Gaudi and Sagrada Familia

The entrance to the attraction will be temporarily out of service because of COVID-19.

La Sagrada Família is an extraordinary and unique temple designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí. Today, after 135 years since the cornerstone was laid in 1882, construction is still ongoing on the Basilica and it is expected to be finished by 2026. The original design was by Francisco de Paula del VIllar, following traditional guidelines of the time, with neo-Gothic elements. When Gaudí took the lead of project he transformed it to an ambitious and extended proposal for the church of the future. 

The Architect

La Sagrada Família is Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece. The idea was conceived by Josep Maria Bocabella after a trip to the Vatican, where he was inspired by the basilica at Loreto. Bocabella was the founder of the Spiritual Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph, and through which he managed the private donations to build the temple during the early stages of the construction. For decades after, la Sagrada Família also received private funds from donations or alms, and they were for the exclusive use of the construction of the temple. 

The construction of la Sagrada Família started in 1882, under the lead of Francisco de Paula del Villar, following traditional guidelines with neo-Gothic elements. However, after technical differences about several topics, he stepped down and that is when Antoni Gaudí took over the project and changed it radically. 

Since that moment he worked on la Sagrada Família, alongside other projects Güell Palace, Casa Botines, Bodegas Güell, Casa Calvet, Bellesguard, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, amongst others. He draw inspiration from several of these projects into la Sagrada Família, and from 1915 he dedicated his time exclusively to the temple. Gaudí reached the culmination of his naturalistic style, creating a synthesis of all the solutions and styles he had implemented until then. After the crypt and the apse where finished, still in the original neo-Gothic style, the rest of the temple is conceived in an organic style, with the imitation of natural shapes, with their abundance of ruled surfaces.

In reference to the subject of the considerably extended construction period Guadí is said to have remarked: “My client is not in a hurry”, as he referred to his client as God. The Sagrada Familia is the most iconic monument in Barcelona, Spain, and it does not have a single straight line because according to Gaudí they do not exist in nature, and the temple reflect Nature, Life, and Death, and should not have them. The construction has relied exclusively on private donations since the start and the progress has been slow, and the construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. In July 1936, revolutionaries entered the building and set fire to the crypt and broke their way into the workshop and burned a large part of Gaudi’s plans and models. But, some of the instructions and plans remained untouched and the construction continued, with new architects like Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig and Luis Bonet. They made their best efforts to remain true to the view of Gaudí and they also brought their own style in accordance to Gaudi’s vision of each generation to participate in the construction. 

He worked on the temple until the day he died. He was struck by a passing tram on his way to church for his usual prayer, and because he looked like a beggar he did not receive help immediately. By the time he was recognised the following, Gaudi’s condition was severe and he would not benefit from additional treatment. He passed away on 10 June 1926 and was buried two days later. He had a large crowd to bid him farewell in the chapel of our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of la Sagrada Família. Afterwards, construction continued under the direction of Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, and so on. Currently the director is Lluís Bonet. 

Today, la Sagrada Família still receives donations, but the majority of the money collected is from the tickets to access the temple. The building received the name of Expiatory temple because its construction is not supported by any government or church funds. And his experimental designs have been the object of study of many universities and they still inspire today. 

Sagrada Familia Model

Gaudí preferred the use of modelling architecture over drawing it; specially models made of chains that hung from the ceiling, or strings with small weights attached to them. The process of experimenting with such models led him to discover a form to use traditional Catalan masonry techniques in new, more complex ways. A chain that is suspended from both ends results in a catenary curve that distributes the static load naturally – tension, in this case – and evenly between the links of the chain. Gaudí applied this tension-compression analogy to chains hanging from chains asymmetrically, that allowed him to design a much more fluid architecture. 

It is known that Gaudí drew the outline of the temple he was designing on a board made of wood, on a scale of 1:10, that he then attached to the ceiling. He would hang cords on the points where the columns would be placed. Then, he put small sacks filled with pellets from each of the catenary arches formed by the cords. He would photograph the model from several angles until he reached the exact shape of the structure of the church, knowing from the model precisely where the columns would go. The original model is on display in Barcelona.  

Sagrada Familia by Gaudí

Gaudí was an exceptional architect, and he transferred all of his passion and dedication to his work. He wanted la Sagrada Família to stand out in every possible way, and this shows in the lighting and columns of the building.

Lead Lighting

Gaudí aimed to surpass the Gothic style, and he wanted to make the maximum contrast in the traditional lighting composition of the art. He designed to put the most transparent stained-glass windows in the highest parts, in order to let the natural light stream in and shine on the mosaics and the golden vault that characterise the nave. And also, the illustrations and texts are placed in the lower windows, where visitors can view them an read them better. He also used leaded glass, to allow the windows to be alive; they can move, expand and contract, and also to pick the right colour for each piece. 

Double Twist Column

For the columns Gaudí wanted to design a new version, again aiming to outstand over previous models. Because he always wanted to be better. To do so, he groupe three basic models; smooth, cylindrical columns; greek columns; and solomonic columns. He studied each model, and came up with a new one: the double twisted column. It begins from a star to end up in a circle, is thinner at the top, that gives it a more svelte and elegant look, and also adds more striations, until in finally becomes a circle.