The Famous Stained Glass Windows of La Sagrada Familia


History of the Church
In 1882, the people of Barcelona wanted a symbol of their dedication to their faith and local culture. They commissioned Antoni Gaudi to create this symbol for them, and the first foundation of what would become La Sagrada Familia, one of the most beautiful and complicated architectural projects in history, was begun. In 1883, Gaudi became the director of the entire project, a post he held for decades until he passed away in 1926 after a tragic accident. While director, he completely dedicated himself to his work, choosing to live in a studio on site. After his death, his associate architects carried on his work.

A civil war broke out in Spain in the 1930s, and as a result, many churches were burned. But because La Sagrada Familia meant more to the people than just a religious place of worship, it became more of a universal symbol of the people of Barcelona and was spared any damage. During the war, progress continued under architect Francesc Quintana, and due to the meticulous notes and records left behind by Gaudi, construction has continued according to his wishes, even with numerous stops and starts.

Purpose of the Windows
The windows are a focal point of the construction, with some stretching more than two stories high. They are designed to draw the eye upwards and inspire meditation on the divine. The heart-stoppingly beautiful attention to detail and the sheer magnitude of the windows naturally accomplish this. The stained glass designs also capture and filter colored light that not only illuminates but also adorns the striking architectural details.

In order to fully capture the striking beauty of these windows, one should learn how to photograph them well. Most historical buildings don't allow the use of a flash, so when you set up to take a shot, keep in mind that you'll want to use a long exposure to help get the most light. Another thing to remember is that to get a really good shot and minimize camera shaking, use a tripod to help support the camera. Just be sure to ask officials if it is permissible within La Sagrada Familia. The angle is also very important. When lining up a shot, try to get a direct view, if possible; if shooting at an angle is necessary, get back as far as possible and try to line up as much as possible with the center of the window.

Antoni Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi was born in 1852 in an area of Spain known as Catalonia. The love of architecture captured Gaudi from a young age and moved him to study the subject for eight years at the New School of Architecture. After completing his studies, Gaudi established his own architectural practice.

During his most active years as an architect, Catalonia and Spain were in a state of upheaval. The people of Catalonia long felt that they should be autonomous from the influence of the Spanish Castilian regime. To express this more fully, the Catalonian people struggled to show their own unique cultural aspects through cultural artistic design and political revival. Gaudi identified very much with this artistic movement, particularly a section of it known as Modernismo, which captured his vibrant and unique style.

Nearly all of his work is centered in Barcelona, one of the cultural centers of Catalonia. Gaudi designed over a period of 48 years, from 1878 until his death in 1926. He was commissioned to work on La Sagrada Familia in 1883, and by 1910, it became his primary project. The sheer magnitude of the commission and the investment it required never saw completion during Gaudi's lifetime. In fact, it is still under construction today.

Completion of the Church
The project to construct this basilica was officially undertaken in 1882. It is completely funded by donations from the local Catholic community. Due to this and a number of other obstacles and events that have slowed and halted construction, the basilica of La Sagrada Familia is still currently under construction and will not be completed for some time. The rough estimate is that the church will finally be completed around 2030.

Characteristics and Symbols of the Stained Glass Windows
There are a number of stained glass pieces in various windows and architectural features. The first few that were created incorporated symbols through both shape and color originally conceived by Gaudi. The main window in the transept, where the sculptures depicting the Passion are, is supposed to represent resurrection. Stained glass windows in the sides and main nave area will symbolize local important shrines and saints that are of particular importance to the people of Barcelona and Catalonia. The upper stained glass windows on the side naves will have an important phrase from Catholic scripture incorporated into them, while the central nave window will have no color and be made with simple, clear glass that will either be translucent or opaque to symbolize purity, which is also practical, as it will allow a large amount of natural light to illuminate the interior.
Article written by Lexi Westingate
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