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Sagrada Familia: under construction since 1882, it will be finished in 2026

Goran Blazeski

The Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (the Expiatory Church of the Holy Family), is today one of the identifying icons of Barcelona. The church in the district Eixample has been being built since 1882 and is supposed to be finished in 2026.

Sagrada Familia or the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia was begun in 1882 by public subscription by architect Francisco Paula de Villar and a year later Gaudi became director of the project, a post he would hold for more than 40 years until his death in 1926.

Gaudi's model of the completed church. Photo Credit

Gaudi’s model of the completed church. Photo Credit

In the middle of the 19th Century, the booksellers Jose Maria Boca Bella, Chairman of the Holy Brotherhood, planned to build a church in Barcelona and to devote it to the Holy Family. The land he chose was within the Poblet (village). He would have preferred land closer to the city center, but due to the already high land prices, it wasn’t possible.

When Gaudi inherited the project towards the end of 1883 he had a new plan that was more ambitious, involving the construction of a church with 5 naves, a transept, an apse, an exterior ambulatory, 3 facades and 18 towers. He lived long enough only to see a quarter of his masterwork completed, but the building is significantly influenced by him.

Sagrada Familia in 1905.

Sagrada Familia in 1905.

Wishing to create the perfect church, he presented the life of Jesus and the history of faith. The towers symbolize Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the twelve disciples and the four evangelists. The facades portray the three key moments in the life of Jesus: the Birth, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ.

Gaudi once said, “My client is not in a hurry” he believed that God had all the time in the world, so there was no need to rush the completion of the Catalan architect’s most ambitious work, the Sagrada Família.

Gaudi influenced the construction and design of the Sagrada Familia significantly. Many new parts are built according to plans, which aren’t in good condition so that it often depended on assumptions about how the great architect had originally planned the parts.

The Nativity Facade. Photo Credit

The Nativity Facade. Photo Credit

Sagrada Familia is paid for entirely by private donations and sales of tickets to the around 3 million people that visit it each year. 2026 is when supposed that Sagrada Familia will be finished it will be the world’s tallest church, soaring 560-ft (170-m) above the Catalan capital and it will be one of the most controversial place of worship ever built on such an epic scale.

George Orwell didn’t like Sagrada Familia at all and on one occasion he said, “Sagrada Familia is one of the most hideous buildings in the world.” Salvador Dali said that it should be kept under a glass dome. Louis Sullivan, the father of skyscrapers described it as “spirit symbolized in stone.”

The scene of the birth of Jesus. Photo Credit

The scene of the birth of Jesus. Photo Credit

Although Sagrada Familia is very popular as a tourist attraction, it wasn’t always so popular for the people of Barcelona. In July 1936, revolutionaries set light to the crypt and broke their way into the workshop, destroying Gaudi’s original plans, drawings, and plaster models.

It took 16 years for architects just to piece together the fragments of the master model, and controversy has followed its construction ever since. Critics have warned that its final design will have little in common with Gaudi’s original vision.

The Sagrada Familia viewed from Casa Mila, Barcelona, Spain. Photo Credit

The Sagrada Familia viewed from Casa Mila, Barcelona, Spain. Photo Credit

On November 7, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI visited Sagrada Familia, conceded his blessing and consecrated it as a Basilica.

Ten years from now, and a full 100 years after the famed architect’s death at age 73, the Sagrada Familia will be finished and it will surpass all previously built Christian churches in magnificence.