Musement unveils 5 fun facts about Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, the par excellence archetype of Catalan modernism and Antonio Gaudí’s genius.
Barcelona is a dynamic city known for its impressive cultural and architectural heritage. Did you know that the city has nine UNESCO World Heritage sites and that seven of them were designed by the famous architect Antonio Gaudí? Park Güell, Casa Batló and the Sant Pau Hospital are all worth a visit when you’re in town, but today we unveil five fun facts and secrets of the Sagrada Familia. A true emblem of Barcelona and the genius of Gaudí who, the Sagrada Familia is the most visited monument in Spain…as well as the most mysterious.
1. After 136 years, the Sagrada Familia is still not finished
Gaudí did not lay the very first stone. The Sagrada Familia began in 1882 under the direction of architect Francesco de Paula Villar, then Gaudí took over in 1883 and devoted more than 43 years to the project. From 1914 to his death, he worked exclusively on the Sagrada Familia, a true synthesis of his artistic and architectural genius. The works that were financed by donations have progressed slowly in part due to the civil war (after Gaudí’s death), during which a part of the crypt and a large number of his workshop models were burned. Today, admission tickets finance most of the work, which is progressing, though incomplete due in part to the tourist crowds.
Details of the Nativity facade, the only one to have been completed by Gaudí
2. The Sagrada Familia: a dizzying symphony of mystical symbols
The monument’s beauty, atmosphere and architectural achievement captivate its visitors immediately upon entrance. The sensation of wonder comes not only from the boldness and perfection of technique that takes this Art Nouveau masterpiece to the height of Catalan modernism but also from the undeniable omnipresence of mysticism and spirituality that inspired the architect. The symbolism can be deciphered and analyzed as a mystical poem to the infinite.
The Basilica’s distinct 18 towers represent the 12 apostles, four Evangelists, Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, and the size of each tower differs according to the spiritual hierarchy of each religious figure. The three facades represent the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and each depicts a forest of mystical symbols and allegories. On the façade of the Passion is a Magic Square: 16 numbers and 310 combinations that invariably give the numbers 33, the age at which Christ was crucified. This number also applies to Park Güell’s staircase, which consists of 33 steps.
The famous magic square on the Passion facade
3. Nature as a source of inspiration
Gaudí was fascinated by the majesty of nature and often drew inspiration from it. The Basilica reveals itself as a veritable vertiginous forest of mystical symbols and allegories, a spiritual forest clearly represented inside the building by the columns unfolding and rising towards Heaven like branches until enveloping the ceiling.
The basilica’s lines are made of sinuous deformed curves to reflect the work of Nature as opposed to the straight lines drawn by the hand of man. The verticality of the building represents the elevation towards Heaven and the close union between Heaven and Earth. However, Gaudí considered it impossible to exceed the greatness of God and the majesty of Nature, which is why the tower representing Jesus Christ, the highest of the 18, does not surpass the height of Barcelona’s Montjuic Mountain.
“Ramifications” of the columns and playful light through the beautiful stained glass windows
4. Gaudí thought of everything
When construction began, Gaudí knew well that he would not see his work completed. He was careful to implement a plan with simple and particularly clear geometry so that his successors could pick up quite easily where he left off. In fact, he incorporated repeated motifs to simplify the future construction process while leaving a margin of development specific to each subsequent architect so that each generation can leave his or her own mark on the basilica. In fact, Gaudí is buried in the crypt so that he can keep a posthumous eye on the basilica’s progress.
The tomb of Gaudí in the crypt of Sagrada Familia
5. The Sagrada Familia housed a school
in 1909, Gaudí had a school built on the Sagrada Familia grounds for the construction workers’ children as well as for the district’s underprivileged children. It stood in the spot intended from the Glory facade before being destroyed and then rebuilt identically a few meters away in 2002. The school inspired many architects who succeeded the genius Antonio Gaudí.