Mar 3, 2020

Sagrada Familia – 144 Years of Construction

Jeffrey Chin

he Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has a lot of acclaims. It is the UNESCO World Heritage site and the tallest Catholic building in the world. However, the most exciting fact about it is that by 2026, it will have taken 144 years to complete the magnificent cathedral! The building’s construction started in 1882 and will be completed in 2026.

Outside View

Barcelona’s Treasure


Although the building began under architect Francisco Paula de Villar, Antoni Gaudí took over after a year. The church was to be built as a way to honor God, so it is named for this purpose. The full name is Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Família, which means the Expiatory Church of the Holy Family.

When Antoni Gaudí took over, he immediately started redesigning the church. He soon had a blueprint that was multiple times more elaborate and ambitious than the original plans.

What the Church Ought to Look Like

Sagrada Familia Night View

La Sagrada Família, when completed, will have a transept, five naves, an apse, 18 towers, outer ambulatory, and three different fronts! Gaudí based the entrance designs off of 3 major stories in the Bible. The first entrance — named Nativity — depicts scenes from the birth of Jesus. The second entrance depicts the crucifixion and is named Passion. The last entry is called Glory and represents the heavenly glory of the Holy Family.

The building is an eye-popping mishmash of Art Nouveau and Gothic styles. Beyond the two styles, there are other influences that we can’t readily depict but credits its creator’s unique eye for detail. Antoni Gaudí was an astonishing architect with a romantic style. Moreover, the cathedral will be the tallest church in Europe upon completion. The tallest of its cloud-brushing towers will be 566 feet high!

Why Construction has Taken So Long

Sagrada Familia

Nativity Entrance

When Gaudi was asked when he was going to complete this project, he always replied by saying his client wasn’t in a hurry. Interestingly, he referred to God as his client, not the Roman Catholic Church. In his later years, he became a devout Catholic and spent most of his time working on the cathedral alone.

Sagrada Familia Present Day

Passion Entrance

Even though he was dedicated to the project, he never seemed to be in a hurry to complete it. He wanted it perfect and seemed to understand that it would take time to achieve such perfection. Additionally, several materials needed to complete the basilica were either unavailable or costly. When Gaudi died 44 years after the cathedral started, it was only about 25% completed.

Sagrada Familia Render

Glory Entrance

After the visionary’s death, work on his masterpiece slowed even further. Several incidents fueled this. For instance, vandals destroyed Gaudi’s original building plans in a fire during the Spanish Civil War. Nevertheless, work has never been halted entirely on the building.

There was also the matter of getting a building permit from Barcelona. The original request for a construction license was submitted to the City Council of Sant Martí de Provençals in 1885. It wasn’t granted until quite recently; 137 years after the construction started! Some have blamed the long wait on the architect’s obsession with designs alone, while others consider it the fault of the Catholic Church board.

However, the Sagrada Familia’s board rebutted any faults. According to them, there was a permit granted in 1885 before Sant Martí de Provençals became a part of Barcelona. After this happened, they needed new Barcelona permits.

So Why 2026?

In 2026, the completion of the cathedral’s structure will serve as a symbol of honor to mark the centenary of Gaudi’s death. Technological advances have made it easier to achieve the vision of the futuristic architect who dreamed up the impossible a century ago.

Sagrada Familia — A Historical Symbol

Sagrada Familia in 1905

The Sagrada Familia has become world-famous. The length of its completion time alone draws a lot of attention to it. But beyond that, the elegant construction is already a worthy eye feast. Tourists from all over the world travel to Barcelona to view this magnificent building. According to a study conducted by the city, it would even seem that tourists are content to stand outside and take photographs of the structure without having to enter the building at all.

The structure receives as many as 4 million tourists annually. Sometimes, its tourism features are enjoyed at the expense of locals. Due to this, Barcelona signed a deal with the board of the cathedral for $41 million for civic improvements. The fee is to be paid over a decade.

Despite what might constitute an inconvenience sometimes, Barcelona is just beginning to enjoy these benefits. Being the home to the famous basilica might just be golden after all, as tourism rates are expected to rise in the coming years. A completed Sagrada Familia will definitely attract all that more people to see its stunning facade. You can be sure Antoni Gaudi’s client would appreciate it too!

No items found.
No items found.