Sagrada Familia Architecture | Constructing the Most Iconic Cathedral of Barcelona


The Sagrada Familia is a famous Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Antoni Gaudi. The construction of this commenced in 1882 and came to a temporary halt in 1926 when Gaudi died. While the construction resumed later, the church is still being built and is anticipated to be completed by 2026, marking Gaudi's death's centennial. Gaudi primarily combined Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms to create this masterpiece.

Although incomplete, Sagrada Familia attracts millions of tourists who witness its exquisite beauty every year. Read more about the architectural style and design of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. 

Architecture & Design of Sagrada Familia | Quick Overview

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Who Designed Sagrada Familia?

While Antoni Gaudi is credited with being the genius who envisioned the Sagrada Familia, he is not the only one who worked on the basilica. The construction of the cathedral started in 1882. When Gaudi passed away in 1926, the church was only 25% complete. Over the course of 140 years of its construction, nine architects have taken on the project. 

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Francisco de Paula del Villar

Josep Maria Bocabella, who returned after a trip from Italy in 1872 with the dreams of the intention of building a church inspired by the basilica at Loreto turned to architect Francisco de Paula del Villar to design the church. His plan doe the church followed that of a Gothic revival church. On 19 March 1882, the construction of the church began under him. He resigned on 18 March 1883, and at the time the apse crypt was completed.

Sagrada Familia Architecture
Sagrada Familia Architecture

Domènec Sugrañes i Gras

After Gaudí's death, his main disciple Domènec Sugrañes i Gras took over the project and faithfully undertook the work until the Spanish Civil War in 1936 halted the progress. After meeting Gaudi in 1905 during his last year at the school of architecture, the duo worked together on many of Gaudi’s works including the Bellesguard house , Casa Batlló andCasa Milà. During the 10 years that he took over the work on Sagrada, the Nativity Facade was completed.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Francesc de Paula Quintana i Vidal

After the Spanish War ended, Francesc de Paula Quintana i Vidal, who had worked with Gaudi on the Sagrada Familia, took over the project. Under his direction, the work on the Passion facade began. He was also responsible for the reorganization of the Temple Board of the Sagrada Familia. However, the most important undertaking on his part was recreating the models for the basilica that had been destroyed by anarchists during the war. Rebuilding these plaster casts was extremely integral to ensure that Gaudi’s vision was not destroyed.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Isidre Puig Boada

Born in 1890, Isidre Puig Boada first met Gaudi in 1914 while he was still a student. He had been working with Gaudi, and subsequently under Gras and Vidal, after Gaudi’s death, on the Sagrada Familia. In 1950, Boada was assigned director of this construction. He continued in this role until 1974. His works El temple de la Sagrada Família (1929), L'església de la Colònia Güell (1976) and Gaudí's thoughts (1981), also serves as a great insight into Gaudí's political and social thoughts.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Lluís Bonet i Gari

A student of the Barcelona School of Architecture, joined Isidre Puig i Boada and Francesc Quintana to continue the work on Sagrada Familia. He collaborated with them on the work on the Passion façade. Between 1974 and 1983, he took on the role of the director of the project. During this period, he returned to his roots, where Gaudí's influence was paramount. In 1982, he suffered from a heart failure, which pushed him to take a step back professionally. He, continued in his role as the director for another year.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Francesc Cardoner

Francesc de Paula Cardoner i Blanch, who graduated in 1965, worked along with Isidre Puig i Boada and Lluís Bonet i Garí in the workshops of the Sagrada Familia Expiatory Temple. Between 1983 and 1985 he took on the role of the director of the project. He was also the architect of the Gaudí House-Museum in Park Güell under the direction of Josep Maria Garrut.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Jordi Bonet i Armengol

Son of Lluís Bonet i Gari, Jordi Bonet i Armengol , took on the role of as the construction director and coordinator of the Sagrada Família from 1987 to 2012. During his time, the work on Sagrada started becoming mechanized. He introduced the use of computers into the design and construction process. In 2012, when he stepped down as the director, he took on the role of Architect Emeritus and Advisor to the Board of Trustees

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Jordi Faulí i Oller

In 2012, Jordi Faulí i Oller took over as the architect of the project and is the current director architect of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia. He joined the team of architects working on the basilica in 1990 when Armengol was the director. Under him, new technologies such as CAD, computer simulation, and 3D images were used to create a virtual plan of the temple so that the design envisioned by Gaudí could be recreated. In October 2015, Oller announced that 70% of the construction of Sagrada Familia as complete.

