Sagrada Familia


In today’s world, most people have become accustomed to seeing scaffolds around cities as high rise buildings pop up now and then. What many do not understand is the fact that not all buildings they see were designed to be built quickly. As a matter of facts, some architects who designed most of the massive skyscraper we see across the globe knew they would never live to see them complete. A perfect example of this scenario is the Sagrada Familia, a Catholic basilica Catalan, Spain. Sagrada Familia often referred to by the name Basilica i Temple Expiatory de la Sagrada Familia is one of the famous buildings in the world. Many people fly to Catalan, Spain have Sagrada Familia at the top of their list of the place to visit during their stay in Catalan capital. Sagrada Familia amuses many people from all the world not only because of its enormous size but because of its ultra-modern and groundbreaking architecture. The modern architecture of Sagrada Familia reveals the genius of the man behind its design, Antoni Gaudí.

What’s make a good design? The Sagrada Familia has all that it takes for a good design. A good design is inspired by the architect, and components that make the interiors and the exteriors of the construction. Sagrada Familia has a mix of these two. It is approximately 136 years since the construction of Sagrada Familia began. Interestingly, the construction of this church is still unfinished today. It is believed that Sagrada Familia has remained incomplete for such a long time due to the complexity of the principal architect designs and a few other historical factors. Nonetheless, according to reports, the completion date of Sagrada Familia is projected to be between 2025 and 2028. Like the Egyptian Pyramids, Sagrada Familia is one of the most recognizable, lauded, and controversial structures of all time.

Founding of Sagrada Familia

The mastermind behind Sagrada Familia was a Spaniard named Joseph Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer. Bocabella was a devoted bookseller and the founder of The Spiritual Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph. The primary goal of this association was to disseminate Catholicism and promote the conservative ideology. Bocabella through this association campaigned to have a new church in the capital city of Catalan.  The church was to be dedicated to the Catholic Holy Family.

In the year 1872 Bocabella paid homage to the Holy Father of Rome where he told him of the idea and handed him a silver image of the proposed church.  The original idea of Bocabella was to build an expiatory temple. The Spiritual Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph having raised enough money to purchase some land and hire an architect decided against acquiring the land limited by the streets of Mallorca. According to -&&5&, the land which was 12,800 meter squared was purchased for €1,034. Thereafter, the decision of commissioning the architect Francesc de Paula y Villar to design and oversee the construction of the church that would not resemble any building in the world was made.

The official construction of Sagrada Familia commenced on 19th March 1882, by laying of the first stone by bishop Morgades. As noted by &*6&&, Francesc de Paula y Villar plan was to build a conventional neo-gothic structure. With the inspiration of the conventional neo-Gothic style, Paula was to construct a building with high levels of decoration. The building was to have a three-nave church. Such a structure was to constitute blister windows, exterior buttresses, and a high needle-like spire. However, it was not long as soon as Paula resigned. The resignation of Paula as the project director of Sagrada Familia came as a result of discrepancies with Joseph Maria Bocabella and other board members. On November the same year, the construction of Sagrada Familia was handed to another architect.

Incorporation of Gaudi

As mentioned earlier, Gaudi was not the original architect of the church. It was until 3rd November 1883 when he was hired. The hiring of Gaudi was the proposal of the architect Joan Martorell who was a board member of @@@@@@.  When he was taking over the project, Gaudí was aged 31 years. After taking over the construction, he completely changed the original style to fit his new architectural style. The architectural style employed by Gaudi was a combination of the Gothic with his forms of Art Nouveau. Considering that this was a new style, it made Gaudi known globally. It also made him be considered as the master if modern architecture. As &*777 observes, Gaudi was not fully commuted to the Sagrada Familia construction project until the year 1906, at age 57 when resigned from working on major public and private commissions.

