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  • Writer's pictureJay Hicks

La Sagrada Família - Three Times a Charm!

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

The Basílica de la Sagrada Família or the Basilica of the Holy Family is the largest unfinished Roman Catholic church and is located in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The Sagrada Família was designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí, a modernistic architect using neo-Gothic and Oriental techniques. Some say his techniques use an organic style inspired by natural forms. La Sagrada Família displays his style in tremendous glory. With the fantastic structure, many have wondered over the passed century if Gaudí was a madman or genius.

Ribbed Vaults Reminiscent of Celery Stalks

With three being a special number to me, it is not surprising that on my third trip to Barcelona, I was finally able to see and experience Gaudí’s Sagrada Família. The first occasion in the late 1970s was met with an early departure, my second trip in 2020 was met with a Covid lockdown upon arrival. In 2022, I not only visited the basilica, but my wife and I were honored to attend mass in this lovely unfinished cathedral.

Gaudí's design and work displays his passions in life - architecture, nature, and religion. Every detail of his creation integrates these passions into the designs of the structure, ceramics, stained glass, ironwork, and carpentry. With numerous openings allowing in natural light, the intersecting Gothic ribbed vaults provide the impression of a starry sky. But the organic nature of the design evokes thoughts of skeletal structure.

Intricate Ironwork

After the initial design, construction of the Sagrada Família began under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. A year later, Gaudí took over as chief architect and began to transform the project with his architectural and engineering style, which combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms.

Gaudí devoted the remainder of his life to the project, and he was buried in the crypt in 1926. Less than a quarter of the basilica was complete. When I tried to visit in the 1970s, the basilica was roughly 50% complete. Over five generations have watched the progress of la Sagrada Família in Barcelona. More than 140 years after the laying of the cornerstone, construction continues.

Rainbow Lighting through the Stained Glass

I found the basilica to be breathtaking – so fantastically large – yet no detail overlooked. The stained glass towered above – but so intricately worked that the sun shone through creating an orderly glow of colors through the entire spectrum. The façade is filled with stories of the life of Christ.

It is no wonder the Sagrada Familia’s construction has taken so long. In days of old, cathedrals often took hundreds of years to build. The Notre Dame Cathedral was completed in 1345 over the course of 200 years. A hundred years ago, all those colossal stone sculptures were hand-carved in Barcelona. Today, modern technology has helped to speed up the process computer-aided design and computer numerical control (CNC) systems are used to accurately remove materials from the stone at an off-site location.

Fascinating Façade depicting Stations of the Cross

This year, the two towers of the Evangelists Luke and Mark and an additional three levels to the tower of Jesus Christ will be completed. The creation of ten more spires each representing an important Biblical figure is the next technological challenge. At 172 meters tall, Gaudi’s masterpiece will be the tallest cathedral in the world. There will be eighteen spires representing the Apostles, the Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus.

Today, the uncompleted structure is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, some, like George Orwell called the Sagrada Familia ‘one of the most hideous buildings in the world’. Many others believe that the structure is stunning and a marvel of technical perfection. If in Spain, you owe it to yourself to make it to Barcelona and not miss the Basílica de la Sagrada Família!

Organic Nature of the Interior of La Sagrada Familia

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