Sagrada Familia History

The History of Constructing the Sagrada Familia, The Largest Unfinished Church in the World

The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, more commonly referred to as the Sagrada Familia, is a Roman Catholic minor basilica located in Barcelona. The story of this still-under-construction masterpiece began all the way back in 1874 when a local organization began campaigning for the construction of a church honoring the Holy Family. After a couple of years of planning and drawing up plans, the church's cornerstone was officially laid on 19th March 1882. This 19th-century church, which is still incomplete, is an architectural marvel and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Read on to know more about the history of the marvelous basilica.

Detailed Timeline of the Sagrada Familia Construction

1882: The design of the church is made by the architect Francisco Villar. That year, in March, Bishop Urquinaona lays the cornerstone of the basilica.

1883: Antoni Gaudi takes over from Villar.

1885: The Chapel of Saint Joseph was inaugurated in the crypt. The first masses start to be conducted.

1891: Work begins on the famed Nativity Facade

1925: Saint Barnabas Bell Tower on the Nativity Facade is completed. This was the only completed structure Gaudi saw to completion before his death in 1926. 

1936: Vandals enter the Sagrada Familia and destroy plans, photographs, and models of the basilica during the Spanish Civil War.

1939: Francesc de Paula Quintana takes over site management.

1952: The Nativity facade stairway is completed. The facade is lit for the very first time. 

1954: Foundation laid for the Passion façade.

1961: Museum is created to explain the historical, cultural, and symbolic elements of the basilica. 

1966: Isidre Puig i Boada and Lluís Bonet i Garí take over following Francesc de Paula Quintana's death.

1976: Passion façade Bell towers are completed.

1978: Construction of the façades on the side naves begin.

1983: Francesc Cardoner i Blanch takes over.

1985: Jordi Bonet i Armengol is named head architect and site manager.

1986: Josep Maria Subirachs is commissioned to make the sculptures for the Passion façade. The same year, work began on the foundations for all the naves, the columns, vaults, and façades on the main nave, transepts, crossing, and apse.

2005: The Nativity Facade and the crypt are declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.

2010: Pope Benedict XVI consecrates the Temple, officially opening it for religious worship and given the status of a minor Basilica. 

2012: Jordi Faulí takes over as head architect and site manager.

2016: Construction begins on the towers of the Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ.

2018: The Cross is placed on top of the Passion façade.

2020: The construction stops due to Covid-19 in March 2020, and only resumes in October.

2021: On 8 December, the tower of the Virgin Mary is inaugurated and construction of the Tower of Jesus continues. 

History of Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia history, 19th century

Plans for the Basilica Created

19th Century

While Antoni Gaudi is credited as the genius behind the Sagrada Familia, the Basilica was in fact the brainchild of the founder of the Spiritual Association of Devotees of St John, Josep Maria Bocabella. After his visit to Italy in 1872. he wanted to build a church inspired by the Loreto Basilica. Architect Francisco de Paula del Villar was tasked with designing the church and his design followed a Gothic revival style. In March 1882, the apse crypt of the church began being constructed. Later, in 1883, Antoni Gaudi took over the responsibility for the construction and radically changed the plan for the church. He was officially appointed as the Architect Director the next year. 

Sagrada Familia History, Early 20th Century

Construction of the Basilica

Early 20th Century

During this time period, the Nativity facade’s work had begun. When Gaudi died, rather unexpectedly, in 1926, only 20 percent of the work was completed, with the finishing of the Saint Barnabas Bell Tower. Following his death, the work was taken over by his disciple Domènec Sugrañes i Gras until the unfortunate Civil War in 1936. During the civil unrest, many original plans, model structures, and workshops were destroyed by the Catalan Anarchists. The work only resumed after the Civil War, for which a new present design based on reconstructed versions of the destroyed plans along with modern adaptations were created.

Sagrada Familia History, Late 20th Century

Construction Resumes After Civil War

Late 20th Century

After 1940, the work on the Basilica changed hands several times; with architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari, and Francesc Cardoner carrying on the work. In 1952, the staircase on the Nativity facade was built, and two years later, the foundation for the Passion facade was laid. In 1961, a museum was created to educate people about the various aspects of the basilica. In 1976, the Bell towers of the Passion facade was completed and two years later, construction began on the façades on the side naves. Work also began on the naves, the columns, vaults, and façades on the main nave, transepts, crossing, and apse in 1986.