As part of his new style, Gaudi made some changes in the way the crypt was made. He added a pit around it to enable light to enter and ventilate naturally. Additionally, under his leadership, the capitals were modified. This brought to an end the conflict between capitals and collar. His new style was well manifested when he established the idea of ​a grand temple. Nine years later, Gaudi laid the foundation of the Nativity facade, the cloister, and window of the north. Before his tragic death, Gaudi had seen the completion of the Nativity facade, and Portal del Rosario. Though he never supervised the construction of the passion facade, he laid the basis by did studies and calculations that were to enable his successor to complete it. He also left a model of the Glory facade, columns, vaults, windows, and roofs.

According to 46644&@, the new architectural style by Gaudi was inspired by the belief that “God’s house should be free of bulky supports.”  He also believed that a house dedicated to God should not be limited in terms of height and grandeur. This is the sole reason that Gaudi turned to nature to seek inspiration for what he termed as God’s architecture *76%%.  This is the reason why the design motifs and the support structure of the Sagrada Familia were based on natural and organic forms.

Although he was dedicated to seeing the completion of the Sagrada Familia by at least 50%, Gaudi did not live to see the full completion of the building. However, before he left, he had already laid a strong foundation for his successors and left them detailed designs to guide them. Over the years he was in charge of the construction of the building, Gaudi was dedicated to building a structure that was intended to be a universal magnum.

The works after Gaudi

Looked against technical engineering as well as design, Gaudi’s structure was the most complex structures to been ever planned in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Thus it is argued that his death was a real set back to the continuation and the overall completion of Sagrada Familia. Following his death, Domenech Sugranyes took over the project. It is worth noting that Sugranyes was the assistant architect of Gaudi. As the lead architect and the directory of the project, Sugranyes oversaw the construction and completion of the bell towers of the Nativity facade which Gaudi had started but left unfinished. His other significant contributions were the construction of the central cypress and the portals of the Faith and Hope.

Although Sugranyes was dedicated to seeing the completion of significant works, the Spanish War that began in July 1936 dealt his efforts a big blow. During the war, Sagrada Familia and in particular Gaudi’s former studio was vandalized. This destroyed drawings, photographs, plans, and other papers — the vandals also set fire to the crypt. On 9 August 1938, at age 57 Sugranyes died and Francesc de Paula Quintana was named the new chief architect. His initial works were to repair the damages from the war. The repair took almost a decade. Quintana embarked on construction works from 1950. From 1950 the construction accelerated with a significant development in the project noted as follows:  The erection of window of the south transept was commenced on 1 July 1948. The same year the steps of the Nativity facade were conducted.  The construction of the Passion facade was commenced in the year 1954. The construction passion facade began with laying the foundations and then proceeding with the walls and bell towers. Four years later, the chapel of the Baptistery of the crypt was completed. The following year, the column of the transept was built. It was later dedicated to Barcelona. In 1962, the works to construct the Gaudi museum was begun. Fourteen years later, the four towers of the passion facade were completed. However,  Until this day the building of Sagrada Familia is still not complete. As of 24 November 2016, the Sagrada Familia was 70% complete. It is projected that by 2026, full completion will be attained.  In totals, more than ten chief architects have played a role in the construction of Sagrada Familia. Fransisco de Paula del Collar y Lozano was the then followed by Antoni Gaudi, Jordi Armengol, Jordi Roller, Francesco Cardoner, Joan Rubio, Domenec Gras, Fransesc Quintana, Bonnet Gari, and Isidre Boada in that order.

The Construction of Interior

The interior of the Sagrada was built according to the plans of Gaudi. The incredible thing about the interiors of Sagrada Familia is its magnitude, light, and decor. According to Gaudi’s design, the interior was to have great religious and symbolic significance. Being a great fan of God, the symbols of the interior are based on the Gospels and the book of the Apocalypse. As observed by &-5&&, the church has no straight lines. Both the interior and the exterior were planned with the aim of imitating nature. The incorporation of different columns and stained grasses made the building look like a forest. The interior of the Sagrada Familia constitutes of the columns, the altar, and the naves.


