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The mystery of La Sagrada Família

If anyone has left his mark on Barcelona it was architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). His absolute masterpiece is of course the world-famous Basílica de la Sagrada Família. Even though construction began in 1882, the basilica remains uncompleted to this very day. In fact, it will take approximately 30 years from now for the building to be completely finished.

The original plans for the basilica were not made by Gaudí, but by architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. He designed a neo-Gothic church and began construction in 1882. However, after just 1 year, Gaudí took over. He dedicated almost his entire life to building his Sagrada Família – with the emphasis on 'his', because Gaudí drastically changed the original design. The neo-Gothic style was discarded and replaced by the architect’s distinctive modernist style. Unfortunately, when Gaudí died (in 1926), only 1 façade, 1 tower, the semi-circular niche and the crypt had been completed.

La Sagrada Família
La Sagrada Família

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The impressive interior
New church towers under construction

Continuous improvisation

Because Gaudí was continuously improvising during the construction, there are few blue prints and scale models of the basilica. Despite this, current architects have a good idea of Gaudí’s intentions. When completed, La Sagrada Família will boast 18 towers in total. Reaching a height of 90 to 120 metres, the 4 towers along each of the 3 façades represent the 12 apostles. Another 4 towers represent the 4 evangelists; these towers will surround the largest tower, 170 metres high, dedicated to Jesus Christ. The last tower, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, will be built over the semi-circular niche.

Gaudí’s crypt

After Gaudí’s death, construction was seriously delayed due to a lack of money and the Spanish Civil War. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the pace picked up again. In 2000, the roof was finally placed on the central nave. Currently, builders are mainly working on the nave and the main façade. Even though La Sagrada Família is far from finished yet, the basilica, the crypt and the museum are open to the public. Those who do not suffer from fear of heights or claustrophobia can also visit the towers. Take a lift – or a long walk – to the top to enjoy a fantastic view over Barcelona. At night, La Sagrada Família is beautifully illuminated which makes its angular construction materials stand out even more, illustrating why it is said that the church is built from bones.