Sagrada Família

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Sagrada Família, September 2009; the numerous construction cranes have been retouched from the picture.
Construction status autumn 2015

The Sagrada Família (full Catalan name: Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família katal . [ Səˈɣɾaðə fəˈmiɫiə ]; German  basilica and expiatory temple of the Holy Family ) is a Roman Catholic basilica in Barcelona . The construction of the church designed by Antoni Gaudí in the style of Modernism is unfinished. It was started in 1882 and is due to be completed in 2026 on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death.

In 2005, UNESCO added the nativity façade and the crypt of the Sagrada Família to its list of World Heritage Sites as an extension of the World Heritage Site by Antoni Gaudí . On November 7, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church and at the same time elevated it to a minor basilica . The sacred building is north of the old town in the Eixample district .

Building history

Neo-Gothic project by Francesco de Paula del Villar


The idea for the building in honor of the Holy Family in Barcelona first came from Josep Maria Bocabella , a local owner of a religious bookshop and author of Christian scriptures. In 1866 he founded the Associación Espiritual de Devotos de San José ("Spiritual Association of the Admirers of St. Joseph"). Returning from a trip to Italy and impressed by the large churches there, he decided in 1874 to have a large atonement church built in his city, financed by donations . Thanks to generous donations, the association founded for this purpose was able to acquire the building site for today's church in 1881, a plot of land the size of a whole block of houses with a floor area of ​​12,800 m² in the then undeveloped Eixample district. The architect of the diocese , Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano , volunteered as the planner.

The crypt in 1886

1882 to 1893

Del Villar rejected Bocabella's idea of ​​building a replica of the Basilica of Loreto , which stands in Italy, and designed a simple three-aisled church with no special features, in keeping with the taste of the time in the neo-Romanesque-neo-Gothic style with a mighty low crossing tower and a slim facade tower.

The foundation stone was laid on March 19, 1882, the feast day of St. Joseph . Antoni Gaudí was present at the laying of the foundation stone. He had worked in del Villar's office as a student and at the time the foundation stone was laid he was a member of Joan Martorell's office , who was working on the project as a structural engineer . A year after the start of construction there was a falling out between the construction management and del Villar, so that he resigned. The project was proposed to Martorell, who declined because he had been involved in the rift, and proposed his colleague Gaudí instead.

Gaudí built the crypt that he had begun largely based on del Villar's plans, with the vaults being the result of a revision by Gaudí. In the mid-1880s, the first services could be celebrated in it and in 1889 the crypt was completed. At the same time as the construction of the crypt, Gaudí began to fundamentally redesign the plans for the church. To this end, in 1885 he presented a new overall concept with a Gothic design language in which 18 towers can be recognized, albeit on a smaller scale than in the current project. The height of the outer wall of the apse, completed in 1893, extends beyond del Villar's project. It contains neo-Gothic elements, but shows Gaudí's handwriting in the idiosyncratic handling of the Gothic forms, the naturalistic gargoyles and the pinnacles.

1894 to 1926

Shortly before work on the Nativity Façade began, Bocabella and Gaudí saw themselves in a position to expand the plans for the church thanks to a large anonymous donation. Gaudí then developed the basic concept of an 18-tower and 5-aisled basilica. The implementation of the new project began in 1894 with the foundation work for the four-tower facade.

The basic concept of the church was retained from that point on. However, the architectural language has undergone several changes over time. All development steps, from the idiosyncratic interpretation of Gothic and Baroque historicism to an exuberant Catalan modernism to Gaudí's abstract- expressionist late style, correspond to the design solutions for the church. The result was the plan for a building whose floor plan, room layout and lines allude to the Gothic, but go beyond that. With the expanded plans it became clear that it was not expected to be finished soon: Gaudí was to work on the church for 43 years, exclusively for the last 15 years.

When asked about the impossibility of an early completion, Gaudí replied:

"My customer is in no hurry."

He was playing primarily on God, but also on the building management.

Of the three facades, Gaudí began work on the north-east facing Nativity facade. Before his death in 1926, only one tower of this facade (dedicated to St. Barnabas ) could be completed. The architect first had the towers built in angular form, then changed the plan and ended the angular shape with small balconies. In the upper half, the towers were built in a round shape. Gaudí hid the angular lower part behind four 14 meter high statues of the apostles.