While designing the columns of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi wanted to make a design that would not resemble the Catholic buttresses. This is the reason why Gaudi designed the columns look like tree trunks. This aspect makes people inside the church to feel like they are in a forest.  The materials that were used to make the columns were of different hardness. The material used to make the longest and the thickest; columns of Sagrada Familia are hard volcanic rock. This rock is commonly referred to as the red porphyry and whiles the smaller and dark columns are made of basalt. The longest and the thickest columns of Sagrada Familia support the five towers. There are also columns made of Montjuic which is a relatively soft rock. These columns are used to support the outer row columns of the building. Behind the transept, other smaller columns are used to support the choir.


Gaudi architectural plan was to design an altar that was to be used while conducting the services of the church by the Holy Father %*76. This being the case, he and the other architects after him built an apse which the altar was to be positioned. In the original design, Gaudi planned to have the apse inside on the crypt. This is the very sole reason that Gaudi built the crypt as the first part of the building. It is in this same crypt that Gaudi among other respectable members of the basilica is buried. According to Gaudi’s design, the apse was to constitute of seven chapels. Besides, it was to have stairs on both sides. According to &-*%& the stairs were for accessing the stands on the ships that were placed on the outer, middle part.

Gaudi and his successors wanted the inside of the apse fashioned with angel heads. After its completion, a sculpture of Jesus hanging on the cross was placed in the on a throne of heaven. The throne of heaven till date is there in the middle of the altar having decorations of vines and grapes. Of interest with the sculpture of Jesus on the throne of heaven is the fact that it portrays Jesus looking upwards. In many modern and ancient churches, sculpture portrayed Jesus facing downwards or sideways. When questioned why he made the sculpture that way, Gaudi responded that it was a representation of Jesus seeking support from God to help save humankind @#$%. Of all the things of the interior of Sagrada Familia, the altar is the most outstanding element. Behind the altar are the organ pipes which produces beautiful sound from the inside. It is worth noting that the Gaudi designed the walls in the apse to incorporate stained glass windows. Such windows were to let in enough sunlight that gives a spectacular color effect.

The naves

In total, Gaudi planned to incorporate five naves in the building. The five naves were are still used to accommodate visitors during a mass. Inside the church, there is the central nave which rises above the others. This central nave which was completed in 2006 is connected to the transept. Before his death, Gaudi had designed the plan of the five naves. The model of the naves which he left was used by his successors to build naves measuring 90 meters long and 60 meters transept. The central nave measures 15 meters 7.5 meters.

The Construction of Exterior

Although the exterior works on the Sagrada Familia are still far from finished, the towers and the three beautiful facades are an accurate representation of architectural magnificence at its best. With no exact right angles on it, Sagrada Familia’s exterior works continue to manifest nature as the inspiration behind its design as Gaudi had intended. The outside three facades are equipped with four towers each to represent the 12 apostles. The four bell towers per façade are connected by bridges decorated in beautiful and colorful pinnacles finished with a white ball on top. These globules are a representation of certain fruits hence referring to summer time.

The Towers

Sagrada Familia was designed to have five more towers in the center. Of the five towers, four are designed to be celebration towers of 120 meters high. The fifth one will be right in the middle rising 170 meters high. The highest tower right in the middle represents Jesus surrounded by four evangelists. The 170 meters high tower will be slightly shorter than a hill.  As an intentional design by Gaudi, given his belief that the work of humans cannot surpass that which was created by God.

The Facades

The exterior of Sagrada Familia has three remarkable facades each depicting a phase in the life of Jesus. They are Nativity, passion and Glory facades. While the nativity and passion facades have already been completed, the Glory façade will be the last to be finished. The façade of nativity is located on the Carrer de la Marina and the façade of passion on Carrer de la Sardenya.  Each façade also has four clock towers totaling to twelve to represent the 12 apostles.

