Begun in 1882 by public subscription, the Sagrada Família was originally intended as a modest, expiatory building that would atone for the city’s increasingly revolutionary ideas. When Antoni Gaudí – only 31 years of age – took charge, he changed the direction and scale of the project almost immediately, seeing in the Sagrada Família an opportunity to reflect his own deepening spiritual and nationalist feelings. Indeed, after he finished the Parc Güell in 1911, Gaudí vowed never to work again on secular projects, but to devote himself solely to the Sagrada Família, which became perhaps the most daring creation in all Art Nouveau. Gaudí even ended up living in a workshop on site, and he was adapting the plans ceaselessly right up to his untimely death. Run over by a tram on the Gran Vía on June 7, 1926, he died in hospital three days later – his death was treated as a Catalan national disaster, and all of Barcelona turned out for his funeral procession. Following papal dispensation, he was buried in the Sagrada Família crypt, a fitting resting place for an architect whose masterpiece was designed (he said), to show “the religious realities of present and future life … man’s origin, his end”.

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