Architecture Magazine

Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

By The Grumpy Old Limey @GrumpyOldLimey

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain Some of the most magnificent structures ever conceived were built in the Middle Ages. Few modern structures can match the awe inspiring gothic cathedrals of Europe. These massive monuments to times past were often constructed over decades and sometimes over hundreds of years; generations of craftsmen dedicated their lives to the projects never to see the final glory of the completed cathedrals. Take York Minster for example; started in 1220 the current cathedral took ...

Calle Mallorca 401, 08034, Barcelona
41°24'13.08"N 2°10'27.78"E

... some 250 years to construct and was finally completed in 1472. In France ground was broken for the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris in 1163 and the building was for the most part completed in 1345; a period of around 180 years. Contrast that with modern construction; the Oscar Niemeyer designed Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida in Brazilia, Brazil was dedicated in 1970; a mere twelve years after the cornerstone was laid in 1958. Modern architecture and construction techniques have certainly brought us a long way [for the better? I am not too sure but that is a different discussion for a different day]. It is unusual then, if not unique, for a modern project to follow more closely a medieval construction timeline than a modern one. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain however does just that. Antoni Gaudi's last and greatest masterpiece is estimated for completion around 2026, the centennial of Gaudi's death; construction began in 1882 so the Sagrada Familia has currently been under construction for 129 years [as of 2011].

Sagrada Familia Model
In 1882 ground was broken and construction started under the guidance and to the plans of architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. Those initial plans were for a standard Gothic revival church. In 1883 Antoni Gaudi joined the project and shortly after de Paula left. Gaudi radically altered the plans and despite the fact that Gaudi died early in the construction process the project has remained true to Gaudi's design to this day. It is hard to conceive of the creativity necessary to conceive such a building. I struggle to visualize a single room come decorating time so impressive is not a strong enough word to describe Gaudi's talent. Obviously with the building incomplete still and images including construction cranes and paraphernalia a full impression of Gaudi's vision has not yet been realized. However we can get a glimpse of what the completed Sagrada Familia will look like from Gaudi's model of the completed church [shown right - image source]. The model looks stunning; I can only imagine what the completed cathedral will look like. I am fortunate to be planning a trip to Barcelona next year and one of the highlights I am looking forward to is a visit to the Sagrada Familia. Perhaps later in life I might manage another trip and see the final product in what I am sure will be all of its magnificent glory.
Sagrada familia Detail
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is a Roman Catholic church and Gaudi's design pays homage to much of that faith's symbolism. The overall design is of a church that is short in comparison to its width with a complex internal design including double aisles, many towers, three differently structured and ornamented portals and several chapels. The design calls for eighteen spires, representing the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Eight spires have been built as of 2011, corresponding to four apostles at the Nativity façade and four apostles at the Passion façade. At 560 feet tall the tallest spire will make the Sagrada Familia the tallest church in the world. Atop the spires are [and will be] an array of ornaments all important in catholic symbolism including a bull (St Luke), a winged man (St Matthew), an eagle (St John), and a lion (St Mark), a cross on the central spire and sheaves of wheat, bunches of grapes [see the example to the left - image source] and other ornamentation on some of the lower spires. The church design features three facades of which two, the Nativity and the Passion, are complete and one, The Glory, has yet to be constructed. Work on The Glory, the principle and largest of the facades, started in 2002.
Despite its incomplete status the church has received an array of awards and recognitions over the years. The church is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2010 it was consecrated as a Minor Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. CNN reported that in speaking at the consecration ceremony the Pope stated that in designing the Sagrada Familia Gaudi was:
"overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life ... Gaudi did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes and points. Indeed, beauty is one of mankind's greatest needs ... Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness."
Sagrada Falilia Sign
Whatever one thinks of the religious symbolism or whether the structure is even to ones aesthetic taste it is hard to imagine how you could not be just a little awestruck by Gaudi's magnificent legacy. As with any building of such stature [a short list] Flickr "creative commons" has a vast array of images. I have collected my favorites and I thank all the photographers; each photograph is attributed by means of a link back to the original image. There were a few that particularly struck me. ctsnow's image of a spiral staircase is wonderful and to me incredibly reminiscent of Ammonite fossils in a seeming homage to nature, Lukasz Dzierzanowski's image of a Magic Square is an interesting scientific detail in an environment almost entirely devoted to religious symbolism and the first image of the interior, also by Lukasz Dzierzanowski is just plain awesome. Take a look and then take a look on Flickr where there is a vast array of images of the striking and stunning Sagrada Familia.

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York Minster Website
Wikipedia - Notre Dame de Paris
About Brasilia
Sagrada Familia Website
Wikipedia - Sagrada Familia

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