Location: Barcelona, Spain
Date opened: 1882 CE – Present
The Sagrada Familia, meaning Holy Family in Spanish, is one of the most famous Roman Catholic basilicas in the world. It was commissioned in 1882, in the Eixample district of the city of Barcelona in Spain, when the then-Bishop Urquinaona laid the cornerstone of the grand new church. The architect Antoni Gaudi picked up the project in 1883 and began to create a basilica design and structure unlike any other in the world, with very few straight edges. Masses were first held on the site in 1885, despite the construction going through many phases.
The project became so consuming for Gaudi that he dropped all other projects, and worked exclusively on the Sagrada Familia for the last forty years of his life, until his death in 1926. By that time, less than 25% of the construction had been completed, but he had famously remarked that ‘my client is not in a hurry’. A decade later, the basilica was damaged during the Spanish Civil War, but work continued for many decades.
It was finally opened on 7th November 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI and proclaimed as a minor basilica even though not yet complete, almost 125 years since the foundation stone had been laid. At this event, 6,500 worshippers attended inside and it is estimated that around 50,000 more were gathered outside.
It is famous for the many towers, some reaching 170 metres, which in the design of Gaudi were to represent the 12 apostles, Mary (as), and Jesus (as), yet construction of the main towers only began in 2016. The actual capacity for worshippers is 9,000 and final completion is expected after 2032, more than a century after Gaudi’s death.
Sagrada Familia is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and known more for its artistic design and architecture, and its museums, rather than for worship, but it holds a special significance for Spanish Catholics.
R. Burton & R. Cavendish, Wonders of the World (Basingstoke, UK: AA Publishing, 1991).
Sagrada Familia Website: https://sagradafamilia.org/en/history-of-the-temple. Accessed 14 April 2021.