One of the most enduring worldwide symbols of Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia or as it’s more commonly known, The Unfinished Cathedral. This is arguably Gaudí's greatest and most enduring masterpiece. Gaudi was an artist/architect born in 1852. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that date, as much of his work has a modernistic feel. He was perhaps a man before his time. His family had been coppersmiths and Gaudi believed that his ability to see forms directly in space without really needing plans dates to his family’s trade. Gaudi was also very intelligent which probably also helped his career. But what amazes me is how he ever talked a Neo-orthodox society into accepting so much of his avant-garde styles! But that he did, and this cathedral is the centerpiece.
The cathedral is unfinished. Gaudi died in 1926 as a result of a streetcar accident and that began a controversy. Do we finish the building with what we think he wanted (Many of Gaudi’s plans were destroyed under Franco’s rule) or do we let another architect take a shot at completing the building in a similar style? The Cathedral was started in 1883, so that means Gaudi himself worked on the project for 43 years! Our tour guide seemed to think a compromise has been struck and they will try and be true to Gaudi’s dream while allowing modern architects some "wiggle room". I’m not completely sure what that means, but that's what was said!
The church actually has two front side rather than a back and front. One front represents the birth of Christ and the other front represents the passion and resurrection of Christ. I put a picture in below of both sides. Do you think they look like they go together? Originally it was intended that there be 18 tall spires: 12 for the Apostles, 4 for the Holy Family, and the tallest representing Christ. To date, 8 have been constructed that are 100m tall. Both facades have a great deal of detail. On the Nativity side, there are statues depicting the birth of Christ and other scenes from his life. You must look carefully to see them as the facade has a "find Waldo" kind of feel to it. The Passion facade was not put in place till 1952 and was done under the supervision of Gaudi’s colleagues Domenec Sugranes, Quintana and Isidre Puig i Boada.
There is much symbolism throughout the structure. The spire over the Charity Gate on the Nativity side was designed to look like a cypress tree. Attached to the "tree" is a flock of birds representing Christians flocking to the church. The interior columns are said to represent a forest, to put us in contact with God’s natural world. In 1992 work on the Unfinished Cathedral began again, and as work proceeds (there was scaffolding everywhere,) a third facade representing the Glory of Christ should emerge.
This is an awe-inspiring albeit unfinished cathedral and as a symbol of Catalonia Spain is a must see. For my eyes, which are used to seeing buildings go up in under a year, it’s hard to understand why it’s taking so long to get this done. However, this is no ordinary building. Supports and arches are being used in non-traditional ways and care must be taken. If you’re going to be in Barcelona, go see this place and see what you think.