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Sagrada Familia – An Unfinished masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi

Sagrada Familia - An Unfinished masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi

Surviving centuries worth of test of time and controversies faced by the famous Basílica de la Sagrada Família, or more commonly known as Sagrada Familia, we can wonder how a certain building can make a mark in architectural history and mankind. More than a century since Antoni Gaudi started working on the Basilica of the Holy Family, however, Sagrada Familia still remains unfinished and under construction. Therefore, Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic Minor Basilica in the Eixample district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, and has been given Sagrada Familia UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“I will grow old but others will come after me. What must always be conserved is the spirit of the work, but its life has to depend on the generations it is handed down to and with whom it lives and is incarnated.”

Antoni Gaudi

Also Read: ANTONI GAUDI – Catalan Essentric or A creative Genius of 20th Century?

Sagrada Familia - An Unfinished masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi
Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

The construction of the Basilica started in 1882 under the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. It was then undertaken by Antoni Gaudí, is now anticipated to be completed by 2026 because it is the centenary of Gaudí’s death. Numerous architects, engineers, craftsmen, and skilled workers have referred to the remaining drawings and plaster models and have tried to follow Gaudí’s vision as closely as possible. In short, the completion of the building is a collective work of generations.

Although Antoni Gaudí undertook the design and construction of Sagrada Familia in 1883, it was only in 1884 that he was officially appointed the Architect Director of the church. Until his unfortunate death in 1926, Gaudí devoted his entire life to this building. Subsequently, only about 15-25%, i.e., only 1/4th of the project was complete.


The building construction relied only on private donations and the Spanish Government provided no funding.

The Basilica de la Sagrada Família was initially an idea of a bookseller, Josep Maria Bocabella, founder of Spiritual Association of Devotees of St. Joseph. He was inspired by the basilica at Loreto.

Antoni Gaudí maintained the original Latin cross plan designed by del Villar but moved away from the Gothic style in several significant ways. Certainly, He introduced a system of hyperboloids, paraboloids, helicoids, and conoids to make it a thinner, finer structure and eliminate the need for flying buttresses. After the death of Gaudí, the Spanish Civil War stopped the construction in 1936. Revolutionaries broke into the crypt and workshop and set fire to the drawings and plaster models, partially damaging Gaudí’s plans.

After the end of the Spanish Civil War, in the 1950s the construction resumed. Architects and engineers had to piece together several years of work and take the design and construction forward. Since 1940, numerous architects such as Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet I Gari, and Francesc Cardoner have worked on the building reconstructing the versions of plans that were destroyed in the fire. Barcelona-born Jordi Fauli took over as chief architect in 2012.

Sagrada Familia - An Unfinished masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi
Sagrada Familia Construction 1905, 1915 and 1930-31 respectively


In 2000, the central nave vaulting was completed. After that in 2006, the crossing and the supporting structure for the main steeple of Jesus Christ was completed. Jordi Fauli announced in October of 2015, that the basilica was almost 75% complete. And he has estimated that the steeples and most of the Church’s structure will be complete in 2026. However, this is excluding the decorative elements of the building. In 2017, In addition, he announced that these decorative elements will take between 2030-2032 for the construction to complete.

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It was only just recently in March of 2020, that the construction of the basilica stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the first time the construction halted since the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The work reopened and continued in July 2020 only for key workers of the project.

Sagrada Familia - An Unfinished masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi
Interior Columns of Sagrada Familia


The overall architectural style of the basilica is Spanish Late Gothic, Catalan Modernism and Art Nouveau.


The church plan is that of a Latin cross which is maintained of del Villar’s design with five aisles. The Central Nave Vault spans across 45m and the Side Nave Vault spans across 30m. The transept has 3 aisles.

Plan Sagrada Familia

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However, Antoni Gaudí’s original design was of 18 spires in ascending order of height of the 12 Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the 4 Evangelists, and the tallest of all Jesus Christ. The design is predominantly based on religious symbolism in each and every aspect. This is a visual representation of religious beliefs because Gaudí was a devout Catholic.

Spires of Sagrada Familia


The Church has three grand façades – Firstly, the Nativity façade to the East, Secondly, the Passion façade to the West, and thirdly, Glory façade to the South which is yet to be completed. As of 2010, 8 spires out of the 18 spires are built – 4 Apostles at the Nativity Façade and 4 Apostl4es at the Passion Façade.

Nativity Façade, Passion Façade and Glory Façade respectively

Geometric details

Antoni Gaudí used the construction system of angled columns and hyperboloid structures in his designs, especially after 1914. The steeples that are on the Nativity façade are crowned with geometrical shaped tops that are reminiscent of cubism which were completed around 1930.

Interior Sagrada Familia


While, Amidsting all of the discussions about Sagrada Familia, the basilica has received a mixture of positive and negative criticism from various architects, artists, and other design specialists. Likewise, Antoni Gaudi also has received mixed opinions from people. Where world-renowned architects Louis Sullivan, Walter Gropius, graciously praise the building calling it the greatest piece of creative architecture and a marvel of technical perfection; However, other renowned author personalities like George Orwell, James A. In addition, Michener and Gerald Brenan heavily criticize the building calling it the most hideous and strangest looking.

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“It was like learning a new language – we weren’t just learning the vocabulary, but the grammar as well.”

Jordi Fauli

Most of Gaudí’s inspiration for the Church building is based on nature. The interior columns of the nave resemble trees, with branch-like sections that support the tower and the vaults. The construction of the basilica is still not supported by the Government or official Church sources. While, Private patrons, private donations, and ticket money from tourists visiting Sagrada Familia cover the expenses of the construction. Thanks to this influx of funding, the famously unfinished church are on a schedule to be finished possibly in 2026, the 100th anniversary of the death of Antoni Gaudí.

“Gaudí left us a path. Sometimes, though, we’ve had to work hard to find it.”

Jordi Fauli
Interior Columns and Ceiling of Sagrada Familia

As the building grapples with low rumblings and high praises it still completes piece by piece, there will finally be that one day when the last of the spire towers of Sagrada Familia will eventually be complete. Unfortunately, Antoni Gaudí who had just a few lampposts to his name when he landed the job for this church, has not lived to see the completion of his own iconic Barcelona structures. Most importantly, once completed, the 18 towers of Sagrada Familia will pose a unique view of the basilica from any single vantage point. In conclusion, it will remake the skyline of Barcelona standing as a marvelous emblem for the city.

Works Cited

Also Read: 10 Examples of Parasitic Architecture around the World

Abend, L. (2019, July 8). Inside Barcelona’s Unfinished Masterpiece. Retrieved from TIME:

Jones, R. (2013, October 16). AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudí. Retrieved from ArchDaily:

After that, Macabanti, V. A. (n.d.). Sagrada Familia Barcelona by Antoni Gaudi- The unfinished masterpiece. In addition, Retrieved from Rethinking the Future:

Also, Sagrada Familia. (n.d.). Retrieved from Casa Batllo:

In addition, Sagrada Família. (2021, February 12). Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Sutton, B. (2018, November 21). The Tortured 136-Year History of Building Gaudí’s Sagrada Família. Retrieved from


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