Sagrada Família or the church of The Holy Family is sometimes referred to as Gaudi’s Cathedral after the architect who gave it its unique design, Antoni Gaudi; although it is not a cathedral. The decision to construct a church in Barcelona dedicated to the Holy Family was taken in 1874 by Josep Bocebella. In 1881 the land was purchased and the following year on March 19, the foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Barcelona.
Gaudí had moved to Barcelona to study architecture in 1868 and had to work as a builder to help finance his studies and had started to work on the Church. In 1883 Gaudi started to lead the construction when the previous architect, Francisco de Paula Villar, resigned over a disagreement over the design and costs. Originally the design was to be Neo-Gothic with square towers but Gaudi changed the design in 1898 to incorporate high round towers and detailed sculpture formations depicting the teachings of the Gospels. During his life Gaudi created many unique buildings but worked on the Sagrada Família for over 40 years. After 1914, he devoted himself exclusively to the building. He died in 1926 after being hit by a tram and is buried in the Crypt of the Sagrada Família.
When completed the Church will have three façades; the Nativity façade was constructed between 1893 and 1930 and has three porticos, Hope, Faith and Charity. Around the façade are figures depicting the story of the birth of Christ, above are four tours dedicated to Saint Matthias, Barnabas, Jude and Simon. The Passion façade was began in 1952 according to the instructions and drawings left by Gaudí. It is in stark contrast to the highly decorated Nativity Façade in that it is plain and austere and shows the crucifixion with figures in very angular form. The façade also has three porticos which are supported by six large and inclined columns, and four towers dedicated to the apostles James, Thomas, Philip and Bartholomew, these were completed in 1976. The sculptures were begun in 1987 and are at three levels they depict scenes from Christ’s last night before the crucifixion, Calvary and his death, burial and the resurrection. The largest and most striking facades will be the Glory Façade. Construction on this started in 2002 and will provide access to the central nave. It is dedicated to the Glory of Christ and represents the road to death, judgment, glory and God. Its most striking aspect is its spindle-shaped tall towers, a total of 18, a number of which, including the ones dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to Christ have still to be constructed.
The plan of the church is set out as a Latin cross and has five aisles with the central nave having a height of 45 metres. The interior columns were inspired by nature in that they are based on the form of a tree. Also contained within the church are workshops, a museum and a souvenir shop. Although it is not due to be completed until 2026 it was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on November 7th 2010.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.