140 years building the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

(CNN Spanish) — This March 19 marks the 140th anniversary of the laying of the first stone of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This basilica, a UNESCO world heritage site, will be the largest temple in the world when it is finished…since it is still a construction site.

At the moment the works on the basilica are going at a good pace, but even so there is still much to be done. The Sagrada Familia anticipates that this year they will finish the towers of the Evangelists Lucas and Marcos, and that they will be able to raise the tower of Jesus Christ at least three more levels. This tower, the tallest with more than 172 meters, could be ready in 2026 if enough is raised from the sale of tickets to the basilica.

On December 8, the star that crowns the tower of the Virgin Mary was placed, with a diameter of 7.5 meters and a weight of 5.5 tons.

a universal temple

“People from all over the world will come to see what we do”, used to say the creator of this wonder, Antoni Gaudí, and he was not wrong. Before the pandemic, in 2018, more than 4 million people visited the temple, the majority Italians, followed by Americans, who are 20% of the visitors. Tourists from the rest of Europe, South Korea and China follow. But the doors are also open for free to unemployed people and school, charity and religious visits.

Gaudi’s plan

Antoni Gaudí’s initial idea was the creation of a temple with some 18 towers, the lowest, some twelve representing the apostles, are those destined for the two facades and measure between 98 and 120 meters high. The remaining six would be in the center of the basilica and above the apse, and have different heights. To date, 8 of the 18 towers have already been built. Four of them, about 135 meters high, represent the 4 evangelists and escort the central tower, topped with a cross over 172 meters high that represents Christ. The last tower, which symbolizes the Virgin Mary, is 138 meters high and stands on the apse.

In addition to the towers, there are 3 large facades richly decorated with sculptures and ornaments that reflect the life of Jesus, a cypress that symbolizes the tree of life and the mountain of Montserrat, where the patron saint of Catalonia is staying.
Inside, the floor plan of the temple is the traditional Latin cross, with a central nave 45 meters high and an area of ​​4,500 m2.

Gaudí was the architect of the temple from 1883 to 1926 when he was killed by a tram. The current architect of the basilica is Jordi Faulí and, according to the latest calculations, the temple is 70% complete… so there is still a lot to do.

Faulí, the architect of the Sagrada Familia

His name is Jordi Faulí, he is short, very small, he likes to walk through the naves of the basilica, stopping to observe its vaults, its forest of columns supporting the gigantic structure… He also has a gigantic challenge: to continue with the work of Gaudí, an architect whose imagination and faith broke the schemes of the time. Faulí has ​​been taking over from Gaudí for years, trying to be as faithful as possible to the spirit of the great Catalan creator.
He has known the temple since he was a child, he lived very close and played in the square where the basilica now stands. Faulí says that the work is built thanks to the people, for their donations, that is why it is a “hope for humanity”.

Faulí works with a large group of collaborators, collaborators who are also Gaudí’s collaborators and who follow the indications of his project “to do it with beauty and quality”, and he hopes that when in 100 years someone speaks of the Sagrada Familia “they only think in Gaudí, not in us, we will have already disappeared, and we hope we have been good collaborators with our team”.

Credit: LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

Gaudi’s language

Faulí assures that the genius whose work is now finishing wanted to express the Christian faith with the formula of architecture. And he does it through love and pain, with themes like the birth and passion of Christ on the covers. “And in the naves, there is the space for the Eucharist and for people, who feel welcomed and who have feelings of elevation, and there he proposed a new grammar for architecture.”

And that grammar, Faulí adds, the old architect explained to his collaborators every Saturday when they went to the works. Gaudí helped his explanations with his sketches, plans and elaborate models of the temple. And these talks were impregnated in the memory of these young people. And when Gaudí died, they published books that collected this grammar and even photographs of the models. Models that were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War that devastated the country from 1936 to 1939. But thanks to these books, Faulí and his team continue to write their own lines, but in Gaudí’s architectural grammar.

Antoni Gaudí

He is perhaps the most admired Catalan and Spanish architect in the world, author not only of the Sagrada Familia temple, but also of impressive urban works within the so-called Catalan modernism. Many of them are in the city of Barcelona, ​​such as the spectacular Park Güell and its pavilions, Casa Vicens, Casa Batlló or Casa Milà. Much of his work is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Gaudí combined a truly innovative type of architecture, where the structures seem to come to life, imitating, above all, the plant world.

He was born on June 25, 1852 in Reus, Catalonia. Son of a coppersmith, since childhood he already stood out for his mathematical knowledge, especially geometry and arithmetic. Since he worked in his father’s workshop, in 1860, he liked to learn from the artisans. For his projects, he did not hesitate to try new ideas and learn from mistakes, he really liked working with models, something that his successors continue to do now. A man of deep religious faith, he admired the forms of nature that he later knew how to capture in his architectural works.

He dedicated the last 12 years to working in the Sagrada Familia temple, until a tram ended his life in an accident that occurred on June 7, 1927.

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