La Sagrada Família is a work on a grand scale which begun on 19 March 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula Del Villar (1828-1901). The building is in the centre of Barcelona, and over the years it has become one of the most universal signs of identity of the city and the country.
It is visited by millions of people every year and many more study its architectural and religious content. 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 centenary of Gaudí’s death. After a visit to the Vatican in 1872, Bocabella returned from Italy with the intention of building a church inspired by that at Loreto.
The apse crypt of the church, funded by donations, was begun 19 March 1882, on the festival of St. Joseph, to the design of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, whose plan was for a Gothic revival church of a standard form.
After Gaudí’s death in 1926 construction slowed dramatically due to a lack of funds and the outbreak of the Civil War. Construction pace started to pick up again in the mid 1950s and now two facades and eight towers have been completed.
The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the plans that were burned in a fire as well as on modern adaptations. Since 1940 the architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari and Francesc Cardoner have carried on the work.
The illumination was designed by Carles Buigas. The current director and son of Lluís Bonet, Jordi Bonet i Armengol, have been introducing computers into the design and construction process since the 1980s.
Construction began again in the late 1950s and has continued ever since. The current design is based on a combination of reconstructed versions of the lost plans and modern adaptations.
Vaults over the side aisles were added in 1995 and the roof over the nave was finished in early 2001. In 2008, some renowned Catalan architects advocated a halt to construction, to respect Gaudí’s original designs, which, although they were not exhaustive and were partially destroyed, have been partially reconstructed in recent years.
After finishing the Parc Guell in 1911, Gaudí vowed to abandon secular art and devote himself entirely to the Sagrada Familia. He worked on it tirelessly for over 40 years, living as a virtual hermit in a workshop on the site.
Even though the Sagrada Família is far from finished, the remarkable church is well worth a visit. You can visit the crypt were Gaudí is buried as well as the transept and central nave with its giant, tree-like pillars and spectacular vaulting.
A museum narrates the history of the church and tells the story of its great architect. An elevator and a long walk will lead you to the top of a tower from where you have a magnificent view over Barcelona.