La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona


La Sagrada Familia is one of Barcelona’s best-known landmarks. This spectacular Roman Catholic church, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, is also famous because it remains unfinished more than 130 years after its construction began.

The church was the idea of publisher Josep Bocabella, and work began in 1882 using a neo-Gothic design by architect Francesc de Paula Villar. However, Bocabella and Villar came to a disagreement, and Gaudí took over the project. His ambitious design included 18 spires, representing the 12 apostles, the Virgin Mary, Christ and the Four Evangelists, as well as countless stone carvings.

By the time of Gaudí’s death in 1926, the work was less than 25 per cent complete, and today about half of the spires have been built. Nevertheless, construction has continued, and has now passed the halfway point; the anticipated date of completion is 2026. Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the unfinished church in 2010, and the main nave is now open for daily mass.

One of the most spectacular churches in the world, the Sagrada Familia has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church features a number of facades, including the Nativity Façade, which represents the birth of Christ and features figurines of the Holy Family, angels, and flora and fauna. The Passion Façade includes figures depicting Jesus’ death – from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion, while the Glory Façade has three portals, representing faith, hope and charity.

Gaudí is reported to have said of the work: “My client (meaning God) is not in a hurry.” However, he spent the last 15 years of his life entirely devoted to the project. When he died in a tram accident, he was buried in the crypt of La Sagrada Familia.