The Sagrada Família in 1929

1926 until today

Construction status February 2014

Gaudí died in 1926 after a tram accident. After that the construction work was interrupted again and again, but in 1935 the work on the "birth facade" could be completed.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, anti-clerical groups burned down part of the nativity facade and destroyed parts of the crypt. They killed the spiritual director of the Sagrada Família, who was friends with Gaudí and who lived below his studio. The original construction plans, the plaster models and the architect's drawings were located there. Much was lost at that time and the plaster models were badly damaged. The Catalan government then took the drafts to keep them safe. After the war ended, architects and employees who had worked with Gaudí at a young age got together and helped to reconstruct the models from the remaining rubble and the photos that had been preserved. The use of ruled surfaces in the designs turned out to be a stroke of luck, as the entire surface could be mathematically reconstructed from a small fragment of a ruled surface. From 1950 construction could continue. The later architects Francesc Quintana , Isidre Puig Boada and Lluís Gari tried to implement Gaudí's ideas in the best possible way based on the reconstructed models and orally transmitted thoughts. In 1976 the four apostle towers above the "Passion facade" were completed.

A central event was the consecration of the church by Pope Benedict XVI. on November 7, 2010 after completion of the interior. At the time of its consecration, the Pope elevated the church to the rank of papal minor basilica . Eight of the church's 18 towers have been completed from the exterior. There are four apostle towers above the two finished facades. The aim is to complete the basilica by 2026, the centenary of Gaudí's death. Then the construction would have taken a total of 144 years. Whether this can be achieved, however, depends above all on the incoming financial resources.

It was only noticed in 2016 that there was no building permit for the construction. This was granted in June 2019 for seven years so that the building could be completed on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death. In addition to paying 4.6 million euros for the permit, it was agreed that the construction company would have to pay 36 million euros in order to "mitigate the negative effects of the construction work on the neighborhood" , according to the dpa . This means the "expansion of the public transport network around the church" and "the renovation of the side streets".


Again and again there were protests against certain details of the building. For example, criticism came up in 1893 when Gaudí decided to design the nativity facade as the first facade. The city administration criticized this because the opposite end of the transept was more towards the city and therefore, due to the public appeal, the Passion facade had to be built there as a matter of urgency.

At the end of 1964, the Barcelona architect, urban planner and later “influential city planning officer” Oriol Bohigas (* 1925) organized a signature campaign with the aim of stopping construction. It was mainly signed by representatives of architectural modernism such as Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius . The daily La Vanguardia in Barcelona was ready to publish an open letter in early 1965. Bohigas and La Vanguardia have remained true to their opposition to the Sagrada Família to this day.

In a further attempt in 2008, a group of around 400 people - architects (including Bohigas), actors, directors and gallery owners - called for construction to be stopped and criticized the marketing for tourist purposes. The call for signatures was published on the FAD ( Foment de les Arts i del Disseny = promotion of art and design) website with around 100 signatories to begin with.


The construction work is still being financed, as originally planned by Josep Maria Bocabella , with donations from foundations and entrance fees. Around 22 million euros are available annually for the construction; in 2009 it was 18 million euros. Most donations come from Catholic circles and from Japanese. In 2019, a further 374 million euros were budgeted for the completion of the church by 2026.


Model of the church with already built part in brown (as of 2019) and the part that is still to be built in white
Model of the finished church

The Sagrada Família has a cruciform floor plan. The five-aisled nave faces south-east and measures around 90 meters to the apse at the northern end. It is 45 meters wide (main nave 15 meters, four side aisles 7.5 meters each). The shorter three-aisled transept is 60 meters long and 30 meters wide (main transept 15 meters, two side aisles 7.5 meters each). A cloister will run around almost the entire church . It houses a chapel dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary .

All over the church there are complex ornaments and decorative elements such as spindle-shaped towers that resemble a sand castle and whose roofs are crowned by geometric shapes with cubist elements.

The church is located north of the old town in the Eixample district . In this checkerboard-like district, it and the construction site take up a whole 17,822 square meter block of streets. This borders in the south on Carrer de Mallorca (Mallorcastraße), in the north on Carrer de Provença ( Provença street ), in the west on Carrer de Sardenya (Sardinienstrasse) and in the east on Carrer de Marina (Marinestraße).

Style and Influences

Like all churches with a very long construction period, the Sagrada Familia combines different architectural styles . It was conceived and designed by Gaudí's predecessor Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano in the New Catalan style, which is a variant of the Neo-Gothic . Gaudí developed this concept further in the style of modernism . In the meantime, elements of modernity are also emerging, especially on the Passion facade .

The construction was influenced by the architect's personal spirituality . He saw nature as his main teacher. Apart from that, as with all Gaudí buildings, functionality determines his designs.

outer appearance


The Sagrada Família currently has two façades. These are located at both ends of the transept.

