Construction on the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family – better known as La Sagrada Familia – began in 1882. Yet, over 130 years later, the wholly unique and ambitious religious building remains unfinished.
That hasn’t stopped the mighty basilica from becoming one of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions, with some 3 million people flocking to see Antoni Gaudí’s architecture every year.
Here are 5 facts about La Sagrada Familia…
THE PERMANENT BUILDING SITE
It has recently been announced that La Sagrada Família will finally be finished by 2026, on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death. The great Spanish Catalan architect lived to see only one tower erected, but construction carried on using the designs and models he left.
In 1936, anarchists fighting in the Spanish Civil War stormed the building and destroyed the workshop – so plans had to be pieced together from surviving notes. This continues to court controversy, as many have argued that the completed Sagrada Família will be nothing like what Gaudí envisioned.
Gaudí – who once quipped that his client, God, was in no hurry to see the basilica finished – devoted more than 40 years to La Sagrada Família, believing it was a divine mission. When not working, he lived a life of poverty and fasting. After the 74-year-old died in 1926, from being knocked down by a streetcar, his body wasn’t identified for days as he was thought to be a vagrant.
THE FINISHED IMAGE
Although there are only eight completed now, it is intended for La Sagrada Família to have 18 spires (the tallest of which will be 170 metres). The 12 smaller ones symbolise Christ’s apostles, four are the writers of the Gospels and the two largest represent the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
SEEN FROM ABOVE
When Gaudí was asked why – as no one could see them properly – he was putting so much time and effort in making the tops of the spires so elaborate, he responded, “The angels will see them”.
This article was first published in the October 2015 issue of History Revealed.