Work in progress
The Sagrada Familia is a huge Christian church dedicated to the Holy Family in Barcelona. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, and consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI himself in an elaborate ceremony - despite the fact that it is still unfinished.
Building began in the 1880s and has been carried out intermittently since, as its construction relied heavily on private donations and was also interrupted by various cultural and political events throughout the years; a couple of inconvenient world wars and the Spanish Civil War were chief among the disturbances.
The lead architect on the project was Antoni Gaudí, who combined the drama of Gothic and Byzantine architecture with the fluidity of Art Nouveau in his ambitious designs. The result is an otherworldly Basilica that looks like a hybrid of Christian cathedral and fairytale palace.
The three façades, representing the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, are peopled by extraordinary angular figures. Its eighteen lofty towers represent the Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the Four Evangelists, and, tallest of all, a central tower dedicated to Jesus Christ. Their hierarchy and symbolism emphasise elevation towards God; expressive form is married to divine function. While Gaudí wished to make an impact on the Barcelona skyline, he believed that the work of man should never supercede the work of God - so despite an impressive 172.5m, the building is just shy of the height of Montjuïc, the highest point in the municipality of Barcelona.
Gaudí took his time over the building - stating that his client, God, was in no rush - and left it roughly 25% complete on his death in 1926. It is now not expected to be finished until 2026, which would total 144 years of construction. Since 2010 the nave of the church has been available for use in religious services, though visitors today will probably still see cranes and scaffolding around the outer façade of the huge Basilica. The Sagrada Familia has a remarkable story, and will only increase in grandeur over the coming years: it is truly an extraordinary sight.