Sagrada Familia is the most unconventional church in Europe and a symbol of Barcelona. The cathedral, the impressive work of Antoni Gaudi -still unfinished - is one of the most visited monuments in Barcelona.
The project did not belong to him at the very beginning, another architect being assigned to carry it - Francisco del Villar - who would soon enter a deep depression due to the grandeur and complexity of the project. Gaudi will be surprised when the authorities will assign this project to him, as it was his dream since being a student to project a cathedral. He said that: "This cathedral, once completed, will represent my gratitude towards the Holy Family who helped me accomplish all that I wanted."
The idea of founding a cathedral belonged to an organization whose aim was to bring back the faith for the locals who were controlled by industrialization and wealth. A piece of land was bought in 1877. Francisco de Paula del Villar architect designed a neo gothic cathedral and has supervised the work that started in 1882. A year later, the modernist architect Antoni Gaudi took over the project, being only 31 years. Since then, Gaudi has dedicated his entire life to the monument. Instead of following the original plans, Gaudi changed almost radically the shape of the building.
For 43 years, Gaudi added bizarre improvisations and towers like chimneys to the original Gothic structure. Although unfinished, Sagrada Familia remains the masterpiece of the architect. Neo Gothic style was replaced with time by Gaudi's modernist style, which was based on forms found in nature. The huge building in neo-Catalonian style, rich in ornaments, is still unfinished and there have been working on it since 1882. It is funded by public money, as it was used in the Middle Ages. Sagrada Familia was never completed because Gaudi wanted it to be perfect and this fact delayed works, which later continued after his death. Even now, there were found hundreds of sketches in his studio in the School of Architecture in Barcelona.
To Gaudi's Project there have been added some new stylistic elements (the south facade, four more towers as well as the nave). When he died, in 1926, only a facade was ready, a tower, the apse and crypt. This is because he was constantly changing the project and this is the reason why there has not been preserved any specific project, while the remaining ones have disappeared during the civil war in 1936. The latest version of the project gave the church the following dimensions - 95 feet long and 60 meters wide, capacity to accommodate up to 13,000 people.
After Gaudí's death, the works went slow because of the lack of funds and the civil war. Work has started again in 1950, when the other two facades and eight towers have been risen. Nave will be covered in 2000. When it is finished, the cathedral will have 18 towers. There will be four towers on each of the three facades, representing the 12 Apostles. The towers have different heights -from 90 to 120 meters. Other four towers will represent the four Evangelists, and will surround the central tower with a height of 170 feet, dedicated to Christ. And the last tower will be dedicated to Virgin Mary, being built over the apse. Currently, works are performed in the central nave, as well as the facades of the cathedral. A feature of the cathedral is the bell tower that reaches 170 meters, the largest built ever.
The Cathedral has three facades that dominate the exterior. The first facade, toward the east, is known as Nativity facade. It was completed by Gaudi and decorated in Baroque style, with symbols from nature. On its opposite side, there is the Passion facade, whose construction began in 1952, and whose abstract statues depicting Jesus were added in 1978. The Glory façade, on which work is currectly conducted is more hidden under the arches and architectural elements. The top of a tower symbolizes the tree of life, adorned with birds flying free. It is not known whether this details is part of the original plan.
The last facade is almost finished, but it is assumed it would take 25-30 years more for the construction to be completed.
By Maria Morari
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