Sagrada Familia: The Unfinished Beauty of Barcelona

Sagrada Familia: The Unfinished Beauty of Barcelona | CIO Women Magazine

A visionary masterpiece that went through decades of hardships to build yet is still under construction. Located in the heart of Barcelona, Sagrada Familia or The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is the largest unfinished basilica that despite being surrounded by workers, caught the eyes of the public because of its beauty and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. 

Sagrada Familia is known for its breathtaking architecture and is said to be the largest church in the world in the future because of its height which is around 170 meters. It has captivated the eyes of visitors from around the world. Its towering spires, intricate facades, and awe-inspiring beauty have made it a must-see attraction for art enthusiasts, architecture lovers, and spiritual seekers alike. Through this article, we’ll learn about the history and significance of Sagrada Familia.

History of Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia finds its roots in 1872, when Josep Maria Bocabella, a Catalan bookseller and founder of the Spiritual Association of Devotees of St. Joseph, was inspired by the Basilica at Loreto during his visit to the Vatican. Bocabella envisioned building a church in Barcelona that would be inspired by the basilica at Loreto, which influenced the initial concept of the Sagrada Familia. Its construction began in 1882, under the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, but he resigned in 1883 and Antoni Gaudi took the project. 

Antoni Gaudi started the project in 1883 and became the Architect director in 1884 and dedicated the rest of his life to its construction. He left detailed designs to guide its completion, but tragically, only a quarter of the construction had been completed when Gaudí died in 1926. It is estimated that the current construction represents only 70% of the final design. Since 1940, the architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Garí, and Francesc Cardoner have carried on the work.

Sagrada Familia: The Unfinished Beauty of Barcelona | CIO Women Magazine
Source – thetimes

The Sagrada Familia is famous for its unique architectural style, which combines elements of Art Nouveau, Catalan Modernism, and Spanish Late Gothic design. Gaudí’s vision for the basilica was to create a “cathedral for the poor” that would be accessible to everyone. The building is characterized by its intricate facades, soaring towers, and innovative use of light and color. 

The Stunning Architecture of Sagrada Familia

Despite the ongoing construction, the architecture of Sagrada Familia, which has been completed so far, is simply breathtaking. One of the most striking features of the Sagrada Familia is its towering spires, which soar into the sky, reaching heights of up to 170 meters. Gaudí’s original design calls for eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Thirteen spires have been completed as of 2023, corresponding to four apostles at the Nativity façade, four apostles at the Passion façade, the four Evangelists, and the Virgin Mary. 

Gaudí’s attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the spires, from the intricate stone carvings to the delicate stained glass windows that adorn them. When sunlight filters through the vibrant stained glass, the interior of the basilica transforms into a mesmerizing symphony of colors, creating a truly ethereal experience for visitors.

The interior of the Sagrada Familia is equally breathtaking. Gaudí’s innovative use of light and space creates a sense of awe and wonder. The nave, with its towering columns that resemble a forest of trees, offers a unique and immersive experience. The columns branch out like tree trunks, supporting the weight of the roof and creating a sense of organic harmony within the space. The ceiling of the nave, adorned with intricate patterns and motifs, adds to the overall enchantment of the interior.

In addition to the nave, the Sagrada Familia features multiple chapels, each with its own unique design and purpose. These chapels provide visitors with intimate spaces for reflection and prayer, showcasing Gaudí’s ability to create diverse and meaningful architectural spaces within a unified structure.

Gaudí’s commitment to incorporating nature into his designs is evident throughout the Sagrada Familia. The basilica’s exterior is adorned with intricate floral and plant motifs, bringing the beauty of the natural world to this man-made marvel. The use of natural materials, such as stone and stained glass, further enhances the connection between the Sagrada Familia and the surrounding environment.

Sagrada Familia: The Unfinished Beauty of Barcelona | CIO Women Magazine
Source – americamagazine

Sagrada Familia also has three grand façades, the Nativity façade to the east, the Passion façade to the west, and the Glory façade to the south (which is still under construction).

  • Nativity façade – It represents Christ’s birth and is beautifully decorated. 
  • Passion façade – It represents the suffering of Jesus during his crucifixion and is bare and simple.
  • Glory façade –  It symbolizes Jesus’ death and resurrection and his present and future glory and is the main façade.

Construction Challenges Sagrada Familia Has Faced

  • Lack of Funding – Construction of the basilica began in 1882 under the guidance of the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí. However, because of financial difficulties, the project has relied heavily on donations and ticket sales to continue its progress. This has resulted in slow construction progress and delays over the years.
  • Spanish Civil War – The Spanish Civil War, which took place from 1936 to 1939, halted construction completely, causing significant damage to the site. It took several years to resume construction after the war ended, further prolonging the completion of the Sagrada Familia.
  • Rebellion From the People Who Disliked its Architecture –  In 1936, a bunch of anarchists broke into the church and set alight all the models and papers made by Gaudi, which caused a pause in the construction. 
  • Natural Calamities – Several natural calamities also halted the construction process, including the COVID outbreak, though the construction resumed in October of the same year. 

Interesting Facts About Sagrada Familia 

  • Antoni Gaudi, the architect of Sagrada Familia, is said to be buried on the underground level in a tomb that is‌ held in the chapel dedicated to the El Carmen Virgin.
  • In the early years of constructing the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi built a school called the Sagrada Família Schools building. This school was specifically for the children of the construction workers. It was designed in 1909 and currently serves as an exhibition of the Sagrada Familia.
  • Sagrada Familia was meant to be a simple Roman Catholic Church, then things changed, and it became a cathedral. However, when Pope Benedict XVI declared it as a basilica, it stopped being a cathedral.
Sagrada Familia: The Unfinished Beauty of Barcelona | CIO Women Magazine
  • Antoni Gaudi knew that the church wouldn’t complete in his lifetime, so he designed it with the forethought that any architect who takes the project after him could understand the drawings and details and continue the construction.
  • The mosaic on the roof of the Sagrada Familia is designed to reflect the moonlight like a lighthouse, helping guide seamen back home. Additionally, when the sun shines on the roof, it creates a reflection that makes the structure visible from all parts of the city. 

Tips For Visitors & Tourists

  • If you want to visit Sagrada Familia, book the tickets in advance. The ticket price ranges from 20 euros to 40 euros, depending on how much you want to explore.
  • There is a dress code to enter the basilica which includes no transparent clothing, tops must cover the shoulders, trousers, and skirts must come down to at least mid-thigh. Your clothing should be comfortable and modest.
  • You should book the tickets at off-peak hours to avoid the crowd, like in the early morning or late afternoon. 
  • Professional photography and flash photography are not allowed. 

If you are wondering whether visiting this incomplete basilica is worth it or not, the answer is, it is absolutely worth it. With its intricate design that holds every element of nature and the colorful interiors, the architecture of Sagrada Familia is breathtaking. It is said that it might be completed between 2026 to 2030, but you mustn’t wait for that long. Every completed part of it is worth seeing even now. So plan your next trip to Barcelona and must visit this beautiful world heritage site.

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