Nativity Façade

The construction of the nativity facade was started and completed by Gaudi himself. According to ‘:*%%, Gaudi created the nativity façade to symbolize the birth of Christ. It was first built in the Catalan modernist style having been overseen by Gaudi who was in charge of the work till his death in 1926 leaving the work at very advanced stages. The façade has three gates with sculptures of the virtues “Fe” “Esperanca” and “Caritat,” meaning Faith, Hope, and Charity in Catalan. The façade is richly decorated with natural scenes of which some are exotically tinted. The original intentions by Gaudi were to create a nativity facade that is polychromed. The archivolt of the nativity facade would then be painted a wide array of colors. This Aspect was to make human figures to appear alive.

The design as it now was to have three ports are separated by two columns both with a tortoise at the bottom. The outside tortoises are designed to direct the local population to the two most important aspects of the landscape; the mountains and the sea which symbolizes time. There are also two chameleons in either side of the facade that symbolizes change. The reason for choosing this facade was to embryo the structure as well as decorate the whole church. Knowing well that he wouldn’t live long enough to see the completion of the church he chose this façade to be the first on which to begin construction and make it the most attractive in his opinion. During the Spanish War, some of the statues of the nativity facade were damaged. However, Etsuro So too, a Japanese restored them.

Passion Façade

The construction of the passion facade was started in 1954 under the leadership of the chief architect Francesco Quintana. The construction of the passion facade began with digging the foundation and filling them with concrete that was reinforced old rails. These old rails were a donation by Renfe Company.

The steeples were completed in 1976, come 1987 a team of sculptures under the leadership of Joseph Maria began work on the façade bring to life the various details and scenes to life. This was to provoke a dramatic effect. This was in line with Gaudi’s intention to have the façade strike onlookers with fear. He intended to use the effects of Chiaroscuro. According to Gaudi, such effects would help to bring out the severity and brutality of Christ’s sacrifice. In 1983, chief architect Bonnet Gari oversaw the completion of the four bell towers on the passion facade. It was until 1986 that the sculptural and symbolic aspect of the passion facade was incorporated Josep Maria Suburachs.  The first sculpture to be put on the passion facade was the Flagellation. Afterward, more sculptures followed. The last sculptures were put in place in 2018 by sculptor Francesco Fajula.

Glory Façade

The construction of the glory facade begun in the year 2002. The idea of creating the glory facade was to dedicate it to the Glory of Jesus. According to *6%&*, the construction of the glory facade was in line with the structural study and symbolic and graphic plan left behind by Gaudi. Of the three facades, the glory facade when completed will be the largest and the most monumental. The exact date for the completion of the glory facade is not yet known. However, &–7 speculates that it will see its completion during the phase of construction.

Sagrada Familia Controversies and Criticism

Sagrada Familia has a rich story of dividing the residents of Barcelona.  The first controversy of the Sagrada Familia is the possibility that the church might compete with The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. The construction of the church started during the thirteenth and saw its completion during the fifteenth centuries. It was one of the most respected churches of that time primarily because of structure and design. According to &–* %, the Barcelona’s Cathedral is widely recognized for its Gothic architectural style. People associated with and who highly regarded Barcelona’s Cathedral saw the construction of the Sagrada Familia as a competitor who will suppress its significance in the region and across the globe. Some sections of scholars are of the view that the people who burned and destroyed some parts of Sagrada Familia during the 1936 Spaniard War were people affiliated with the Barcelona’s Cathedral. These believed that the massive construction would compete with Barcelona’s Cathedral and overshadow it, ultimately making it lose its significance.