Sagrada Familia Architecture & Design

Sagrada Familia Architecture

Sagrada Familia is variously likened to Catalan Modernism, Art Nouveau, Noucentisme, and Spanish Late Gothic architecture. The church is famous for its unusual design; it has few straight lines and no right angles. It also features several distinctive architectural elements, including a massive central tower with a tree trunk and soaring spires resembling palm trees.

He used natural forms such as trees and flowers in his designs and symbols found in traditional Catalan art, such as pine cones and acorns.

The sources of inspiration for Gaudi were many and varied, but he did not always draw directly from them. For example, his plan for the project was primarily influenced by Villar's crypt. However, his use of organic forms was inspired by nature itself and not directly from any single source.

Structure of Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia Architecture

The materials used in the construction of Sagrada Familia include concrete, stone, wood, and glass. The primary materials used in its structure are concrete and steel.

Like many other European Gothic cathedrals, the Sagrada Familia is short compared to its width and has a great complexity of parts. It features double aisles, an ambulatory with seven apsidal chapels, and multiple towers. Three portals surround the building, each with its structure and ornamentation; however, unlike many Spanish cathedrals, this church includes a covered passage or cloister that passes through the narthex of each of its three portals.

Stages of Construction of the Sagrada Familia

  • Foundation Laying (1882):Architect Antoni Gaudí began the project in 1882, and the foundation stone was laid.
  • Nativity Facade (1894-1930): Gaudí focused on the Nativity Facade, showcasing his unique Art Nouveau style.The facade features intricate sculptures and nativity scenes.
  • Crypt and Apse (1915-1923): The crypt and apse were completed, featuring columns and innovative architectural elements.
  • Passion Facade (1954-1976): Construction on the Passion Facade started long after Gaudí's death, characterized by sharp, angular sculptures depicting Christ's crucifixion.
  • Central Nave (1986-present): Ongoing work on the central nave, with a forest of columns and a majestic interior.
  • Glory Facade (work in progress): The Glory Facade, the final and largest, remains under construction with plans to depict themes of heaven and hell.
  • Interior Decorations (ongoing): Continual interior decoration and fine detailing continue to enhance the church's grandeur.
  • Antoni Gaudí's Canonization (2021): In 2021, Antoni Gaudí was canonized by the Catholic Church, bringing recognition to his remarkable architectural work on the Sagrada Familia.

Timeline: The Sagrada Familia Architectural Evolution

1882: Construction of the Sagrada Família began on 19 March 1882 with architect Francisco de Paula del Villar.

1883: In 1883, when architect Francisco de Paula del Villar resigned, Gaudí took over as chief architect of the Sagrada Família.

1926: At Gaudi's death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.

1936: In July 1936, revolutionaries set fire to the crypt and broke their way into the workshop, destroying many original plans and drawings.

1950: Restoration work began in 1950 after 16 years of piecing together fragments of the master model.

1960: In the 1960s, several frontrunners, including Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, petitioned against this interpretation of Gaudi's original design.

2005: The construction continued, and in 2005, the monumental cathedral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2022: Under new agreements with the La Sagrada Familia Foundation tied to the Government, current project architect Jordi Faulí i Oller has vowed to complete the installation of all eighteen towers by Gaudi's death centennial in 2026.

The Exterior of Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia Architecture
Sagrada Familia Architecture

The Walls

The exterior walls of the Sagrada Família must support only their own weight because the vaults' weight and pressure are transmitted to the floor through interior columns. The walls are entirely penetrated by rose windows, ogives, large windows, and other openings that significantly lighten their weight.

Gaudí used hyperboloids most frequently to adopt the best technical and aesthetic solutions possible and for the sculptor to carry out his work on the musician angels and singing angels and the pediments' terminations of these walls.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

The Roofs

The higher roofs in the central nave are comprised of a series of pyramids connected to each other and the large windows with some large paraboloids, culminated by lampposts with references to the Holy Family.

