Gaudí’s best known work, now a symbol of Barcelona all over the world, is a sumptuous building to which the architect devoted more than half his life. He took over the works in late 1883 at the age of 31, replacing Francesc de Paula del Villar i Lozano of whose original project only part of the crypt had been built. When Gaudí died in 1926 he was still working on the site, and only the crypt and the apse, part of the cloister and the Nativity façade had been completed. Since then, the process of construction of the church has continued.
Gaudí radically transformed the original architect’s initial Neo Gothic project, conceiving a monumental church of gigantic and unheard-of dimensions. With its layout of space and profuse sculptural decoration it forms a veritable Bible in stone, a mystic poem that both professes and explains the Catholic faith. Once completed, the church will have five naves surrounded by an ambulatory cloister with an apse with seven chapels in the north, and three façades on the other sides: the Nativity, the Passion, and the main façade, the Glory. Each façade will include four bell towers with parabolic profile representing the twelve apostles, and on the apse and crossing, six more towers will symbolise the four evangelists, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. The tower of Jesus on the dome will be the highest, at 170 metres.
Beyond its whirlwind of symbolic and ornamental work, the Sagrada Familia also stands out as the work in which Gaudí combined all the architectural and structural discoveries of his career. With a modular grid floor plan, the church’s structure is supported by inclined pillars forked like the branches of a tree and covered by parabolic naves, an ideal combination for bearing the weight of the imposing construction.