The other controversy with Sagrada Familia is based on Gaudi’s design soon. Many people are of the view that the work after Antoni Gaudi’s death disregarded his original design.  %*6567 posits that only less than half of the building represents the original work by Gaudi. As the construction is nearing its completion, critics of the construction are talking of the artwork integrity. People who were supporting the works after the Gaudi argue that Gaudi knew that he could not complete the construction. This being the case, these people argue that Gaudi expected Sagrada Familia to be completed and functional.  On the other hand, the critics of the current works argue that since the original detailed plan by Gaudi was destroyed or rather burned during the Spanish War, the current plan is based on conjecture. These critics argue that basing the plans of the building on conjecture is destroying the integrity of an artistic treasure — the increased global profile and progress of the Sagrada Familia to become a target of criticism. On 1965, a letter demanding for the construction work of Sagrada Familia to stop immediately was published by La Vanguardia. The signatories of the letter were an international coterie of artists, architects, and intellectuals. The members of the coterie including Joan Miro among others argued that the continuation of Antoni Gaudi work was a bastardization. These bemoaned the idea of continuing an artist’s unfinished work after his death.

The last controversy is based on the proposal by the Spanish government to build a tunnel of Spain’s high-speed rail link to France. The announcement of this proposal by the Spanish government came in the year 2007. The plan was to bore a 39-foot-wide high-speed train tunnel that would pass under Barcelona and close to the foundations of the church. As described by Jordi Bonet, the tunnel could have proved data to the building. Bonet earned that the vibrations caused by the train could disturb Sagrada Familia stability by causing fissures and loosening tiles from its walls. The Spanish Government agencies responsible for the construction of the tunnel reduced the possible tunnel impact to the building. Until now there have been no damages as a result of the vibration of the train has been reported. A short while after the tunnel bored, the church was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the temple.

Sagrada Familia Approval and Commendation

It is worth noting that the Gaudi’s work on the construction of Sagrada Familia had begun to fall out of favor in Barcelona after the death of Antoni Gaudi. It was until the period between 1950 and 1960 that the global architecture started recognizing the work of Antoni Gaudi as a genius piece. With the approval by the global architecture community, Barcelona became popular an aspect that made the city an increasingly popular tourist destination.   It is reported that every year more than three million people visit Sagrada Familia. As of reports based on 2016, more than 4.56 million people visited Sagrada Familia making it the most visited tourist attraction in Barcelona. It is worth noting that part of the church is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Sagrada Familia Consecration

It took over a century for Sagrada Familia to be consecrated. It was until 2010 that Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church. In attendance in the consecration ceremony was a crowd of 6,500 faithful including the Spanish royalty. 300 priest and 100 bishops from all over the world were also in attendance. The consecration of Sagrada Familia was a sign that the church is an official place of worship.


For all of the Sagrada Familia daring design, it has become a circus attraction. Sagrada Familia has in a big way transformed Barcelona. The town is now a world tourist destination thanks to the works of the Antoni Gaudi and other architects who took the job of overseeing its construction after his death in 1926.  Being the most popular tourist attraction in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia is visited by over two million tourists every year. Before he died, Antoni Gaudi left barely unfinished. In fact, during his death, Sagrada Familia was only 25% complete. Antoni Gaudi is regarded highly for new architectural design, a combination of combination of the Gothic with his forms of Art Nouveau. A style that made him considered as the father of modern architecture.  For all the years it has been in existence, Sagrada Familia is well known for the nativity facade that consists of four eccentric spires. The Nativity facade is unique in the sense that it was the only facade designed and completed mainly by Antoni Gaudi. Being a private project, the construction of the Sagrada Familia was initially financed by donations from the faithful. After the death of Gaudi, the construction of the church continued intermittently. In fact, after the death of Gaudi, the passion facade took 50 years to complete. However, the incorporation of the current chief architect, Jordan Bonnet in 1984 revived the pace of the construction. The introduction of technology that was used to millstone plus the rapid increase of tourists’ revenues helped Jordi Bonnet to accelerate the rate of construction of the church. It is approximated that by 2026, the completion will finish. The completion date is set by the Archdiocese of Barcelona to coincide with the centenary of Antoni Gaudi’s death.



Easton, M., Grant, D. N., & Hulme, L. (2019). La Sagrada Familia: Approaches to Seismic Analysis. In Structural Analysis of Historical Constructions (pp. 1454-1461). Springer, Cham.