The faith of Gaudí and La Sagrada Família

La Sagrada Família, the celebrated (and unfinished) basilica by the artist Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, is the subject this week of a 99% Invisible podcast, one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes. The episode, La Sagrada Família, explores the history, design and religious inspiration of the church, which was begun in the 1880s, is scheduled to be completed in the 2020s, and is said to be the longest running construction project in the world.

The podcast says that Gaudí drew his artistic inspiration from the natural world, which had enthralled him during his childhood in Catalonia. ‘He seemed to absorb essential lessons from the patterns and shapes he saw in nature. A dried out snake’s skeleton, a snail, a honeycomb – these were nature’s perfect constructions. And for Gaudí, a deeply religious Catholic, God was the master architect of these flawless organic structures.’

Gaudí died in a street accident in June 1926, when only a small part of the church had been built, and the majority of the building work has taken place in the last 40 years. It was only in 2010 that the interior of the building was complete, and it was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

La Sagrada Família

Says Katie Mingle, producer of the podcast: ‘The church only holds one mass a month right now, and it can be hard as throngs of tourists bump into you with their selfie sticks to feel connected to the building as a place of worship.’

She met Jeronimo Buxareu, one of the current architects of La Sagrada Família, who let her go into the church with him in the early morning, before it was open to the public, so she could try to get a sense of it. He told her: ‘You can feel that it’s spiritual and that there is somebody or something more. God stands here.’

She responded: ‘To me, and I’m not a religious person, La Sagrada Família is not so much a testament to God as it is to humans, and what they can create. But Gaudí would dispute that assessment. He once said: The creation continues incessantly through the media of man, but man does not create, he discovers.’

99% Invisible is a weekly podcast focusing on all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shapes our world.

Interior photo: lluriPhoto under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Exterior photo: Antoine 49 under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0