The Gothic, high art Nouveau, Expressionist and Cubist church, Basílica y Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (aka Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family), is commonly referred to as “La Sagrada Família”. It is a large Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica as distinct from a cathedral which must be the seat of a bishop.
- Though construction of La Sagrada Família began in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.
- La Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War—only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s.
- Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centennial of Gaudí’s death.
So who was the architect Gaudí? Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born in Reus, Baix Camp district, on 25th June 1852.. He was baptised in the church of Sant Pere Apòstol in Reus the day after his birth under the name Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet.
Gaudí studied architecture at the Llotja School and the Barcelona Higher School of Architecture, graduating in 1878. He joined the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya in 1879 at the age of 27 and healthwise suffered from rheumatism which may have contributed to his decision to adopt a vegetarian diet early in his life. His religious faith and strict vegetarianism led him to undertake several lengthy and severe fasts. These fasts were often unhealthy and occasionally, as in 1894, led to life-threatening illness.
Gaudí was multi-skilled in the art of ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry and introduced new techniques in the treatment of materials, such as trencadís, made of waste ceramic pieces. Gaudí rarely drew detailed plans of his works, instead preferring to create them as 3-D scale models and moulding the details as he was conceiving them. He was largely influenced by neo-Gothicism and Oriental techniques; becaming part of the Modernista movement which was reaching its peak in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. His work transcended mainstream Modernism, culminating in an organic style inspired by nature. Gaudí’s works are mostly found around Barcelona and immediate surrounds and reflect his highly individual and distinctive style based on architecture, nature and religion. La Sagrada Família is mostly considered his “magnum opus.”
On 7 June 1926, Gaudí was taking his daily walk to the Sant Felip Neri church for his habitual prayer and confession. While walking along the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes between Girona and Bailén streets, he was struck by a passing tram and lost consciousness. Assumed to be a beggar because of his lack of identity documents and shabby clothing, the unconscious Gaudí did not receive immediate aid. Eventually a police officer transported him in a taxi to the Santa Creu Hospital, where he received rudimentary care. By the time that the chaplain of the La Sagrada Família, Mosén Gil Parés, recognised him on the following day, Gaudí’s condition had deteriorated too severely to benefit from additional treatment. Gaudí died on 10 June 1926 at the age of 73 and was buried two days later.