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Sagrada Familia – Barcelona’s Unfinished Masterpiece

September 27, 2019 Visit Europe No Comments Email Email

Sagrada Familia for the longest time was the unfinished masterpiece of Barcelona. Now that the works are in progress, it’s the perfect time for you to learn the history of the place.

Building on donations

Our modern understanding is that public buildings are funded by taxpayers. A government commission considers the artwork of architects and gets a budget to fund the construction. It wasn’t how the story of Sagrada Familia started.

A Spanish national Bocabella went to the Vatican city in 1872 and was so amazed at the beauty of a local basilica that he began gathering private donations to build a similar church in Barcelona. Almost a decade later, the construction began under the leadership of Francisco de Paula del Villar.

The master architect takes over

Soon, the del Villar resigned and the construction was led by a man called Antonio Gaudi. In 1883, when he overtook the construction, he was just a promising architect. Later, he went on to become a legend.

Source: R.Alessandro/Flickr

He changed the design fundamentally, making it a modernism masterpiece instead of the classic look del Villar was going for. Gaudi’s idea was to make the building look as though it hangs upside down, an idea he explored in a previous religious work of his, Colònia Güell.

Source: Wikimedia

While he was making a fortune on his private commissions, Sagrada Familia became his obsession and his life goal. Sadly, he died in 1926, when only 15% of the works on the building was done.

Civil War and Francisco Franco

A decade after the master’s death, Spain was torn by the civil war. It was fortunate that the building itself was spared since anarchist fractions were tearing down churches in an effort to stop catholicism.

Source: Wikimedia

During Francisco Franco’s time in power, no funding was directed to the basilica. Private donations from a war-torn nation stopped as well. This 1915’s look of Sagrada Familia would not change for decades to come because of the devastation European wars brought to the continent. Sagrada Familia was stuck.

A masterpiece in the making

Even though Gaudi’s dream of building Sagrada Familia in 10 years didn’t come to life, people were interested in the building while it was still unfinished. A decade after World War II ended the unfinished temple started seeing a stream of tourists coming in.

Many of them were drawn to the site precisely because it was unfinished. In a world where buildings take years to be constructed, a basilica that is under construction for over a century becomes an attraction. Perhaps this was part of the reason Sagrada Familia became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

The resolution is close

Thanks to millions of tourists who were buying Sagrada Familia tickets, there’s enough funding to finally finish the church. It’s being rapidly built now, and the architects who continue Gaudi’s work promise it’s going to be finished by 2026.

It’s a tribute to Antonio Gaudi who died precisely 100 years earlier. This emotional gesture shows the architect’s community love for this legendary man.

Source: Basílica de la Sagrada Família/Instagram

Wrap up

Sagrada Familia was the opposite of Coliseum for Barcelona. A half-ready structure, not ruined by time, but waiting for its star moment. Now, this is changing. We’ve yet to see if Barcelona’s unfinished masterpiece retains the world’s interest when it’s completed.

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