There is no other house of worship on Earth quite like Barcelona’s towering Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Antoni Gaudi’s masterwork. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has raised the eyebrows of art critics and inspired millions of visitors. Here are some fascinating facts about it that may surprise you.
- They’ve been building it for 136 years. Its current completion date? 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
- When asked why the building was taking so long Gaudi replied, “My client isn’t in a hurry”.
- By the end of his life, when Gaudi worked on nothing else, he was dressing in rags instead of buying new clothes, so that all his income could go towards the project which was being funded entirely by donations.
- At the Paris Exhibition of 1910, crowds formed long lines to view the plaster model of the building in progress which included stone cherubim wind-propelled wings that would ring bells.
- The interior pillars start square at the base, then become octagonal, then circular before transforming into tree-like limbs interlaced at ceiling height. This design emphasises natures elevation over the handiwork of man.
- The existing completed towers each bear words that together spell out a Latin prayer.
- The cathedral has its critics and its fans: George Orwell called it hideous and Pablo Picasso said it was a monstrosity. Salvador Dali disagreed and declared it “as sensual as a woman’s skin”.
- Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War didn’t dare destroy the beloved building so they destroyed all the renderings and models to make it impossible to finish.
- A computer whiz in the 1980s took scraps of the remaining plans, handwritten notes by Gaudi and photos of the existing construction to solve the puzzle of what the rest was intended to look like, speeding up its completion.
Experience Gaudi’s masterpiece for yourself on an escorted tour of Spain!