History of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona


The Sagrada Familia, one of Barcelona’s most recognizable emblems, is Spain’s most popular tourist destination. Many visitors from all over the world travel to this unfinished church because it is regarded as a superb example of modernist architecture created by architect Antoni Gaudi. The fact that this stunningly gorgeous Roman Catholic church in Barcelona is the biggest incomplete Roman Catholic Church in the world gives it historical significance. The church, which has been under construction since 1882, officially opened in 2010 and has been designated a minor basilica.

History of La Sagrada Familia

The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, usually referred to as the Sagrada Familia, is a small Roman Catholic church in Barcelona. This masterpiece’s history dates all the way back to 1874, when a local group started advocating for the building of a church dedicated to the Holy Family. On March 19, 1882, the church’s cornerstone was solemnly laid after several years of planning and blueprint preparation. This 19th-century church, a UNESCO World Heritage property, is still being built and is a masterwork of architecture. 

Plans for the Basilica Created (19th Century)

Josep Maria Bocabella, the founder of the Spiritual Association of Devotees of St. John, is actually credited with designing the Basilica during his 1872 trip to Italy, despite the Sagrada Familia being attributed to Antoni Gaudi. He desired to create a church that was modeled after the Loreto Basilica. Francisco de Paula del Villar, an architect, used a Gothic revival style when creating the church. Construction on the church’s apse crypt began in March 1882. Later, in 1883, Antoni Gaudi took over the project and significantly changed the church’s architecture. The following year, he received a formal appointment as the Architect Director.

Construction of the Basilica (Early 20th Century)

The construction on the Nativity facade had started during this time. Only 20% of the work had been finished when Gaudi passed away very suddenly in 1926, with the completion of the Saint Barnabas Bell Tower. Domènec Sugraes i Gras, a student of his, continued the work after his passing until the tragic Civil War broke out in 1936. The Catalan Anarchists destroyed a lot of original blueprints, model buildings, and workshops during the uprising. After the Civil War, construction finally got back on track, and a new design was made based on updated versions of the previously damaged blueprints.

Construction Resumes After Civil War (Late 20th Century)

After 1940, the architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Llus Bonet i Gari, and Francesc Cardoner continued work on the basilica under various leaderships. The Nativity facade’s staircase was constructed in 1952, and the Passion facade’s foundation was set in place two years later. A museum was established in 1961 to teach visitors about the basilica’s numerous facets. The bell towers on the Passion facade were finished in 1976, and work on the side nave facades started two years later. In 1986, work also started on the main nave, transepts, crossing, and apse’s naves, columns, vaults, and façades.

Technology Accelerates Construction (Early 21st Century)

Jordi Bonet i Armengol’s introduction of computer-aided technology allowed for the addition of a lot of components to this basilica during this time of building. The Nativity facade and the crypt were recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2005, and Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the temple in 2010, converting it to a minor basilica and making it available for religious ceremonies. After the central nave vaulting was finished in 2000, attention shifted to the transept and apse’s construction.

Final Phase of Construction

Jordi Faul i Oller assumed control of the project in 2012, and in 2015 he declared that 70 percent of the work had been finished. During the latter phase of the construction project, six steeples were raised. Since July 2017, the basilica has hosted an international mass every Sunday. Despite the church’s existence, the development has been stalled for a variety of reasons. On April 19, 2011, an arsonist started a small fire in the sacristy, which required 45 minutes to extinguish. Between March 2020 and July 2020, there was a four-month work stoppage owing to the epidemic. Despite these challenges, on November 29, 2021, a 7-meter (12-foot) 12-pointed illuminated crystal star was installed atop the Mary Tower.

Architecture of Sagrada Familia: Constructing the Most Iconic Cathedral of Barcelona

Architecture and Design

Sagrada Familia has been compared to a variety of architectural styles, including Catalan Modernism, Art Nouveau, Noucentisme, and Spanish Late Gothic. The church is renowned for its odd architecture; it lacks proper angles and has few straight lines. It also has several unique architectural features, like a large central tower with a tree trunk and towering spires that resemble palm trees. He included elements from traditional Catalan art, such pine cones and acorns, as well as organic shapes like trees and flowers into his creations. Gaudi drew inspiration from a wide range of sources, albeit he didn’t always use them directly. For instance, Villar’s crypt had a significant impact on his project concept. But rather than drawing straight from a single source, nature itself served as the inspiration for his use of organic forms.


Concrete, stone, wood, and glass were all employed in the construction of Sagrada Familia. Concrete and steel are the two main construction materials. The Sagrada Familia, like many other European Gothic churches, is narrow compared to its length and features a large number of intricate elements. It has numerous towers, a long ambulatory with seven apsidal chapels, and double aisles. A covered corridor or cloister runs through the narthex of each of the church’s three portals, unlike many Spanish cathedrals. The edifice is surrounded by three portals, each with its own construction and ornamentation.

