Location: Barcelona, Spain
Architect: Antoni Gaudi (1852–1926)
Built: Began in April 19, 1882; still incomplete
History: Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828–1903) initially began work on La Sagrada Família on April 19, 1882, and Gaudi, a devout Catholic, took on the project in 1883. Gaudi died before completing it, and now other architects expect to finish the project by the end of the first third of the twenty-first century. Currently, Jordi Bonet i Armengol serves as director, Mark Burry as executive architect and researcher, and J. Busquets, Etsuro Sotoo, and Josep Subirachs as sculptors. It has not been a smooth process, though. Catalan anarchists destroyed part of the church and Gaudi’s blueprints, making the construction more difficult to complete.
(That's me outside of the church in 2001)
Exterior design: Insanely intricate and almost catacomb-like, the exterior of La Sagrada Família is a sight to behold, even if you’re not planning on touring the inside. Eighteen spindle-shaped towers pierce the sky. The tallest stands for Jesus, with the seventeen other towers representing the four Evangelists, the twelve Apostles, and the Virgin Mary. The church also has three facades to represent the Nativity, the Glory, and the Passion.
(Photo of Nativity facade from La Sagrada Família website)
Interior design: As suggested by the exterior towers, the interior of the church is an ascending series of vaults that guide your eyes heavenward. The columns that support the grand infrastructure illustrate Gaudi’s innovative, modern design. They are a schizophrenic collision of circles, octagons, and squares. More traditional is the Latin-cross-shaped layout of the church. Every nook and cranny is designed to tell stories of saints, virtues, sins, and beatitudes.
(Photo of column from La Sagrada Família website)
Interesting fact: A street tram hit Gaudi on June 7, 1926. Thinking he was just a vagabond, no one stopped to help him and even taxi drivers refused to take him to the hospital. He died three days later, on June 10. Despite no one recognizing him while he lay dying in the street, his funeral was packed with admirers. Gaudi was buried within the crypt of La Sagrada Família.
Quote: "The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people." —Gaudi