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Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia | by tomcosgrave
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Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Família (Catalan) or La Sagrada Familia (Spanish) is a large Roman Catholic basilica under construction in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The formal title of the basilica is the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family. It is the last, and perhaps most extraordinary, of the designs of the Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí. The geographical location of La Sagrada Família is 41°24′13″N, 2°10′28″E.


The Sagrada Família was planned in the late 19th century and construction work, under the supervison of Antoni Gaudí, commenced in the 1880s. After disagreements between the founding association and the original architect Francesco del Villar, Gaudí was assigned the project in 1883 and created an entirely new design. At first, the basilica stood in an empty field over a mile away from urban Barcelona.


Gaudí worked on the project for over 40 years, devoting the last 15 years of his life entirely to this endeavour; on the subject of the extremely long construction, Gaudí is said to have joked, "My client is not in a hurry." Work was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1935 and recommenced in the 1950s, after the end of World War II.


Gaudí died in 1926. Parts of the unfinished building and Gaudí's models and workshop were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War by anarchists. The design, as now being constructed, is based both on reconstructed versions of the lost plans and on modern adaptations. Since 1940 the architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, and Lluís Gari have carried on the work. Sculptures by J. Busquets and the controversial Josep Subirachs decorate the fantastical façades.


Every part of the design of La Sagrada Família is rich with Christian symbolism, as Gaudí intended the church to be the "last great sanctuary of Christendom." Its most striking aspect are its spindle-shaped towers. A total of 18 tall towers are called for, representing in ascending order of height the 12 Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. (According to the 2005 "Works Report" of the temple's official website, drawings signed by Gaudí found recently in the Municipal Archives indicate that the tower of the Virgin was in fact intended by Gaudí to be shorter than those of the evangelists, and this is the design -- which the Works Report states is more compatible with the existing foundations -- that will be followed. The same source explains the symbolism in terms of Christ being known through the evangelists.) The evangelists' towers will be surmounted by sculptures of their traditional symbols: a bull (St. Luke), an angel (St. Matthew), an eagle (St. John), and a lion (St. Mark). The central tower of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross; the tower's total height will be one metre less than that of Montjuïc, as Gaudí believed that his work should not surpass that of God. The lower towers are surmounted by bunches of grapes, representing spiritual fruit.


The church will have three grand façades: the Nativity (eastern) façade, the Glory façade (yet to be completed), and the Passion (western) façade. The Nativity facade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Gaudí influence. The Passion façade is especially striking for its spare, gaunt, tormented characters, including emaciated figures of Christ being flogged and on the crucifix. These controversial designs are the work of Josep Subirachs.

Sculpture of Christ and doors of the Passion façade.


The towers on the Nativity facade are crowned with geometrically shaped tops that were probably influenced by Cubism (they were finished around 1920). The intricate decoration is loosely related the style of Art Nouveau but reflects Gaudí's unique ideas.


Themes throughout the decoration include words from the liturgy. The towers are decorated with words such as "Hosanna," "Excelsis," and "Sanctus;" the great doors of the Passion façade reproduce words from the Bible in various languages including Catalan; and the Glory façade is to be decorated with the words from the Apostles' Creed.


Areas of the sanctuary will be designated to represent various concepts, such as saints, virtues, sins, and secular concepts such as regions of Spain, presumably with decoration to match.


The building works are expected to be complete around 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death, although the likelihood of meeting this date is disputed. Computer modelling has been used for the detailed design of the intricate structure of supporting columns inside the basilica. See also catenary. CAD/CAM technology has been used to speed up the construction of the building; initially, the construction work was expected to last for several hundred years, based on building techniques available in the early 1900s. The construction work calls for many pieces of stone to be machined to unique shapes, each being subtly different from the next, and these pieces are now being machined accurately off-site reducing the overall construction time.

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Taken on April 22, 2006