The Incredible Facts You Should Know About Barcelona's Sagrada Familia

Its design is so complicated it’s been under construction for over a century.
IMAGE Patrice_Audet/ PEXELS

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s most visited site, draws over two million people every year. Over a century of construction has allowed its present-day builders to marry the Roman Catholic church’s late gothic designs with modern technology, allowing for unprecedented engineering marvels, while adopting blueprints made in the latter part of the 1800s.

Multiple pillars reach up to the roof of the Sagrada Familia, creating a marvelous sight.

Here are eight incredible facts about the history and architecture of the unique heritage site, which is steeped in symbolism, and sometimes, controversy.

Its architect, Antoni Gaudi, is buried inside the church.


Antoni Gaudi (June 25, 1852 – June 10, 1926), whose design is the blueprint being adopted by present-day architects in finishing construction, is interred at the Chapel of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel inside the church.

It has been in construction for over 136 years.

The church in 1915

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It is expected to be finished in 2032, exactly 150 years after construction began. By historical standards, the construction pace of the Sagrada Familia is oddly slow, which is attributed to a slew of factors, including two World Wars, a civil war, lack of funding, and very ambitious design.

In contrast, the Great Pyramid of Giza took 60 years to finish, and that was completed 5,000 years ago.

It is one of the first structures of the 21st century to use 3D printing.

While 3D printing technology has only been in vogue in the past five years, the construction at the basilica has been using 3D printers since 2001. One of the reasons why the construction of the church is moving at such a slow pace is that engineers from different generations found it difficult to implement Gaudi’s design. With advances in technology, construction has seen a much faster pace in the last two decades.


There is a high-speed rail running directly beneath the church.

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When the proposal to build a connecting high-speed railway from Spain to France was touted in 2002, the church’s architects, engineers, and people from its surrounding neighborhood mounted strong opposition for fear of damaging the church’s foundations. However, the railway was completed in 2010, and no reports of damage to the church have been documented.

It took a magnificent feat of engineering and some advanced technology to prevent tremors during the tunneling process beneath the church. Furthermore, rails are embedded in special elastic material to absorb vibration from passing high-speed trains.


The church’s three façades represent the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious parts of Jesus’ life.

The church’s three façades are the Nativity Façade, which depicts a nativity scene, the Passion Façade which depicts Christ’s crucifixion, and the Glory Façade which represents the glory of Jesus when he ascended into heaven. These run parallel to the three original ‘decades’ when praying the different mysteries of the rosary.


Since these facades were done by different artists, the construction did not escape controversy. The Passion Façade received a lot of criticism for its very modern and abstract style that allegedly departs from Gaudi’s gothic design.

Ten more spires will rise on the church.


At present, the church has eight spires, which represent various saints and apostles. When construction finishes, it will have a total of 18 spires: 12 for the holy apostles, four for the Four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), one for Jesus, and one for the Virgin Mary.

In this model, parts already built are shown in brown (2018).

Construction is funded only by donations and alms from the people.

Sagrada Familia does not make use of any government or any church funds. It only uses donations and entrance fees from ordinary people who want to see the church and pray inside.


The basilica was given the title “Expiatory Temple,” because of the combined sacrifices and alms donated by the people to complete its construction. In Latin, expiat means to appease by sacrifice, especially when speaking of atonement for one’s sins. 

Its height has a very significant meaning.


Gaudi believed that no structure should stand higher than any of God’s creation, which is why once completed, Sagrada Familia will stand at exactly 170 meters higha meter short of the Montjuïc hill that overlooks the church. This is a matter that its present-day builders are very intent on implementing. It is a homage to the ascetic and very humble life led by Gaudi.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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