The Basilica-Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, more commonly known as the “Sagrada Familia”, is without question the most famous and most visited construction site in Spain. On average, it receives approximately 5,000 visitors a day in the colder months, and 10,000 visitors a day in the warmer months, meaning that something like a quarter of a million people tour this still-unfinished church every year. While this may seem surprising for an unfinished building, it is no exaggeration to say that, whether one loves or hates it, there is nothing else quite as extraordinary as the Sagrada Familia on the planet.
Begun in 1882 by architect Francesc del Villar, the original Church of the Holy Family was supposed to be a more traditional design, taking its cue from the Basilica of Our Lady of Loreto, in Italy. A year later however, after the crypt was underway, Villar resigned from the project, and it was re-assigned to the great architect Antoni Gaudí. From 1883 to his death in 1926, the Sagrada Familia was the largest project of Gaudí’s life – by the end of which, he had given up all other work except for that of the church. This, in combination with his well-attested personal sanctity, has led his cause for beatification to be submitted to the Vatican.
So much has been written extensively in almost any language imaginable about this remarkable building which, when finished, will be the tallest church in the world, that I have little to add to the dialogue. Those wanting to see up-to-date images and read news regarding the construction of this remarkable building should visit the parish’s website listed above, which is in English, Catalan, and Spanish. Donations are always welcome, as the church is being built entirely through private funds, without any government hand-outs. It was raised to the level of a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, and he himself dedicated the upper church.
Because of modern construction methods significantly cutting down on construction time, worship in the main portion of the church will be possible by the autumn of 2010, and architects believe the major construction will be complete by 2026. Decoration of course, will take much longer. Yet as Gaudí himself once commented about his project, “My client is not in a hurry.”