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3 Things you didn’t know about Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Ruslan Kalnitsky | Shutterstock

Daniel Esparza - published on 11/05/23

Beyond its towering spires and intricate façades, other intriguing facets of this basilica often escape the spotlight.

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia is, no doubt, an architectural marvel – a symbol of both artistic ingenuity and deep spiritual awareness. Holding the title of the world’s largest unfinished Catholic church, the minor basilica that is both Barcelona’s best-known landmark and the architectural masterwork of the Servant of God Antoni Gaudí, is just one tower away from being complete.

But beyond its towering spires and intricate façades, other intriguing facets of this basilicaoften escape the spotlight. Here are three not-so-well-known dimensions of this extraordinary structure.

Gaudí’s Venerable status in the Catholic Church

To fully grasp what the Sagrada Familia is, it is essential to know the man behind its design, Antoni Gaudí. Beyond his role as an architect, Gaudí was a devout Catholic, and his unwavering faith had an indelible influence on the construction of the basilica. Indeed, he has been deemed Venerable by the Catholic Church, marking the first step towards possible sainthood. This acknowledgment highlights not so much his architectural genius, but his virtuous, profoundly spiritual life.

Gaudí’s devotion was far from being an abstract concept. It was intricately woven into every facet of the Sagrada Familia. The basilica is not just a magnificent structure: It is a testament to the architect’s deep-seated faith. The symbolism within the minor basilica transcends the decorative: it is a genuine expression of faith. Each spire, column, and sculpture carries a message, resulting in a structure that is much more than a hot spot for selfies.

The crypt’s forgotten beauty

The Sagrada Familia is often admired for its breathtaking exterior, particularly the Nativity and Passion façades that tell the story of Jesus’ birth and crucifixion, respectively. Yet, hidden beneath the ground and overshadowed by the grandeur above is the basilica’s lesser-known gem: the crypt.

Designed as well by Gaudí himself, this subterranean space was meant to be a place of worship for both the construction workers building the basilica and the faithful who visit. The design of the crypt is surely more restrained and less ornate than the rest of the basilica, reflecting Gaudí’s intention to create a relatively more sober space for spiritual contemplation.

While the crypt might not boast the same opulent beauty as the upper levels of the Sagrada Familia, it holds a quiet charm of its own, allowing visitors to experience a sense of tranquility – often lost amidst the grandeur of the basilica’s exterior. Here, one can discover the more intimate side of Gaudí’s vision. Additionally, the crypt houses a small museum dedicated to Gaudí – and his tomb.

Sustainable construction techniques

Sustainability is currently a growing concern. But it may come as a surprise that the Sagrada Familia was, in many ways, ahead of its time when it comes to eco-friendly construction practices. Gaudí’s innovative use of natural lighting is one such example. The basilica’s vast stained-glass windows are strategically positioned to harness natural light, reducing the reliance on artificial illumination during daylight hours. This ingenious approach not only contributes to the basilica’s radiant ambiance but also aligns with contemporary sustainability concerns.

Furthermore, Gaudí’s fascination with nature is reflected in the basilica’s general structure. He drew inspiration from the organic world, creating a network of columns and arches that resemble the branching and interconnection of trees. These architectural elements not only provide a unique aesthetic distinction, but also enhance the structural stability of the Sagrada Familia. It’s a compelling demonstration of how the fusion of art and science can lead to sustainable and enduring architectural achievements.

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