The Legacy of La Sagrada Familia
As one of Barcelona’s most popular tourist attractions, La Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church, built by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. With humble beginnings dating back to 1866, construction on this legendary basilica began in 1883 and is expected to be completed in the year 2026, exactly one century following the death of its visionary architect.
Gaudí’s vision for the church began with neo-Gothic roots that were both monumental and innovative, but were later expanded to encompass a large church in the shape of a Latin cross, with beautiful, sky-scraping towers. The church was to serve as a safe haven for all people across the city of Barcelona and the country of Spain. In 1983, it was deemed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and now attracts almost 3 million national and international visitors every year.
As a place of worship, Antoni Gaudí planned for his architectural project to be largely symbolic of the Gospels and the teachings of the Christian church. Upon completion, the basilica will have a total of 18 towers—the tallest of the towers being almost 566 feet tall, symbolizing Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. The four existing towers, almost 443 feet tall, symbolize the four evangelists, or the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Another tower, approximately 453 feet tall, will symbolize Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the last twelve, the smallest towers, will symbolize Jesus’ disciples. Upon completion, Gaudí’s basilica will be exactly one meter shorter than the Jewish mountain, Montjuïc, one of Barcelona’s highest elevations; Gaudí believed that his man-made work, should never surpass God’s creation.
Gaudí’s basilica, has three monumental facades: nativity, passion (death and resurrection) and glory. The first façade, the nativity façade, tells the story of Jesus’s birth and his life prior to His Christian ministry. With detailed modernist architecture, this façade represents the true handiwork of Antoni Gaudi, prior to his death in 1926. The nativity scene is a reflection of the birth of Jesus, with the holy family, the three wise men, the Northern star and other images of realism to illustrate the birth of Christ, as a meeting between heaven and Earth. This façade is often described as Gaudí’s hymn to life. Unfortunately, Antoni Gaudí was only able to see the completion of the basilica’s crypt, apse, the nativity façade and the first bell tower.
The second façade, the passion façade, was completed under architect Francesc de Paula Quintana I Vidal. The passion façade recounts passages from the gospel and visually demonstrates the last days of Christ’s ministry on Earth. Images of Jesus on the cross can be seen on this façade, in addition to images of the betrayal of Judas and Peter’s denial of Jesus. Other symbols on this façade are the skull at the foot of the cross, on the hill of Golgotha, along with a gilded bronze figure to represent the ascension into heaven after resurrection. This is the story of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and is represented in the passion façade that was completed in 1986.
The last façade, encompasses, the glory of Christ’s presence here on Earth. The central doors of the glory façade, has the Lord’s prayer engraved in Barcelona’s native language, Catalan, but surrounding it is one central phrase from the Lord’s prayer, written repeatedly in over 50 different languages, to demonstrate that everyone is welcome in this holy place. Gaudí’s desire for this façade was to convey the truth and pain of life, as a follower of Christ.
Gaudí’s church is a unique expression of the Christian faith that has been rendered in stone. It is the life legacy of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí who desired to use his gift as an architect to teach others about the gospel. The building itself, is a true reflection of a generational legacy of hard work, dedication and a vision. Long live the works of Antoni Gaudí; long live La Sagrada Familia.
Check out the video link below for footage of Barcelona's most famous basilica!