Church of the Sagrada Familia- Part 1

15 08 2010

"On making this temple I set myself the idea of following one of our traditions, a tradition that fits us perfectly, the Mediterranean tradition. All architectural style has emerged from the shelter of the temple, and all new art that comes should be the same.”

Antoni Gaudi

Church of the Sagrada Família (Holy Family), often simply called the Sagrada Família, is a massive, privately-funded church that has been under construction in Barcelona, Spain since 1882 and is not expected to be complete until at least 2026. A portion of the building’s interior is scheduled to open for public worship and tours by September 2010. The Church is the master-work of the most renowned Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), the project’s vast scale and characteristic design have made it one of Barcelona’s (and Spain’s) top tourist attractions for many years.

I had the privilege of visiting Sagrada Familia during May of 2010- as a matter of fact I had planned the Barcelona trip to specifically visit Sagrada Familia; I wanted to share a photo journal and notes (from various sources) from my visit; to view a slide show of my photos please ho here.

Looking at the Grand Passion Façade entrance to the West; the continuous construction is evident from way far-off because of the towering cranes.


The design of La Sagrada Família is brimming with Christian symbolism, as Gaudí intended the church to be the "last great sanctuary of Christendom". Its most striking aspect is its spindle-shaped Spires or towers.

Spires of the Passion Façade crowned by the Pinnacles



A total of 18 Spires are called for, representing in ascending order of height the 12 Apostles (100 meters),  the 4 Evangelists (Luke, Matthew, John & Mark), Mother Mary- the tower of the apse (arch/vault) and, tallest spire of all, Jesus Christ– the tower of the transept. The central highest spire, that representing Jesus Christ, will measure 170 meters and is to be surmounted by a giant Cross; the spires’ total height will approximately be the same height of mountain Montjuïc. When completed Sagrada Familia will be the tallest church building in the world as well as the church with the tallest spire in the world.


Ground plan and drawing of the Church by Francesc Berenguer


The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Glory façade to the South (yet to be completed) and the Passion façade to the West. The Nativity façade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Gaudí influence. The Passion façade is especially striking and according to Gaudi transmits drama and cruelty, including figures of Christ being flogged and nailed on the Crucifix. The sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs presents the Passion of Jesus Christ, from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion. The Glory Façade, which began construction in 2002, will represent one’s ascension to God. It will also depict various scenes such as Hell, Purgatory, and will include elements such as the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Virtues.

A closer look at the Passion Façade to the West


The Nativity Façade to the East; the Glory Façade is under construction.


The church plan is that of a Latin cross with five aisles. The central nave vaults reach 45 meters while the side nave vaults reach 30 meters. The transept has three aisles. The columns are on a 7.5 meter grid. The columns of the interior are a unique Gaudí design. Besides branching to support their load, their ever-changing surfaces are the result of the intersection of various geometric forms. The simplest example is that of a square base evolving into an octagon as the column rises, then a sixteen-sided form, and eventually to a circle.

Interior of Sagrada Familia; the tree-like columns and starred polygons of the vaulting recall the interior of a wood.


“Architecture creates the organism and that is why it must have a law in consonance with nature. Everything comes from the great book of nature; all the styles (architectural) are organisms related to nature”.

Antoni Gaudi

Themes throughout the decoration include words from the liturgy. The towers are decorated with words such as "Hosanna", "Excelsis", and "Sanctus"; the great doors of the Passion façade reproduce words from the Bible in various languages including Catalan; and the Glory façade is to be decorated with the words from the Apostles’ Creed.

Various artifacts from the Sagrada Familia museum, which is within the Church’s premises.


The symbolism that Gaudi reflects in Sagrada Familia is not sustained only through the imagery and the paintings, but also incorporates the symbols in the architecture, giving an expressive character to this works. The Church is one of the most significant characteristics of all Gaudian architecture. This is why some commentators have classified the Sagrada Familia as a mystical poem. Consequently, the Gaudian attitude of imitating nature in his architectural work is fully coherent with his religious fervor- since, for a believer the human being is placed on earth to continue the divine work.


To be continued…