The Sagrada Família History
One of the most notable monuments in Barcelona and around the world is the Basilíca i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family), designed by the famous arquitect Antoni Gaudí. If you plan to visit Barcelona, the Sagrada Família Temple should be at the top of your list of things to see and visit.
It is Barcelona’s pride jewel and one of the most popular monuments in the entire world, visited by millions of tourists every year, a unique temple, for its origins, foundation and purpose.
The beginnings of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família date back to 1866, when Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer founded the Associació Espiritual de Devots de Sant Josep (Spiritual Association of the Devotees of Saint Joseph), which in 1874 began campaigning for the construction of an expiatory temple dedicated to the Holy Family only by donations.
This construction began with the crypt under the apse following the neo-Gothic design of diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano, the Temple’s first architect. After one year, due to disagreements with the developers, the position was offered to Antoni Gaudí. After taking over the project in 1883, first Gaudí built the crypt Maria do Carmo, which was completed in 1889. After receiving a significant anonymous donation, Gaudí considered a new, grander design – he proposed a new design that was more monumental and innovational in its shapes, structures and building techniques.
Gaudí wanted to express Christianity through the architecture and communicate the message of Jesus and his Evangelists. He obtained a amazing symbiosis between form and Christian characterization, with a new and unique architecture developed detailedly with logical structures, forms and geometries inspired by nature and geometry, with light and colours also playing a central role.
According with the Association of the Devotees of Saint Joseph “the meaning of the Sagrada Familia is communicated through the form and expressivity of its architecture and the iconography of its sculpture.”
The life and teachings of Jesus are represented on walls of the three façades. Each one represents one of the three crucial events of Christ’s existence: his birth and life (first façade); his passion, death and resurrection (second façade); and his present and future Glory (third façade, not finished yet). As the sun moves across the sky, its light further emphasizes the qualities of each façade.
The various architectural elements are endue with Christian symbolism. Each of its 18 towers has a special meaning. In the middle is the tower dedicated to Jesus Christ and around it are four towers representing the Gospels; the books containing the life and teachings of Jesus. The tower above the apse, crowned by a star, represents the Virgin Mary, while the remaining 12 towers represent the 12 Apostles, four in each façade.
These 18 towers will provide a sense of elevation to the central tower dedicated to Jesus Christ which will be the highest point of the temple with 172.5m high.
A structural function which reflect the idea of Gaudí that the inside of the temple should be like a wood, inviting prayer to connect with God and the divine worlds.
To lessen the load of the roofing and bring light into the building he designed skylights in between the columns, based on quadric surfaces, built using pieces of golden and green glass and tiles to reflect daylight inside. All the stained glass in the apse follows a plan of graduated tones to create an atmosphere suitable for introspection.
Discussing the history of the Temple Sagrada Família would not be complete without speaking about Antoni Gaudí, one of the most famous arquitects around the world, master of the Catalan Modernism Movement.
Gaudí, since 1883, dedicated 44 years to this project. From 1914, Gaudí devoted his time exclusively to Sagrada Família until the day of his death. Gaudí passed away in 1926, leaving his most important project, unfinished. He was buried on June 12 in the a crypt in the Sagrada Família Temple.Thanks to his architectural plans, his work continues by the responsibility of renowned architects. The money for the construction is obtained by the many visits to this impressive visit and various donations.
Five generations have watched the Temple progress in Barcelona. Today, 137 years after the laying of the cornerstone, construction continues on the Basilica and is expected to be completed in 2026, one century after Gaudi’s death.
Written by Elisa Rodrigues