Oriented to the northeast is the nativity facade , most of which was completed during Gaudí's lifetime in the classic style of the Catalan architect. It shows the birth of Jesus in detail.

The nativity facade consists of three portals, which symbolize the Christian virtues - "Faith", "Hope" and "Love". The facade tells of the life of Christ, divided into different sections. For example, the way of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the birth scene, the adoration of the shepherds and kings and the presentation of the young Jesus in the temple are illustrated. Further scenes are Jesus at work as a carpenter or the coronation of Mary. The central portal is crowned by the tree of life, a cypress .

Four gates, each seven meters high, are installed at the entrance to the Mercy Portal. On July 16, 2014 the first of these gates was added; it was designed by the Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo and shows ivy, flower petals, pumpkins and lilies. In addition, various insects such as cockchafer, bugs, wasps, flies, grasshoppers, butterflies, millipedes, crickets, ladybirds, caterpillars and ants can be recognized.

The south-west facing Passion Façade was started after Gaudí's death and is unfinished. It differs from its counterpart in that it contains hardly any decorations and is clearly structured with clear, geometric lines and large figures. It is supported by six inclined columns and has three portals.

The Catalan painter and sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs began designing the Passion facade in 1986 . It illustrates the suffering of Christ. For example, the kiss of Judas, the flagellation and the crucifixion in the central portal. Subirach's characters are rated differently.

The glory facade or facade of glory under construction will adorn the side of the building opposite the apse, i.e. face southeast. According to the plans, it should have 21 columns and two chapels, one dedicated to the Holy Sacraments and a baptistery . The area of ​​the planned staircase in front of this main facade has been occupied by a block of flats for several decades, which is contrary to the previous plans.

Eleven portals should be available for entering the chapels, the cloister and the nave.


When completed, the Sagrada Família should have a total of 18 towers. Twelve are dedicated to the apostles . Four of them each tower over one of the three facades with a height of 90 to 112 meters. All towers, the shape of which is supposed to be reminiscent of a bishop's crook , have long vertical nicks and colorful tips that are adorned with animals or sacred symbols and biblical quotations. They carry a small gold cross with the name of the respective apostle. Some of the towers are connected to one another by narrow stone bridges. For reasons of sustainability, stainless steel reinforcement is used for the constructions , which is characterized by strength , corrosion resistance and low follow-up costs.

Four more towers are to be dedicated to the evangelists . The two remaining towers will be dedicated to Mary (125 meters high) and Jesus Christ . The latter will be the main tower of the basilica and, according to the plans, should tower above all the others. It is supposed to rise exactly above the crossing and with a calculated height of 172.50 meters would tower over the highest church tower in the world ( Ulm Minster ) by more than eleven meters. The height is chosen so that the church does not become higher than the surrounding mountains of Barcelona in order not to let the work of man become higher than the work of God.

inner space

The side aisles are 30 meters high, the main and main transept 45 meters high, the transept 60 meters high and the vault above the apse 75 meters high. The vaults are supported by stone pillars. They are supposed to be reminiscent of trees and therefore have branches at their upper ends that divide into branches like tree trunks. In addition, a canopy of leaves is suggested. The interior has been finished since 2010 and the windows are glazed. Colored windows were used that were designed by painter and glass artist Joan Vila i Grau . The altar was made by Pope Benedict XVI. consecrated on November 7, 2010.

The apse consists of seven small side chapels dedicated to joy and sadness. In addition, two sacristies are to be built on each side . The windows in this area are also designed with natural motifs.


Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Carmen with Gaudí's grave

Under the apse is the basilica's crypt . When Gaudí took over the construction management, construction of the crypt had already begun, so that no major changes to the plan were possible, but Gaudí raised the vault so that light and air could flow in from above.

The crypt is in the neo-Gothic style. It is almost a round building with an area of ​​around 120 square meters, flanked by seven individual chapels in a semicircle (in the middle: St. Josef). Opposite are the three main chapels, flanked on the left and right by two more. Mass is read from the middle chapel, to the right of it are the chapel of the Virgin of Montserrat , the patron saint of Catalonia, and the chapel of Christ with the tomb of Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer . On the other side are the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament and the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin of Carmel ("Verge del Carme"), where Antoni Gaudí is buried.

