Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família – Spain, Europe
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (English: Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, Spanish: Basílica y Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia), commonly known as the Sagrada Família, is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.
Though construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style—combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.
Gaudí devoted his last years to the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War—only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the mid-point in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026—the centennial of Gaudí’s death. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona—over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona’s cathedral, over Gaudí’s design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí’s death disregarded his design, and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain’s high-speed train could disturb its stability.
Describing Sagrada Familia, art Critic Rainer Zerbst said “it is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art” and Paul Goldberger called it ‘the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages’.
The Basilica of the Sagrada Família was the inspiration of a Catalan bookseller, Josep Maria Bocabella, founder of Asociación Espiritual de Devotos de San José (Spiritual Association of Devotees of St. Joseph). After a visit to the Vatican in 1872, Bocabella returned from Italy with the intention of building a church inspired by that at Loreto. The crypt of the church, funded by donations, was begun 19 March 1882, on the festival of St. Joseph, to the design of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, whose plan was for a Gothic revival church of a standard form. Antoni Gaudí began work on the project in 1883. On 18 March 1883 Villar retired from the project, and Gaudí assumed responsibility for its design, which he changed radically.
On the subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudí is said to have remarked, “My client is not in a hurry”. When Gaudí died in 1926, the basilica was between 15 and 25 per cent complete. After Gaudí’s death, work continued under the direction of Domènec Sugrañes i Gras until interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Parts of the unfinished basilica and Gaudí’s models and workshop were destroyed during the war by Catalan anarchists. The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as on modern adaptations. Since 1940 the architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari and Francesc Cardoner have carried on the work. The illumination was designed by Carles Buigas. The current director and son of Lluís Bonet, Jordi Bonet i Armengol, has been introducing computers into the design and construction process since the 1980s. Mark Burry of New Zealand serves as Executive Architect and Researcher. Sculptures by J. Busquets, Etsuro Sotoo and the controversial Josep Subirachs decorate the fantastical façades.
The central nave vaulting was completed in 2000 and the main tasks since then have been the construction of the transept vaults and apse. As of 2006, work concentrated on the crossing and supporting structure for the main tower of Jesus Christ as well as the southern enclosure of the central nave, which will become the Glory façade.
One projection anticipates construction completion around 2026, the centennial of Gaudí’s death—while the project’s information leaflet estimates a completion date in 2028, accelerated by additional funding from visitors to Barcelona following the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Computer-aided design technology has been used to accelerate construction of the building, which had previously been expected to last for several hundred years, based on building techniques available in the early 20th century. Current technology allows stone to be shaped off-site by a CNC milling machine, whereas in the 20th century, the stone was carved by hand.
In 2008, some renowned Catalan architects advocated a halt to construction, to respect Gaudí’s original designs, which, although they were not exhaustive and were partially destroyed, have been partially reconstructed in recent years.
A 2010 exhibition, Gaudí Unseen, Completing La Sagrada Familia at the German Architecture Museum, Frankfurt am Main, describes the current construction methods and future plans for the Sagrada Familia.
On 26 March 2010, the Ministry of Public Works of Spain (Ministerio de Fomento) began constructing an AVE (high-speed train) tunnel beneath the center of Barcelona, saying the project poses no risk to the church. Project engineers and architects disagreed, saying there was no guarantee that the tunnel would not affect the stability of the building.
Subsequently, the Board of the Sagrada Família (Patronat de la Sagrada Família) and the neighborhood association AVE pel Litoral (AVE by the Coast) initiated a campaign against the AVE. In October 2010, the tunnel boring machine reached the church underground under the location of the building’s principal façade.
The main nave was covered and an organ installed in mid-2010, allowing the still unfinished building to be used for religious services. The church was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on 7 November 2010 in front of a congregation of 6,500 people, including King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain. A further 50,000 people followed the consecration Mass from outside the basilica, where more than 100 bishops and 300 priests were on hand to offer Holy Communion.
The style of la Sagrada Familia is variously likened to Spanish Late Gothic, Catalan Modernism and to Art Nouveau or Catalan Noucentisme. While the Sagrada Família falls within the Art Nouveau period, Nikolaus Pevsner points out that, along with Charles Rennie Macintosh in Glasgow, Gaudí carried the Art Nouveau style far beyond its usual application as a surface decoration. While never intended to be a cathedral (seat of a bishop), the Sagrada Família was planned from the outset to be a cathedral-sized building. Its ground-plan has obvious links to earlier Spanish cathedrals such as Burgos Cathedral, Leon Cathedral and Seville Cathedral. In common with Catalan and many other European Gothic cathedrals, the Sagrada Familia is short in comparison to its width, and has a great complexity of parts, which include double aisles, an ambulatory with a chevet of seven apsidal chapels, a multitude of towers and three portals, each widely different in structure as well as ornament. Where it is common for cathedrals in Spain to be surrounded by numerous chapels and ecclesiastical buildings, the plan of this church has an unusual feature: a covered passage or cloister which forms a rectangle enclosing the church and passing through the narthex of each of its three portals. With this peculiarity aside, the plan, influenced by Villar’s crypt, barely hints at the complexity of Gaudí’s design or its deviations from traditional church architecture.
The church plan is that of a Latin cross with five aisles. The central nave vaults reach forty-five metres while the side nave vaults reach thirty metres. The transept has three aisles. The columns are on a 7.5 metre grid. However, the columns of the apse, resting on del Villar’s foundation, do not adhere to the grid, requiring a section of columns of the ambulatory to transition to the grid thus creating a horseshoe pattern to the layout of those columns. The crossing rests on the four central columns of porphyry supporting a great hyperboloid surrounded by two rings of twelve hyperboloids (currently under construction). The central vault reaches sixty metres. The apse is capped by a hyperboloid vault reaching seventy-five metres. Gaudí intended that a visitor standing at the main entrance be able to see the vaults of the nave, crossing, and apse, thus the graduated increase in vault loftiness.
There are gaps in the floor of the apse, providing a view down into the crypt below.
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. This effect is the result of a three-dimensional intersection of helicoidal columns (for example a square cross-section column twisting clockwise and a similar one twisting counter-clockwise).
Essentially none of the interior surfaces are flat; the ornamentation is comprehensive and rich, consisting in large part of abstract shapes which combine smooth curves and jagged points. Even detail-level work such as the iron railings for balconies and stairways are full of curvaceous elaboration.
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. The three entrances symbolize the three virtues: Faith, Hope and Love. Each of them is also dedicated to a part of Christ’s life. The Nativity Façade is dedicated to his birth; it also has a cypress tree which symbolizes the tree of life. The Glory façade is dedicated to his glory period. The Passion façade is symbolic of his suffering. All in all, the Sagrada de Família is symbolic of the lifetime of Christ.
Areas of the sanctuary will be designated to represent various concepts, such as saints, virtues and sins, and secular concepts such as regions, presumably with decoration to match.