La Sagrada Família (Catalan name) or La Sagrada Familia (Spanish name) in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, more formally known as the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, is Antoni Gaudí's masterwork.

La Sagrada Familia Ground Plan

In 1866 Josep Ma. Bocabella i Verdaguer founded the Associació Espiritual de Devots de Sant Josep, the association that promoted the construction of an expiatory temple dedicated to the Holy Family. Thanks to the donations of the devouts, in 1881 the association bought a large lot of land located between the streets Marina, Provença, Sardenya and Mallorca to build there the temple. The first project was presented by the architect Francesc del Villar: it had to be a church of three naves, seven chapels in the apse and a spire of 85 m high. In 1882 on Saint Joseph day the bishop Mr. Urquinaona placed the foundation stone of the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.

Disagreements with the architect Joan Martorell -the assessor of Bocabella- led Francesc del Villar to resign and Gaudí, assistant of Martorell, became architect of the Temple. Gaudí presented a new project based in the prevalence of vertical lines, consisting in a basilical plan, five naves in the main nave and three naves in the transept, and a dome of 170 m high. The foundations of the Nativity façade were laid after finishing the apse in 1894. The cloister and the window of the northern transept would be completed when the last Spanish colonies were lost. It is the end of a century and the beginning of a new one, a crucial century for the construction of the Temple .

Anton Gaudi

Gaudí, throughout his life, was fascinated by nature. He studied nature's angles and curves and incorporated them into his designs. Instead of relying on geometric shapes, he mimicked the way trees and humans grow and stand upright. The hyperboloids and paraboloids he borrowed from nature were easily reinforced by steel rods. He didn't limit his use of natural structures to support, however, and most of his designs resemble elements from the environment. Because of his rheumatism, the artist observed a strict vegetarian diet, used homeopathic drug therapy, underwent water therapy, and hiked regularly. Long walks, besides suppressing his rheumatism, further allowed him to experience nature.

Gaudí was an ardent Catholic and a fervent Catalan nationalist. (He was once arrested for speaking in Catalan in a situation deemed illegal by authorities.) In his later years, he abandoned secular work and devoted his life to Catholicism and his Sagrada Família. In the early twentieth century, Gaudí's closest family and friends began to die; his works slowed to a halt; and his attitude changed. Perhaps one of his closest family members – his niece Rosa Egea – passed away in 1912, only to be followed by a "faithful collaborator, Francesc Berenguer Mestres" two years later. After both tragedies, Barcelona fell on hard times, economically. The construction of La Sagrada Família slowed; the construction of La Colonia Güell ceased altogether. Four years later, Eusebi Güell died. Perhaps it was because of this unfortunate sequence of events that Gaudí changed. He became reluctant to talk with reporters or have his picture taken and solely concentrated on his masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia.

On June 7, 1926, Antoni Gaudí was run over by a tram. Because of his ragged attire and empty pockets, multiple cab drivers refused to pick him up for fear that he would be unable to pay the fare. He was eventually taken to a pauper's hospital in Barcelona. Nobody recognized the injured Gaudí until some friends found him at the poor hospital the next day. When they tried to move him into a nicer hospital, Gaudí refused, reportedly saying "I belong here among the poor." He died two days later, half of Barcelona mourning his death. It was, perhaps, fitting that he was buried in the midst of his unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Família.