Ruled surfaces

Ceiling of the basilica: a complex combination of different ruled surfaces

In his studies of nature, Gaudí discovered that many of the shapes that can be found in it almost represent regular surfaces , i.e. surfaces curved on two sides that are generated from straight lines. Seeing nature as a teacher, he began to experiment with the use of ruled surfaces in architecture. The design for the church of Colònia Güell served him as an experimental field. The late designs for the Sagrada Familia, especially the interior and the roof landscape, are combinations of such regular surfaces:

The vaults consist of large rotational hyperboloids with hyperbolic paraboloids inserted in between . In addition to the circular cross-sectional rotational hyperboloids and hyperbolic paraboloids, elliptical hyperboloids can also be found in the windows . The columns are generated from the intersection of two helical surfaces turned in opposite directions . The column nodes are formed from ellipsoids that are not ruled surfaces. The spiral stairs are designed as helicoids.

The eight existing facade towers and the four that are still missing on the glory facade come from an older design phase. These towers have the shape of a paraboloid of revolution or an elliptical paraboloid on the Passion facade, neither of which are regular surfaces. The six missing towers above the crossing and the apse are to be formed from sections of hyperbolic paraboloids.

Gaudí was the first architect to implement these forms, which are important for shell concrete construction, in architecture. Since the use of industrially prefabricated forms is not possible for this type of construction, but each stone has to be specially adapted, the further construction remains complex.

Reconstruction of the hanging structural model for the projected church of Colònia Güell


Gaudí initially tested the statics for the Sagrada Familia in his design for the smaller church of Colònia Güell . Here Gaudí applied a technique that was no longer used at the time: he made the supporting structure from cord and hung the structure upside down. Because the cords are limp, there is no bending moment in them . The model differed from the original in the direction of the load and was therefore suitable for finding a shape that is subject to pressure and not bending, as in a chain and support line . By making length adjustments, he was able to construct the plans for a well-balanced structure. This method was common in the Gothic era when constructing large structures. Although the experiments at Colonia Güell had produced positive results, Gaudí used graphic methods to determine the statics of the Sagrada Familia.


Altar with prospect of the choir organ

At the moment there is no final conception for an organ system that would do justice to the enormous dimensions of the basilica and fill the interior with sound.

In the choir room (Presbiterio) there is already a choir organ , which was built by the organ building company Blancafort Orgueners des Montserrat in 2010. This instrument has 26 registers (1492 pipes) on two manuals and pedal and is housed in two separate organ cases. The design of the prospectus of the approximately 8-meter-high and 3-meter-wide organ is based on the shape and structure of Gaudí, who himself left no indications of the design of an organ. The game table can be moved freely, the playing and stop actions are electric.

Pedal C – f 1

1. Contrabajo 00 16 ′
2. Subajo 16 ′
3. Cons 08th'
4th Bajo 08th'
5. Coral 04 ′
6th Bassoon 16 ′
I Organo Mayor C – g 3
7th Flautado de cara 8th'
8th. Flautado Armonica 8th'
9. Flautado Chimenea 00 8th'
10. Octava 4 ′
11. Docena 4 ′
12. Quincena 2 ′
13. Decisetena 8th'
14th Corneta V 8th'
15th Lleno III-IV 1 13
16. Trompeta Real 8th'
II Expressivo C-g 3
17th Gran Principal 8th'
18th Gamba 8th'
19th Violon 8th'
20th Voz Celeste 8th'
21st Flautado Conica 00 4 ′
22nd Tapadillo 4 ′
23. Nasardo 12 a 2 23
24. Flabiolet 2 ′
25th Nasardo 17 a 1 35
26th oboe 8th'


Night shot of the Sagrada Família without cranes, 2015

The unfinished construction is one of the sights of Barcelona. The newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya reports that more than two million visitors visited the building in 2004, surpassing the Prado and the Alhambra . Part of the interior and the completed towers are open to tourists. You can get there with two elevators. The Museu Gaudí is also located under the transept .


  • Barcelona and Catalonia . Dorling Kindersley Verlag, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-928044-09-5 , pp. 74-75.
  • Robert Schediwy : Barcelona. Is it allowed to continue building cathedrals? In: ders., Städtebilder - Reflections on the change in architecture and urbanism . LIT Verlag, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-7755-8 , pp. 23-25, reprinted from Wiener Zeitung , May 21, 1999, limited preview in the Google book search.
  • Mark Burry (ed.): Gaudí Unseen - The completion of the Sagrada Família. [On the occasion of the exhibition of the same name in the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), Frankfurt a. M., September 15, 2007 to January 6, 2008.] Jovis Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-939633-45-7 .
  • Albert Fargas: The symbolism of the Sagrada Família temple. Photographs by Pere Vivas. Translated by Susanne Engler, Triangle Postals, Menorca 2009, ISBN 978-84-8478-408-1 .