Sagrada Familia History, 21st Century

Technology Accelerates Construction

Early 21st Century

A number of elements were added to this basilica during this period of construction thanks to computer-aided technology introduced by Jordi Bonet i Armengol. In 2005, the Nativity facade and the crypt were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites and in 2010, the temple was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI, officially making it a minor Basilica and opening it for religious worship. The central nave vaulting was completed in 2000 and the focus turned toward the construction of the transept and the apse.

Sagrada Familia - History- Final Phase of Construction

Final Phase of Construction

In 2012, Jordi Faulí i Oller took over as the chief architect of the project and in 2015, he announced that 70 percent of construction was complete. The final phase of the construction included raising six steeples. Since July 2017, an international mass is celebrated at the basilica every Sunday. While the church has been functioning, several events have halted the progress of its construction. On 19 April 2011, an arsonist started a small fire in the sacristy, which took 45 minutes to contain. The pandemic halted work for 4 months between March to July 2020. Despite these challenges, on 29 November 2021, a 7-meter twelve-pointed illuminated crystal star was installed on top of the Mary Tower.

Architects Involved

Sagrada Familia History, Architects

1882- 1883: Francisco de Paula del Villar

1883 - 1926: Antoni Gaudi

1926 - 1936: Domènec Sugrañes i Gras

1940- 2012: Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari and Francesc Cardoner

2012 - Now: Jordi Faulí i Oller

Architecture of Sagrada Familia

History of Sagrada Familia - Exterior Architecture
History of Sagrada Familia Interior Architecture

Sagrada Familia Today

Sagrada Famiilia history, Today's Status
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Frequently Asked Questions About Sagrada Familia History

Q. How old is the Sagrada Familia?

A. The Sagrada Familia is 140 years old.

Q. Who designed Sagrada Familia?

A. Sagrada Familia was designed by Francesco de Paula del Villar initially and was taken over and changed significantly under the lead of Antoni Gaudi.

Q. What was the inspiration behind creating the Sagrada Familia?

A. The origins of Sagrada Familia dates back to 1872, when a bookseller and founder of Asociación Espiritual de Devotos de San José Josep Maria Bocabella visited Vatican. He was inspired by the basilica at Loreto and wished to create a temple with a similar design in Barcelona.

Q. When did the construction of Sagrada Familia begin?

A. The construction of the expiatory temple of the Sagrada Familia began in 1882.

Q. Did they start building the Sagrada Familia over a hundred years ago?

A. The Sagrada Família, has been under construction for 140 years, with the work beginning back in 1882. It's now in the final phase, and it is expected to be fully completed by 2030 or 2032.

Q. What is the architectural style of the Sagrada Familia?

A. The architectural style of the Sagrada Familia is Catalan Modernism and has an influence of the Spanish Gothic style. 

Q. When did the Sagrada Familia become a UNESCO World Heritage site?

A. The Sagrada Familia in Spain was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2005

Q. Where is Sagrada Familia located?

A. Sagrada Familia is located in the city of Barcelona in Spain at C/ de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain.

Q. How much does it cost to visit Sagrada Familia?

A. The tickets for the Sagrada Familia start from € 34. 

Q. Are there guided tours explaining the Sagrada Familia’s history?

A. Yes, there are guided tour options available that will help you understand Sagrada Familia’s history, architecture, and other nuances about the basilica better.

Q. What is the most interesting fact about Sagrada Familia’s history?

A. The most fascinating fact about Sagrada Familia’s history is that 140 years after its construction began, it is still an unfinished church. It is the largest unfinished church in the world.

Q. What is Sagrada Familia famous for?

A. Sagrada Familia is famous for the iconic Nativity Facade and the crypt which are both UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Q. Is it worth visiting Sagrada Familia?

A. Yes, the grandeur of the Sagrada Familia encased in the many stories that the structure, the museum, and the guide tell you is an unmissable experience.