The famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi (1852 – 1926) was born on June 25. In honor of the master's birthday, we recall interesting facts about his most famous project – the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
The saga with the construction of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is coming to an end. Completion of work is expected in 2026, and the temple itself a couple of years ago finally received an official license for construction from the city authorities of Barcelona. We recall some facts about the most odious long-term construction in the world
The main symbol of Barcelona & nbsp; – the Sagrada Família (the full name is the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia & nbsp; – Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia) & nbsp; – the most famous brainchild of Antonio Gaudí, has been under construction for almost 140 years. The first stone was laid on March 19, 1882 in the Eixample district, which at that time was a suburb of Barcelona. The current chief architect of the project plans to complete construction by the centenary of the death of Gaudí & nbsp; – June 10, 2026.
Construction of Sagrada Familia, 1887.
The first architect who took up the construction of the cathedral was Francisco Paula de Villar, and not at all Gaudi, as many believe. He conceived of the Sagrada Família as an ordinary neo-Gothic basilica in the form of a Latin cross, but due to disagreements with the customers – the community “Spiritual Association of Saint Joseph's admirers” (Asociación Espiritual de Devotos de San José) – soon left the project, and in 1883 he was replaced post by Antoni Gaudi.
Construction of the Sagrada Familia, 1905.
From the very beginning, the construction of the temple was carried out exclusively at the expense of private donations from the townspeople and in no way was not supported or funded by the Church. Only in 2010, the unfinished church was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and officially opened for worship.
Antonio Gaudi dedicated 42 years of his life to the creation of the temple. According to his idea, the church should have 18 towers: 12 of them are dedicated to the apostles, four to evangelists, one to Jesus and one more to the Virgin Mary. The highest, located in the center of the ensemble and reaching a height of 170 m, is intended to personify Christ (its construction has just begun). During the life of Gaudi, only the facade of the Nativity was built, and even then not to the end (only the first bell tower of the facade was completed). On June 10, 1926, the architect died at the age of 73 in an accident (hit by the first tram launched in Barcelona) and was buried in the crypt of the Sagrada Família. His remains still rest there, in the chapel of the Virgin of Carmen.
Tomb of Antoni Gaudí in the underground tomb of the Sagrada Familia.
Antique postcard depicting the construction of the Nativity facade of the Sagrada Familia.
As an artist and creator, Gaudi strove to imitate nature in everything, trying to achieve maximum believability. He looked for models for the sculptural groups throughout the city. They say that Judas was molded from the church watchman, the alcoholic Joseph, who soon died of delirium tremens, and in Pontius Pilate many recognized the local goat herder. But this was not the end of the matter: for the manufacture of plaster casts, from which figures were then made of stone, Gaudi euthanized live chickens with chloroform, picked up dead birds on the streets, and once hung a donkey on the harness in order to more accurately take measurements from it. Visitors to his studio were greeted by a terrifying sight: a string of plaster freaks hanging from the ceiling – casts for a future scene of the beating of babies, filmed from stillborn children at the Hospital de Santa Cruz, where Gaudí regularly visited for material for research.
They say that the process of creating sculptures turned into a real hell for the masters – few could withstand all the ordeals. Heavy plaster figures had to be constantly pulled up and down: the architect needed to make sure how realistic they looked at height. They were also photographed several times, imitating visual distortions with the help of ingenious devices and playing with angles. And only when the result completely satisfied Gaudí, the plaster models were given to the work of sculptors, who carved figures out of stone from them.
Nativity façade of the Sagrada Familia, detail.
The facade of the Nativity of the Sagrada Familia.
Gaudi suffered from rheumatism from his youth, it was difficult for him to draw and draw. Perhaps that is why he did not like drawings so much and preferred to work with three-dimensional models. He not only sculpted them from plaster, but also created the most complex suspended structures with the help of chains and sandbags. It was these suspended chain models that allowed the architect to correctly calculate the loads and build the Sagrada Familia without props and buttresses.
Studio Antoni Gaudí in the Sagrada Familia, 1883.
Drawings, plans, sketches, plaster models left after Gaudí were destroyed at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. In July 1936, a group of anarchists broke into the cathedral, set fire to the underground crypt and the school for the children of the builders at the temple, and smashed the models. They were partially restored in 1939-1940. & nbsp; – exactly according to these models, which preserved the idea of the original plan of Gaudi, the further construction of the cathedral was carried out.
Interiors of the Sagrada Familia.
The vaults of the Sagrada Familia.
Not everyone considered the Sagrada Família to be a masterpiece of architectural thought. The writer George Orwell called it “one of the ugliest buildings in the world” and even said that the anarchists showed bad taste by sparing the cathedral when they had such a great chance to destroy it.
All these years, the construction of the Sagrada Família was carried out illegally and there was no official license for it. However, the current mayor of Barcelona seems to have managed to resolve the century-old conflict. Two years of negotiations, initiated by the city authorities, finally led to a “historic agreement” and the long-awaited legitimization of the construction. In October 2019, the cathedral agreed to pay the city 36 million euros in 10-year installments, which will be used to develop the city's transport network, improve access to the metro, and develop streets around the Sagrada Familia to ensure order and security.
The amount, of course, is considerable, but it takes into account the large-scale reconstruction of the microdistrict due to the work on the facade of Glory, which includes, among other things, the construction of the main staircase, underground parking for tourist buses, the metro tunnel under Calle Mallorca and, most importantly and opposed by the locals, & nbsp; – the demolition of an entire block of residential buildings.