Sagrada Familia

The origins of the Expiatory Church of La Sagrada Família go back to 1866, the year when Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer founded the Spiritual Association of the Devotees of St Joseph, which from 1874 promoted the construction of an expiatory church dedicated to the Holy Family. In 1881, thanks to generous donations, the Association bought a plot of land with a surface area of 12,800m² between Carrer de Marina, Carrer de Provença, Carrer de Sardenya and Carrer de Mallorca for the site of the church.

The foundation stone was laid on 19 March 1882, the feast of St Joseph, at a solemn event presided by the bishop of Barcelona, Josep Urquinaona. Building then began with the crypt beneath the apse after a neo-Gothic design by the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. A short time later, owing to disagreements with the promoters, he resigned and the commission was handed over to Antoni Gaudí.

After undertaking the project in 1883, Gaudí built the crypt, which was finished in 1889. As he started work on the apse (and the cloister), everything went at a good pace thanks to the donations. When he received a large anonymous one, he thought of doing a new, bigger work: he discarded the old neo-Gothic project and proposed a more monumental and innovatory one in terms of both forms and structures and the construction. Gaudí's project consisted of a large church with a Latin cross ground plan and high towers; it carried a major symbolic load, in both architectural and sculptural form, with the ultimate aim of being a catechistic explanation of the teachings of the Gospels and the Church.

In 1892 he began work on the foundations of the Nativity façade because, as he said himself, "If, instead of making this decorated, ornamented and swollen façade I had begun with the Passion, hard, bare and as if made of bone, people would have stepped back." In 1894 the apse façade was finished and in 1899 the Roser door, one of the entrances to the Nativity cloister.

Alongside these works, at the south-west corner of the church, in 1909 Gaudí built the Temporary Schools, designed for the children of the workers on La Sagrada Família and the local children who were members of its parish. The following year, in 1910, a model of the Nativity façade was exhibited at the Grand Palais in Paris on the occasion of an exhibition of Gaudí's work, promoted by his friend and patron Eusebi Güell.

After 1914, Gaudí devoted himself exclusively to building La Sagrada Família, which is why there are no other major works from the last years of his life. He became so involved that he lived his last few months right next to his workshop, a room beside the apse used for making scale models, doing sketches and drawings, as a sculpture studio and a space for photographic work, amongst others.

In 1911 he planned the Passion façade and in 1923 the definitive solution to the naves and roofs. The works advanced slowly, though, and Gaudí said: "There is no reason to regret that I cannot finish the church. I will grow old but others will come after me. What must always be conserved is the spirit of the work, but its life has to depend on the generations it is handed down to and with whom it lives and is incarnated".

On 30 November 1925 the construction of the first bell tower of the Nativity façade, dedicated to St Barnaby and 100 m high, was finished. This is the only one that Gaudí lived to see built, since on 10 June 1926 he died as a result of a tragic accident three days earlier, when he was run over by a tram. On 12 June he was buried in the Carmen Chapel in the crypt of La Sagrada Família, where his remains still lie today.

All those years, a large number of architects, draughtsmen, sculptors and model makers had worked on the project with Gaudí. Among the architects were Francesc Berenguer, Joan Rubió, Domènec Sugrañes, Josep Maria Jujol, Josep Canaleta, Francesc de Paula Quintana i Vidal, Josep Francesc Ràfols, Cèsar Martinell, Isidre Puig i Boada, Lluís Bonet i Garí, Francesc Folguera and Joan Bergós. Among the draughtsmen was Ricard Opisso, and among the sculptors Llorenç Matamala, Joan Flotats, Joan Matamala, Carles Mani and Pau Badia. The most notable constructor was Agustí Massip i Brassó; the locksmith was Joan Oñós; the ceramic elements were made by the Pujol i Bausis company in Esplugues de Llobregat; the woodwork by Jaume Munné; and the ironwork by the Badia brothers.

When Gaudí died, the management of the works was taken over by his close associate Domènec Sugrañes, until 1938. Later directors were Francesc de Paula Quintana i Vidal, Isidre Puig i Boada and Lluís Bonet i Garí, all associates of Gaudí, people who knew the master and who directed the works until 1983. After that Francesc de Paula Cardoner i Blanch and then Jordi Bonet i Armengol became director. Since 2012 is Jordi Faulí i Oller who has occupied the post.

In 1930 the bell towers of the Nativity façade were finished and in 1933 the Faith door and the central cypress.

In July 1936, at the time of the military uprising and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, revolutionaries set fire to the crypt, burned the Temporary Schools of La Sagrada Família and destroyed the workshop. At that time the original plans, drawings and photographs were lost, and some of the scale plaster models were smashed. We should point out, however, that since Gaudí's intervention in 1883 and in spite of those acts of vandalism the building of the church has never stopped and has always  respected the will of the architect's original design.

After the Spanish Civil War the construction of La Sagrada Família began again and the church continued to rise slowly. From 1939 to 1940, the architect Francesc de Paula Quintana i Vidal, an associate of Gaudí since 1919, restored the burnt crypt and reconstructed many of the damaged models, which were used to continue the construction according to Gaudí's original idea.

In 1952 the XXXV International Eucharistic Congress was held in Barcelona, and a number of events were organised in the church on that occasion. The same year the Nativity staircase was built and the façade illuminated for the first time; from 1964 it became permanent at the decision of Barcelona Council.

The works continued strongly in 1954, when the foundations of the Passion façade were begun, based on the many studies done by Gaudí between 1892 and 1917. After the foundations came the crypt, where in 1961 a museum was opened to explain to visitors the historical, technical, artistic and symbolic aspects of the church. On that façade the four terminations of the bell towers were erected in 1976; they were finished the following year.

One important date is 1955, when the first "collection" was made, a whole day devoted to collecting funds to pay for the works, an initiative that was maintained in the following years as a way for society to take part in the construction of the church.

On 19 March 1958, the feast of St Joseph, the sculptural group representing the Holy Family, done by Jaume Busquets, was placed on the Nativity façade.

From 1978 the foundations of the nave and the crossing were done and the columns, vaults and façades of the main nave and the transepts were erected.

In 2000 the vaults of the central nave and the transept were built and work began on the foundations of the Glory façade. That year, on the occasion of the new millennium, a mass was held inside the church which provided an opportunity to grasp the grandiosity of the work.

In 2001 the central window of the Passion façade was completed with the installation of a stained glass window dedicated to the resurrection, the work of Joan Vila-Grau. The four columns of the centre of the crossing were also finished.

The figure and work of Gaudí were especially remembered in 2002, when Barcelona Council promoted International Gaudí Year on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth. La Sagrada Família took part with different events, such as the restoration, removal and opening of the Sagrada Família Temporary Schools as a new exhibition space, or the "Night of Light and Fire", a show held on 1 June which, with its special illumination and a spectacular castle of fireworks, was the highlight of the commemoration.

In 2002, the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs did the project for the wall of the prophets and patriarchs which Gaudí located in the porch of the Passion façade, and in 2005 the sculpture of the Ascension was placed between the towers of the façade. At the same time, the eucharistic symbols of bread and wine were placed on the windows of the central nave, the work of the Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo.

In 2006 the Glory façade choir was built according to Gaudí's models. The vaults of the ambulatory of the apse were finished in 2008. Between 2008 and 2010 the vaults of the crossing and the apse are scheduled for completion; on them the tower of the central lantern crowned by a cross 170 m high will be erected, and the apse tower, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The central tower will be surrounded by four others, dedicated to the evangelists. The church will be complemented with the construction of the main façade, the Glory façade.

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