By Kelly Wise Valdes
The Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona. This magnificent structure has been under construction since 1882 and it’s not expected to be completed until 2026, more than 140 years after in the making. The history of the church is almost as fascinating as the architecture itself.
During the 19th Century, booksellers José Maria Bocabella and José Maria Rodriguez decided to build a church in Barcelona and to devote it to the Holy Family, thus the name ‘Sagrada Familia.’
They hired the architect of the Diocese, Francisco del Villar, who designed the Gothic-style church 1882. Because of fundamental disagreements with Bocabella, del Villar designed from the project and the young architect, Antoni Gaudí, took the reins. The Sagrada Familia became Gaudí’s life work and he significantly influences each part of the building.
Because of its extensive dimension and its opulent design, the church became so important that people soon called it ‘the Cathedral.’ He was convinced that one day the city would be known because of this church. In contrast to the original Gothic-style, Gaudí’s design required no supporting sidewalls because he incorporated countless windows that allow for natural light. The church was built solely by donation, which led to a long build-time. “My client is in no hurry,” Gaudí once said, referring to God.
The building was popularly known as ‘the cathedral of the poor’ and Gaudi himself was known to go begging for contributions that would currently amount to $600,000 per year.
Sadly, Gaudí died in 1926 after being struck by a City tram. He had been living on the Sagrada Familia building site and looked so impoverished that it took several hours for doctors to realize who he was. Even after his death, construction continued according to his intricate plans.
The layout of the church has the shape of a Latin cross with enormous dimensions. The Sagrada Familia is one of the world’s largest church buildings: the entrance to the alter is the length of a professional football field.
With a roof finally in place, Pope Benedict was able to consecrate it as a Basilica in November 2010. A setback occurred when a man set fire to the Basilica’s sacristy area in April 2011.
The public rallied and started raising funds and It is now among Spain’s most-visited tourist attractions. For more information, visit www.sagradafamilia.org.