The roof and vault of about 25 meters are divided into four plants with small spiral staircases connecting them. The lateral naves' flat roofs allow for more oversized windows in the central nave's upper walls.

Sagrada Familia Interior

Much like the exterior of the Sagrada Familia, the interiors are a showcase of Gaudi’s gothic naturalism architectural style.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

The Columns

The inside columns of the Sagrada Familia are made of different materials that represent the hardness of different types of rock. The most extended and thickest columns are of a rugged volcanic rock called red porphyry. These columns support the central five towers in Sagrada Familia.

Basalt, another volcanic rock, makes up the smaller and darker columns supporting the basilica's outer row. Finally, granite from Montjuïc forms the most petite columns that hold up part of the choir behind the transept and before the altar.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

The Altar

An apse is a semicircular area inside a church, typically located behind the altar. The Sagrada Familia crypt is situated inside this half-circle area. Antoni Gaudí is among those buried in the crypt, as are other important figures in the history of architecture. Stairs leading to the upper levels are located on either side of the apse. The inside of the apse contains seven chapels, each with a different design and purpose.

To one side of the apse is a throne upon which Jesus Christ sits while on the cross. Surrounding Jesus is sizeable stained glass windows. These windows fill the inside with light and color that change throughout each day as they move from morning to night. Behind the altar is another set of stairs leading to organ pipes that produce lovely music.

Sagrada Familia Architecture

The Naves

The Sagrada Familia's interior has five naves. The central nave rises higher and farther than the others, connecting with the transept on one side and ending in the choir with its chapels at the rear. The altar stands before an impressive set of stained glass windows

Sagrada Familia Architecture

The Chapels

The church is semicircular at the top and consists of seven chapels arranged around a central ambulatory and an altar area. The stained glass windows announce the coming of the Messiah, who is invoked using seven different names.

Joining together the initials of each word creates the Latin phrase Ero Cras, which means "Tomorrow I will arrive."

Sagrada Familia | A Perpetually In-progress Masterpiece

By far the most famous work of Gaudí's maturity, Sagrada Familia was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. It is an extraordinary example of an architectural work representing a synthesis between modern and traditional Gothic styles, designed the church in anticipation of bringing together all religions into one faith through the use of modern engineering technology and new materials.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Sagrada Familia Architecture

Q. What is the Sagrada Familia architectural style?

A. Sagrada Familia's architecture follows the Late Spanish Gothic, Catalan Modernism, and Art Nouveau style.

Q. Who designed Sagrada Familia?

A. Antoni Gaudi designed Sagrada Familia.

Q. Why is the Sagrada Familia architecture famous?

A. The Sagrada Familia architecture is famous for its unusual construction style and modern engineering technology.

Q. What was Sagrada Familia inspired by?

A. Sagrada Familia was inspired by the Loreto Basilica in Italy. The founder of the Spiritual Association of Devotees of St John, Josep Maria Bocabella visited Italy in 1872 and was inspired to create a similar church in Barcelona.

Q. When was Sagrada Familia built?

A. Sagrada Familia's construction began in 1882, and it's still in progress.

Q. How old is Sagrada Familia?

A. Sagrada Familia is around 140 years old.

Q. What's inside Sagrada Familia?

A. Sagrada Familia consists of stained glass windows, an altar, chapels, naves, columns, and facades.

Q. What is on the exterior of Sagrada Familia?

A. Sagrada Familia's exterior consists of spires, tall roofs, carved walls, and large windows.

Q. What is part of the interior of Sagrada Familia?

A. The columns, the altar, the chapels, the naves, etc., all are part of the interior of Sagrada Familia.

Q. How big is Sagrada Familia?

A. Sagrada Familia will be the tallest church upon its completion in 2026, with the central tower reaching a height of 170 meters.

Q. What are the dimensions of Sagrada Familia?

A. Sagrada Familia is 90 meters in length and 60 meters in width.

Q. What is Sagrada Familia made out of?

A. Sagrada Familia is made of granite, stones, steel, glass, wood, etc.

Q. Where can I buy tickets to Sagrada Familia?

A. You can purchase Sagrada Familia tickets online.