To give some context to our visit and tour of the Sagrada Familia and my pictures from yesterday, I am borrowing from and updating an earlier post.
The Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) is a monumental church begun in 1882 but not to be completed within the lifetime of its master architect, Antoni Gaudi who quipped, “My Client is not in a hurry!”. Throughout its history it has attracted awe, criticism, and in recent years people… throngs of people. It is now one of the top 3 most visited sites in Europe. Reservations are needed to visit this privately funded marvel.
The project originated in the hands of another architect who envisioned a fairly standard church dedicated to the Holy Family. That architect resigned after only a year. Antoni Gaudi was then employed and turned the church’s concept on its head. His talents and passions were unique. He was above all a gifted architect, but he was also an artist, naturalist, inventor, and held a deep spiritual dedication to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Gaudi dedicated 43 years of his life to the project, the last 13 being his exclusive work. He sought to employ the shapes of nature into his work, inventing techniques and tools that had not previously existed. Gaudi acknowledged that future architects and technologies would be employed long after his death and he sought to inspire them with his vision. Thus, he proceeded with construction in phases, working first on the completion of the Nativity façade. He believed that completed segments would guarantee the project’s future and draw the curious to see “what they are doing in Barcelona”. He only lived to see the completion of the façade and one tower, but his predictions proved accurate.
Gaudi’s genius becomes immediately apparent as one tries to comprehend the mind that conceived of this otherworldly creation. Gaudi drew inspiration from nature. Thus, his preferred building elements were curves, ellipses, and ovals.
He shunned the common design features of straight lines, squares and rectangles. In Gaudi’s day the computer tools to design with his favored elements did not exist, so he improvised. Tying hundreds of strings from a ceiling and joining them with small bags of sand he found that gravity drew the strings into natural parabolic curves. Using mirrors on the floor he was able to draw from the reflected images into his designs.
The church, now declared a Basilica, will feature 18 different spires. The central spire, representing Christ, will be 560 feet tall at completion. Entry into the Basilica is breathtaking. Instead of straight columns supporting a ceiling, the supports mimic trees ascending to a distant forest canopy. Stonework is kaleidoscopic in both color and presentation.
The exterior features 3 principle facades. At our visit in 2013 the Nativity and Passion facades, at opposite sides of the church, were starkly different. The stonework on the Nativity side is organic and “flows” with the lifelike Biblical images. In contrast, the Passion facade is stark, angular, and almost painful to behold.
There has been much progress over the 5 years since our last visit, and a small technical revolution in that time. The current architects are now employing 3D printers for modeling design elements.
Individual stones are precisely cut off-site and then assembled on-site, in Lego like fashion. The goal is to complete the entire facility on the 100 year anniversary of Gaudi’s death in 2026.
Peace Everyone. Pete