Barcelona: Temple of the Sagrada Familia.
As we all know, in Europe we are not short of impressive churches. Well, none of them, except Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, receives more visitors that the one you’re looking at: the Basilica and Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, as it is called by its full name.
Its first stone was placed in 1882, and Antonio Gaudi was there to see it. But, he was invited as a viewer, since the architect that was in charge of the work was the one and only Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. He had been chosen by Josep Maria Bocabella, who was the promoter and responsible for the project, but then things started to go wrong between the pair of them. Bocabella, proposed another architect - Martorell. Martorell rejected it and suggested his assistant Gaudi, a talented architect who was 30 years old at the time.
So, Antoni, without even knowing it, suddenly found himself in control of what was to be the work of his life. He started by changing everything, that’s the way Gaudi was, and soon the project had his very own stamp. He began with a Neo-Gothic style to reach a personal one, away from the recreations of the past. A style that ended up distinguishing him, too, from the rest of the architects of modernism times.
It didn’t matter how many genuinely Gothic elements he introduced to the monument, such as pinnacles, flying buttresses, pointed arches or stained glass windows, Gaudi's work only looked like Gaudi's. And over a century after he has made it even more evident, don’t you think?
The architect worked in the church for more than forty years and dedicated his last fifteen exclusively to it. He multiplied his efforts and his presence in the workplace, being increasingly aware that he would never see the temple concluded because to finish it, he believed, would take a very long time. What a visionary you were, Antoni…
Changing, redesigning and redefining everything as the construction progressed, Gaudi decided to give some definitive shape to his ideas using a few moulds made of plaster. After the death of the genius, his assistant Domènec Sugrañes took care of the moulds and also took charge of the operations in the temple.
But the Civil War was just around the corner, and to celebrate its beginning, what a better idea than to set fire to the workshop where the moulds were kept, along with a lot of plans and sketches left by Gaudí to guide his successors. Luckily, not everything was carbonised, and they were able to build a replica of one of the designs, which is now exhibited in the Basilica’s museum.
Today, well into the twenty-first century, the Sagrada Familia remains unfinished. Some people blame the cause of such slowness to the faithful, who have never fully understood the meaning of an expiatory temple: because of course, if it was a question of atonement for sins by making donations for construction, people should have been more splendid, and it should’ve happened more frequently. So as you can see: this delay, it’s the people’s fault. As usual…