The Exterior

The beautiful architecture of the Sagrada Familia is influenced by Art Nouveau, Catalan Modernism, and Spanish European Gothic forms. Each of the 18 spires, which will stand for the 12 Apostles, the four Evangelists, Mother Mary, and Jesus Christ, will be at least 100 meters tall. Only nine out of the anticipated 18 have been finished. The Nativity façade to the east, the Passion façade to the west, and the Glory façade to the south are formed by these spires. The impressive natural foliage outside produces a canopy effect that highlights the elaborate carvings and rich sculptures on these façades.

The Spires

The basilica’s design features eighteen spires that represent the Twelve Apostles, the Four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ in ascending sequence. The four apostles on the Nativity façade and the four apostles on the Passion façade were represented by eight spires as of 2010. The traditional symbols of the four Evangelists—a bull (Saint Luke), a winged figure (Saint Matthew), an eagle (Saint John), and a lion (Saint Mark)—will be sculpted and placed atop the four smaller spires. The center spire of Jesus Christ will be crowned with a huge cross. When it is finished, the Sagrada Familia will be the world’s highest church structure.

The Walls

The Sagrada Famlia’s outer walls are only need to maintain their own weight since interior columns carry the vaults’ weight and pressure to the floor. Rose windows, ogives, big windows, and other holes completely pierce the walls, thus reducing their weight. In order to implement the best technical and aesthetic solutions possible, Gaudi most usually used hyperboloids, which allowed the sculptor to complete his work on the musician angels, singing angels, and the pediment terminations of these walls.

The Roofs

The larger windows and massive paraboloids in the central nave’s higher roofs, which are topped with lampposts bearing references to the Holy Family, are made up of a series of interconnected pyramids. A short spiral stairway connects each of the four plants that make up the 25-meter-long ceiling and vault. The center nave’s upper walls may accommodate additional large windows thanks to the flat roofs of the lateral naves.

The Interior

The layout of the church is shaped like a Latin cross with five aisles. The side nave vaults are 30 meters tall, while the central nave vaults are 45 meters high. Inside, there are columns that are arranged in a horseshoe shape. The crossing is supported by four core columns, which in turn support a substantial hyperboloidal structure surrounded by twelve complementary hyperboloids. The visitor standing at the entryway can see the naves, crossing, and apse well thanks to the geometric intersections. The visitor can see the crypt below through openings in the apse’s floor. One is in awe of the design’s exceptional perfection and complexity.

The Columns

The Sagrada Familia’s interior columns are constructed from a variety of materials that symbolize the varying degrees of rock hardness. The longest and thickest columns are made of red porphyry, a rough volcanic rock. The Sagrada Familia’s five core towers are supported by these columns. The smaller, darker columns that support the basilica’s outer row are made of basalt, a volcanic rock. Finally, the tiniest columns that support a portion of the choir in front of the altar and behind the transept are made of Montjuc granite.

The Altar

A semicircular space in a church called an apse is often found behind the altar. In the center of this semicircle is where the Sagrada Familia crypt is located. Other significant people in the history of architecture are also interred in the crypt with Antoni Gaud. On either side of the apse are stairs that ascend to higher floors. Seven chapels can be found inside the apse, each with a unique layout and function. A throne with Jesus Christ seated on it when he is on the cross is located on one side of the apse. There are large stained-glass windows all around Jesus. These windows allow light and color to flood the interior, changing as the day progresses from morning to night.

The Naves

There are five naves inside the Sagrada Familia. In comparison to the other naves, the central one rises higher and farther, joining the transept on one side and coming to a finish in the choir’s chapels at the back. A beautiful series of stained glass windows is in front of the altar.

The Chapels

The church has seven chapels placed around a central ambulatory and an altar space, and the top of the building is semicircular. The arrival of the Messiah is foretold in the stained-glass windows, who is referred to by seven different names. The Latin phrase Ero Cras, which translates to “Tomorrow I will arrive,” is formed by joining the initials of each word.


The basilica is still being built in 2022, 140 years after Sagrada Familia construction got under start. According to current projections, the steeples and the majority of the church’s construction will be finished by 2026, but the decorative components won’t be until 2030 or 2032. Due of Gaudi’s grandiose concept for the basilica and the meticulous effort that has gone into building it, the Sagrada Familia has gained notoriety despite being unfinished. The basilica is still in use today as a minor basilica, a Catholic church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the city’s most visited tourist destinations. 

The fact that it attracts 4-5 million people each year is a tribute to its attractiveness, despite the divergent views on the architecture, with some praising it as a masterpiece and others, like George Orwell, calling it “one of the most hideous buildings in the world.”