  • Sagrada - El misteri de la creació . (Alternative title: Sagrada - The Mystery Of Creation. ) Documentary, Switzerland, 2012, 95 min. (Cinema), 53 min. (Television), script and direction: Stefan Haupt , music: Bach's mass in B minor conducted by Jordi Savall , Production: Fontana Film, SRF , SRG SSR , series: Sternstunde Kunst , cinema release: December 20, 2012 in Germany, first broadcast: December 26, 2013 on SRF, film data from Swiss Films and film page . The film received the EuroMedia Award in Culture and Aesthetics 2013.
  • The Gaudí code. The secret of the Sagrada Família. Documentary film, Germany, Austria, 2015, 51:55 min., Script and director: Danielle Proskar , production: epo-film , Prounen Film, LukiMedia, SR , tve , arte , first broadcast: March 14, 2015 by arte, table of contents and preview by Prounen Film.
  • Mega buildings - Barcelona's Millennium Cathedral. (OT: World's Biggest Church. ) Documentary, Great Britain, 2017, 41:38 min., Written and directed by Joby Lubman, production: Windfall Films, Channel 4 , series: Mega-Bauten , episode 7, (OT: Building Up Giants ), German first broadcast: December 19, 2017 on n-tv , synopsis from and Windfall Films.


  • The British art rock group The Alan Parsons Project sings La Sagrada Familia in their album Gaudi from since 1987.
  • The cathedral plays an important role in Dan Brown's novel Origin (2017).
  • For 137 years the Sagrada Familia was a black building without a building permit. But that wasn't noticed until 2016. 137 years after the start of construction, the permit was granted on June 9, 2019 and completion is now officially permitted.

See also

Web links

Commons : Sagrada Família  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Clemens Wergin : The Sagrada Familia stands for 128 years of architecture. In: Die Welt , November 7, 2010, on building history.
  2. Silvia Cachafeiro and Martin Zinggl: “I want to complete Gaudí's work.” In: Wiener Zeitung , December 19, 2014, interview with site manager Jordi Faulí i Oller.
  3. a b (mal): After 136 years: Barcelona grants Sagrada Familia building permission. In: , October 22, 2018.
  4. a b dpa : Forgotten building permit. Will the Sagrada Familia be ready after 144 years? In: , June 10, 2019.
  5. Klaus Englert: The stapler next to the giant phallus. In: taz , January 5, 2015. “... now the 89-year-old architect Oriol Bohigas has built a design center with the Museu del Disseny that reminds the population of a stapling machine ”.
  6. ^ A b Robert Schediwy : Barcelona. Is it allowed to continue building cathedrals? In: Städtebilder - Reflections on Change in Architecture and Urbanism , 2005, ISBN 3-8258-7755-8 p. 23 ff.
  7. ^ NN : Cartas a "La Vanguardia". La obra del templo de la Sagrada Familia. [Letters to "La Vanguardia". The work of the Temple of the Holy Family.] In: La Vanguardia , January 9, 1965, p. 24, newspaper archive, digitized , (PDF; 303 kB).
     English translation: A Manifesto Against Completing Sagrada Família Church. In: , July 31, 2015.
  8. Philipp Lichterbeck: What is the Sagrada Família? In: Tagesspiegel , November 7, 2010.
  9. sam: Intellectuals demand a construction stop for Sagrada Familia. ( Memento from February 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) In: Tages-Anzeiger , December 5, 2008.
  10. Call: Gaudí en Alerta Roja. In: FAD , June 2008, (Spanish).
  11. Gaudí ... it reprèn la polémica. In: Arte, Historia y Barcelona , May 9, 2008, accessed on August 23, 2019.
  12. a b Céline Mülich: Sagrada Família and Museum. In: , accessed on October 21, 2016.
  13. Outokumpu supplies stainless steel for the world heritage site in Barcelona. In: stahl und eisen , vol. 136 (2016), no. 2, p. 77.
      Outokumpu provides stainless steel for famous La Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona, ​​Spain. In: Outokumpu , December 7, 2015, accessed January 28, 2019.
  14. Verena Schühly: Sagrada Familia in Barcelona will take Ulm to the top. In: Südwest Presse , May 28, 2015.
  15. More information on the Blancafort organ of the Sagrada Família. In: , (Spanish), (PDF; 1 p., 37 kB); see. Sagrada Família. In: , April 2018, (English), with video (English subtitles), 6:13 min.

Coordinates: 41 ° 24 ′ 13 ″  N , 2 ° 10 ′ 28 ″  E