulty of manufacturing stone blocks. According to the computer model, each of them requires individual processing and fitting.
The architectural narrative of the author of this temple stretches as a chain of contributions to the construction from his followers to our contemporaries. It breathes with the echo of the past, keeping within its walls the memories of past historical events, and sounds in unison with today's 21st century.
The Sagrada Familia is a truly unique architectural phenomenon, it is a bridge that connected generations, eras and gave an exceptional opportunity not only to touch history, but also to join in its creation. For a century and a half, the structure has been built, growing, and changing.
And this is the only case in the history of architecture when a long-term construction has such colossal world fame, is a source of attraction for millions of tourists and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The history of the construction of the cathedral
The creation of the cathedral began in 1882 with an unfamiliar history of the architect Francisco de Villar. Initially, the building was conceived to be executed in the neo-Gothic style, in the spirit of that time and in the classical ideas of how a Christian church should look like. In accordance with this, the construction was laid and the crypt under the apse was erected. However, by chance, Villar soon abandons the project and it is headed by Antonio Gaudi, who is appointed chief architect in 1891.
From now on, Gaudi's life will be inextricably linked with the construction of the cathedral. He lived and breathed this work, he was fanatically devoted to it and often personally collected donations for its erection. By the way, the author lived in the literal sense, in the cathedral itself, in the cell of an unfinished building.
Gaudi just gushed with ideas. As an abstract artist, overcome by inner impulses and emotions, he splashed out his ideas chaotically, often without schemes and drawings, intuitively, endlessly changing something, breaking and rebuilding anew. It is not surprising that the construction required from him the maximum personal presence and assistance, so in the end the cathedral became both a working workshop and a shelter for him.
The master gave 43 years of his life to his creation, while only a third of his plan was realized during his lifetime. Gaudi was a deeply pious man, and Sagrada Familia was supposed to be, according to his plan, a modern reading of the New Testament. And indeed, it seems that each stone in the building is not accidental, it is informatively nourished and tells about the next biblical story.
The plan of the building is made in the form of a Latin cross, which, in fact, exhausted the similarity of this futuristic building with ordinary Catalan churches and temples.
Interior and architecture of the cathedral
Gaudi planned to complete three facades: Christmas, Passion of Christ and Resurrection. Each of them should be crowned with four pointed towers, up to 112 meters high, which would add up to a total of 12, which would correspond to 12 apostles.
Four more towers, 120 meters each, should symbolize the Evangelists and surround the central, highest tower (170 meters), dedicated to Jesus, on which the cross should be located.
The tower with a bell tower in honor of the Virgin Mary was supposed to be located above the apse. Gaudi decided that even the highest tower of the temple should not exceed the highest mountain in Spain – Montjuic.
As a devout Christian, Antonio Gaudi could not put his work higher than the creation of God.
Each facade should carry its own semantic load, conveyed by bas-reliefs that would convey the story of the life and deeds of Christ. So the first facade tells about the Nativity of Christ, this is the eastern part of the transept, the only part of the cathedral, built almost completely during the life of the author. The complete completion of the facade was completed only at the end of the 50s of the 20th century.
Speaking about the merits of architecture, the unusual shape and structure of the building as a whole, I would like to pay attention to the interior and exterior decoration of the temple. Even in the worst amateur photography, it is obvious how carefully and lovingly Gaudí treated literally every square centimeter of his work.
The decoration of the building and the decor are simply amazing with the number of details, thoughtfulness of plots, lines, transitions, and a combination of different styles. This is modern, and gothic, and Christian traditions, a pinch of baroque, part of oriental architecture – all this is a completely harmonious composition, in which there is nothing superfluous.
Vintage steps, innovative diagonal supports, columns in the form of branched trees, towers lined with majolica and decorated with zodiac symbols and gifts of nature, vines and clusters, shells, wheat ears.
In addition, the temple is filled with special poetry, which the maestro wanted to put into it. Gaudí planned to build a bell tower where the bells would sway from gusts of wind. He created a complex lighting system, where the light had to penetrate through the openings in the towers and through the stained glass windows at different levels, which would create a feeling of flowing light.
Antonio Gaudi approached his work very responsibly and with a possible degree of professionalism. One of the confirmations of this is the following fact: when creating one of the biblical scenes “Massacre of the Innocents”, the architect took casts from stillborn babies, and in order to take a cast from an animal, for a more naturalistic image, Gaudí put them to sleep for a while using chloroform.
In 1954, after Gaudí's death, his followers began to build the Passion façade. A museum was subsequently opened inside this part of the temple, which presents preserved sketches, drawings, developments of the author himself, as well as artistic and technical objects associated with the construction of the structure throughout the history of its existence.
From 1977 until the beginning of the 21st century, work was underway on the construction of four towers, the decoration of the facade with sculptures and the interior decoration of the building with stained glass windows.
In 2000, the creation of the Glory façade began, and at the same time the erection of the tower of Christ and the Virgin Mary was planned. The work is ongoing to this day, and according to preliminary estimates, the global completion of construction is planned for 2030.
For the past decade, the temple has been surrounded by cranes that look funny and strange between the conical tops of the towers. Captured by millions of tourists in photographs, they are also immortalized to some extent and attached to the history of the architectural masterpiece.
To take a closer look at this man-made wonder of the world and learn more interesting facts about it, we recommend that you watch the following videos that we have selected for you on YouTube.