August 11


Gaudí’s conception of the Sagrada Familia was based on the traditions of Gothic and Byzantinecathedrals. 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.

In fact this verticality is a characteristic of the building chosen by Gaudí to symbolise elevation towards God. This is achieved with the rising pyramidal design outside, the loftiness of its naves, and the pinnacles on top of the towers that seem to fuse with the sky.

The life and teachings of Jesus are represented on portals of the three facades. Each one represents one of the three crucial events of Christ’s existence: his birth: his Passion, Death and Resurrection; and his present and future Glory. As the sun moves across the sky, its light further emphasises the qualities (generosity, harmony, or drama) of each facade.

Gaudí planned for the light inside the Sagrada Familia to be harmonious and to accentuate the plasticity of the nave, but above all to be conducive to introspection.

The branching columns, as well as having a structural function, reflect Gaudí’s idea that the inside of the temple should be like a wood that invites prayer and is fitting for celebrating the Eucharist.

To lessen the load of the roofing and bring light into the building he designed lucarnes or skylights in between the columns, based on hyperboloids, built using pieces of golden and green glass and tiles to reflect daylight inside. All the stained glass in the apse follows a plan of graduated tones to create an atmosphere suitable for introspection. 

There were many helpers and followers of Gaudí who collaborated with him during his lifetime, including Francesc Berenguer, Josep Maria Jujol, Josep Francesc Ràfols, Cèsar Martinell, Joan Bergós, Francesc Folguera, Josep Canaleta and Joan Rubió.

After Gaudí’s death in 1926 the construction of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia was continued by architects and craftsmen who had worked with him, according to his plans and plaster models. After his death another of his followers, Domènec Sugrañes, took over and completed the construction of the last three towers on the Nativity facade. Sugrañes was succeeded upon his death after the Civil War by Francesc de Paula Quintana who worked closely with Isidre Puig i Boada and Lluís Bonet i Garí, especially on the construction of the Passion facade, following the directions and documents left by Gaudí. In 1966 Puig i Boada and Bonet i Garí took over from Quintana as directors of works until 1983, when Francesc Cardoner was appointed to the position.

In 1985, Jordi Bonet i Armengol was entrusted with the building’s management. He brought together a team comprising of Carles Buxadé, Joan Margarit, Josep Gómez, Jordi Coll, Mark Burry and Jordi Faulí, whose main task was to design and build the naves. In 2012 Jordi Faulí became chief architect and director of works on the temple.

Despite not being understood by many of his contemporaries, Gaudí developed an architectonic language that has made him world-famous. Today no one contests his place in the pantheon of 20thcentury architects. Gaudí’s methods continue to be considered revolutionary, a century after he devised them.


Five generations have already witnessed the temple’s rise in Barcelona. Construction continues today and could be finished in the first third of the 21st century.

As of today, 70% of the work on the temple has been executed, and the goal is to complete all of the architectural work by 2026.

The following projects were completed in 2016:

Western sacristy: It was blessed in 2015 and is nearly finished now. Visitors enter the sacristy from inside the Basilica, via the Liturgical Path. Since mid-2016, visitors have been able to enter the cloister and get a close-up look inside.
Upper narthex on the Passion façade: The upper narthex, or cyma, on the Passion façade is nearly finished. Work is currently underway on the representation of the quarry and the garden where Jesus Christ was buried.
Interior of the Basilica: The choirs have been finished, with the benches covered in stone and the wrought-iron railings with the musical notes of the hymns sung throughout the year.
The upper stained-glass windows in the apse have been visible since December 2015 and those on the Nativity staircase, since July 2016.
The stained-glass windows on the staircases in the apse on the Passion side are also now in place, as of December 2016. The apse staircase completes the stained-glass windows inside the Basilica, except for those on the Glory façade.

The goal for 2020 is to finish all six central towers:

Tower of the Virgin Mary: Rising up from the apse. The centre of the star crowning this tower will be the same height as the towers of the evangelists (135 metres), so the tip of the star will be nearly 140 metres high.
Towers of the evangelists: These four towers currently stand at 76 of the 135 metres they will have by 2020.
Tower of Jesus Christ: This will be the tallest of them all, 172.5 metres high. The next big milestone, after the temple was consecrated in 2010, will be when this tower is finished with the cross that will top it. The harmonious ensemble of the eighteen towers will give the building great vertical strength.

Work on the temple will finish with the construction of the main façade, the Glory façade.

TEXT: Courtesy of