La Sagrada Familia: "The Cathedral of the Poor"
The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is the most emblematic monument of Barcelona. As a prime example of the modernist architecture designed by Gaudí, thousands of tourists flock each day to contemplate the magnificent though unfinished temple.
A work of art for eternity
The origins of the La Sagrada Familia began in 1866, when Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer founded the Spiritual Association of Devotees of San Jose. They promoted the construction of an expiatory church in 1874—whose construction only can be funded by donations—devoted to the Holy Family. After a decade, the Association bought a plot of land of 12,800 square meters, the equivalent to a block of houses of Cerdà’s Plan, for the church.
The foundation stone was laid on March 19th, 1882, St. Joseph’s Day, in a solemn ceremony presided over by the city’s bishop, Josep Urquinaona. The work then began, starting with the crypt beneath the apse according to the Neo-Gothic design by Francisco de Paula del Villar, the church’s first architect. He left the project shortly afterwards due to disagreements with the developers, and the commission was then given to a young architect, Antoni Gaudí.
The temple designed by Gaudí
Antoni Gaudí idealized a new temple covered with very fine ornamentation. He designed seventeen towers, which includes the twelve dedicated to the Apostles, a transept dome tower dedicated to Jesus, four towers for the Evangelists around the transept tower dome, and another dome above the apse dedicated to Holy Virgin. The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South.
The architect never made definite plans; when a new problem appeared, he came up with surprising solutions from a unique perspective. Nowadays, the construction is still ongoing, it is 70 per cent complete, and experts predict that in ten years’ time the temple will be finalized.
A “Cathedral for the Poor”
The temple dreamed by Gaudí was conceptualized not only as a place to encounter with God, but also as a space to dignify the industrial workers in Barcelona that sought solace in Church. For that reason, Sagrada Família is popularly known as the cathedral of the poor.