A GLIMPSE OF A. GAUDI’S EXPIATORY TEMPLE OF
THE BASILICA OF THE SAGRADA FAMILIA
The beginnings of the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, known as the Sagrada Familia, go back to 1866 when Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer founded the Spiritual Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph, which in 1874 began campaigning for the construction of an expiatory temple dedicated to the Holy Family. In 1881, enabled by various donations, the Association purchased a 12,800m² plot of land, located between the streets of Marina, Provença, Sardenya, and Mallorca, to build the temple on.
The first stone was laid on St Joseph’s day, 19 March, 1882, in a ceremony presided over by the Bishop of Barcelona, Josep Urquinaona. It signalled the start of construction, first in the crypt located under the apse, following the Neo-gothic design drawn up by the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano, the Sagrada Familia’s first architect. After a short while, due to disagreements with the promotors, he resigned from the post of chief architect and the job fell to Antoni Gaudí.
After taking over the project in 1883, Gaudí continued work on the crypt, which was finished in 1889. Later he began work on the apse, while donations were received at a steady rate. After receiving a substantial anonymous donation, Gaudí proposed a new and grander design. He proposed abandoning the old Neo-gothic plan in favour of a design that was more monumental and innovative, both in regard to the form and structure as well as the construction. Gaudí’s design consisted of a large church with a floor plan based on a Latin cross and soaring towers. It was to be immensely symbolic, both architecturally and sculpturally, and convey the teachings of the Gospels and the Christian Church.
In 1892 the foundations for the Nativity facade were started. This facade was built first because, as Gaudí himself put it, “If, instead of building this decorated, richly ornamented facade, we had started with the hard, bare and skeletal Passion facade, people would have rejected it.” In 1894 the apse facade was finished, and the Rosary portal, one of the entrances to the cloister on the Nativity side, was finished in 1899.
In 1909 Gaudí built the Sagrada Familia provisional school buildings, for children of Sagrada Familia workers and local children, on the south-west corner of the site. In the following year, 1910, a model of the Nativity facade was displayed at the Grand Palais in Paris in an exhibition featuring Gaudí’s work organised by his friend and patron Eusebi Güell. The Pasion facade was designed in 1911.
In 1914 Gaudí decided to concentrate exclusively on the construction of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia, a fact which explains why he did not undertake any other major work in the later years of his life. He became so involved that he lived his final months close by his studio workshop; a space located next to the apse used for producing scale models, drawings and designs, sculptures and for taking photographs, amongst other activities.
In 1923 he produced the final design for the naves and roofs. Construction work however progressed slowly. The first bell tower on the Nativity facade, 100 metres high and dedicated to Saint Barnabus, was finished on 30 November 1925. This was the only tower Gaudí saw completed. On 10 June 1926 he died as a result of injuries sustained three days earlier when he was tragically knocked down by a tram. On 12 June he was buried in the Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia, where his mortal remains rest to this day.
Over all these years a sizable group of architects, draughtsmen, sculptors and modellers collaborated with Gaudí on the construction.
In 2000 the vaulting in the central nave and the transepts was built, and the foundations of the Glory facade were started. In the same year, to mark the new millennium, a Mass was held inside the temple which showcased the grandeur of the building.
In 2001 the central window of the Passion facade was finished and stained glass by Joan Vila-Grau representing the Resurrection was installed. The four columns of the crossing were also finished.
Gaudí and his work were celebrated in 2002, with the Barcelona City Council sponsoring International Gaudí Year to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth. The Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia participated with various initiatives, including the restoration, relocating and opening of the Sagrada Familia schools building.
In 2002 the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs completed the wall of the Patriarchs and Prophets which Gaudí had envisaged for the top of the porch on the Passion facade, and in 2005 the sculpture representing the Ascension was positioned between the towers of this same facade. In the same period the windows in the central nave were installed and the Eucharistic symbols for bread and wine were completed by the Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo.
In 2006 the choir inside the Glory facade was constructed, based on models by Gaudí. The vaulting in the ambulatory around the apse was finished in 2008. The vaulting in the crossing and the apse was finished between 2008 and 2010.
2010 was a milestone in the history of the Sagrada Familia: the temple was consecrated as a place of worship by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
Gaudí’s conception of the Sagrada Familia was based on the traditions of Gothic and Byzantine cathedrals. His intention was to express Christian belief through the architecture and the beauty of the building and communicate the message of the Evangelists. He achieved a symbiosis between form and Christian iconography, with a personal architecture generated via new but thoroughly logical structures, forms and geometries inspired by nature, with light and colour also playing a central role.
The meaning of the Sagrada Familia is communicated through the form and expressivity of its architecture and the iconography of its sculpture.
The various architectural elements are imbued with hierarchically organised Christian symbolism. Thus, each of its 18 towers has a special significance. In the middle is the tower dedicated to Jesus Christ and around it are four towers representing the Gospels; the books containing the life and teachings of Jesus. The tower above the apse, crowned by a star, represents his mother the Virgin Mary, while the remaining 12 towers represent the 12 Apostles, witnesses to his words and deeds.
From wherever they are seen, once finished, these 18 towers will be an extraordinary sight and provide a sense of elevation to the central tower dedicated to Jesus Christ.
The Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia is a church with a central nave flanked by four aisles, and transepts with a central nave flanked by two aisles, forming a Latin cross. The top of the cross is closed by the semi-circular apse. The basilica also has three monumental facades, each one representing one of the three crucial events of Christ’s existence: his birth (C/Marina); his Passion, Death and Resurrection (C/Sardenya); and his present and future Glory (C/Mallorca).
PHOTOS AND VIDEO: MINE
Fr. Rolly Arjonillo, priest of Opus Dei, Catholics striving for Holiness.