In construction for almost 150 years,the Sagrada Família has become one of Barcelona's defining landmarks and one of the most visited monuments in Spain. Designed by Antoni Gaudí, the unfinished building is one of the greatest examples of Catalan Modernist architecture.
The first stone was placed on Saint Joseph's Day, the 19th of March 1882. Initially, the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar oversaw the project, but swiftly abandoned the commission due to disagreements. The Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí took over from him in 1883. But no matter how hard he worked, Gaudí remained busy with other commissions and progress on the Sagrada Família was slow. When asked about the construction delays, he is said to have remarked: ‘My client is not in a hurry’ (referring to God). The architect was aware that he would never see his work completed. However, it was important to him that the spirit of his design should always be preserved because, as he said, ‘its life must depend on the generations it is handed down to and with whom it lives and is incarnated’. To this end, Gaudí devoted his last twelve years exclusively to it, which was why he designed no other major works in that period.
Gaudí designed 18 towers to flank the church: twelve to commemorate the Apostles, four to celebrate the Evangelists, one in memory of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and another dedicated to Christ, the height of each to correspond with its inspiration’s place in the religious hierarchy. The façades are packed with decoration and religious symbolism, with imagery representing Christ’s birth and a thematic representation of his suffering, death and resurrection. The interior reflects Gaudí’s love of natural forms. He took inspiration from the trunks of trees when he designed the slender and elegant supporting columns, effectively creating a concrete forest in the basilica’s interior.
The Sagrada Família’s beauty earned Gaudí the title of 'God's Architect', and there was a formal move to seek his beatification. Though works are projected to conclude only by 2026, the centenary of his death, the building has long been an undeniable icon of European architecture.