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The 11 secrets and mysteries of Sagrada Familia

Publicado en Turismo y cultura

La Sagrada Familia, the masterpiece of Gaudi, is probably the most famous monument in Barcelona. Attracting 3 million visitors every year, the building –which is going to be finished only in 2026- hides many amazing secrets and mysteries behind its walls. Indeed, did you know that Sagrada Familia is funded exclusively by alms and donations?  Did you know that Gaudi planned the construction of the monument even after his death? Did you know it was the most visited monument in Spain? Here are some secrets that Gaudí brought in his tomb but which were eventually discovered.

1. The design of Sagrada Familia was made to enable its construction even after Gaudí's death

Gaudí designed the Sagrada Familia with pure and simple geometric forms. Therefore, he though that any architect could understand the drawings and plans of the monument and could continue the construction even after his death. Gaudí also made a model of the Glory facade –the model was desmolished in 1936- for future architects to base their work on the design imagined by Gaudí. Moreover, Antoni Gaudí knew that he could not finish the construction before his death. As a symbol, he wanted each part of La Sagrada Familia to be constructed separately so that each generation of architects could bring their own style. 

2. Sagrada Familia has 3 different facades with different meanings

The first one, the Nativity facade, was completed in 1935 and is influenced directly from the Gaudí’s style. It is dedicated to the birth of Jesus with the symbolic sunrise to the northeast. The facade also shows elements related to the Nature and the creation of life.
The second one is the Passion facade is simpler and dedicated to the suffering of Christ during his crucifixion. The facade was supposed to show the sins of human beings. Several architects worked on this facade and tried to remain faithful to Gaudí’s style while bringing their own style at the same time. The facade is directed to the West and faces the sun as a symbol for the death of Christ.
The last one is the Glory facade, the largest facade which is still under construction. It is dedicated to the glory of Jesus and the road to reach God going through death, final judgment and glory. 

3. The construction of the Basilica has long been funded by donations and alms

La Sagrada Familia is a Basilica and received the name of Expiatory temple because its construction is not supported by any government or church funds. During the earliest stage of its building, it was funded by private patrons. During decades, La Sagrada Familia received private funds from donations or alms. Those funds were used exclusively to the construction of Gaudí’s dream. Nowadays, donations to the Sagrada Familia are still made but most of the money collected comes from entrance tickets. 

4. Sagrada Familia is the most visited monument in Spain

With almost 3 million visitors a year, the Gaudí’s masterpiece – which is classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site- has overtaken the Granada’s Alhambra and the Prado Museum of Madrid. It is now the most visited monument in Spain. 

5. Gaudí's work has long been discredited

Antoni Gaudí (June 25, 1952 – June 10, 1926) has long been misunderstood and his whole work has been discredited. He had lost everything during the last days of his life. No family, no money, no property. This is why he dedicated his last moments of life entirely to the Sagrada Familia. Gaudí had also bad health conditions at the time and was usually mistaken for a beggar. On June 7, 1926, while he was going to the Sant-Felipe Neri church on the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, Gaudí was knocked down by a tram. Due to his neglected aspect and because he had no identity papers, everybody mixed him up with a hobo. A civil guard finally called a taxi to get him to the Santa Creu hospital where he was recognized and died of his wounds at the age of 73. He was buried on June 12 in a crypt in the Sagrada Familia, surrounded by thousand of people. After he had died, his works was criticized and completely forgotten. It was only in 1950, when artists such as Salvador Dalí or the architect Josep Luip Sert paid homage to him, that Antoní Gaudí was recognized for his whole work.

6. Sagrada Familia has been longer to build than the Great Pyramids

The construction of the Sagrada Familia started in 1882 and is supposed to be finished in 2026 or 2028 for the Gaudí’s centenary. Historically, the building of the Gaudí’s masterpiece has taken longer than the construction of the Great Pyramids. Indeed, the pyramids of Goza had taken 20 years to be built while the Sagrada Familia will take between 144 and 146 years to be completed.    

7. There is a reason why Sagrada Familia has curved lines

Antoni Gaudí decided to design the Sagrada Familia, like most of his works, with curved lines. According to Gaudí, straight lines did not exist in the Nature, and this is why the temple –which reflects the Nature, life and death- should not be constructed with straight lines. As a symbol of Nature, the columns of the Sagrada Famlia are built in a tree-shape to support the whole monument.

8. Sagrada Familia has suffered from vandalism

During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, vandalism occurred in the Sagrada Familia where the crypt and Gaudí’s workshp were partly burnt. A large part of Gaudí’s plans and models were destroyed by fire. Yet, with only a few instructions and plans remaining from Gaudí, the construction of La Sagrada Familia continued, with new architects such as Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puid and Luís Bonet. They tried to remain faithful to Gaudí’s view and also brought their own style, following Gaudí’s wish to make each  generation participate in the construction.
On April 2011, another act of vandalism occurred and a fire was started in the sacristy which was damaged. 

9. There is a magic square on the Passion facade

This is one of the mysteries of the Sagrada Familia temple. Indeed, on the Passion facade, next to the statues of a couple kissing, you might see a 4x4 magic square of 15 numbers that has been a complete brain teaser so far. Some have found that the magic constant – i.e. when you add up all numbers horizontally or vertically- is 33, like the age of Christ when he was crucified. The same number also appears in the Parque Guëll (also designed by Gaudí) where the sum of stairs is 33. Another explanation is that the number 33 is the highest rank a freemasonist can reach. Indeed, Gaudí was probably a freemasonist, as his childhodd friend Eduard was one and because Gaudí was born in Reus, one of the cradles of freemasonry and also because Gaudí’s patron, Guëll, was also said to be a freemasonist. Another explanation is that Gaudí intentionally occulted the number 12 in order to deny the existence of the 12 apostles. Any way, this mathematic square remains a complete mystery that Gaudí brought in his tomb. 

10. The spires of the Basilica have a religious meaning

Indeed, when it is finished, Sagrada Familia will have 18 towers: 12 dedicated to the Apostles, 4 to the Evangelists, one to Jesus and one to Mary, with the highest spire reaching 170 meters high.  

11. The height of Sagrada Familia has been deeply studied by Gaudí

According to Gaudí, nothing should be most majestic and powerful than the Nature. This is why Gaudí has long thought about the height of his masterpiece. He finally decided that the highest tower of Sagrada Familia, the Torre del Salvador (“Tower of the Savior”), would be 170 meters high, i.e. 1 meter shorter than the Montjuic Mountain. Gaudí found it improper that a man’s work surpass God’s work.