Which tower of Sagrada Familia?
The Sagrada Familia is a church located in Barcelona and the masterpiece of renowned architect Antoni Gaudi. It is arguably the most disputed work of Gaudi, with a distinguished and unique design. Even more remarkable is that the construction of this cathedral began in the nineteenth century and continues to this day making it a piece of living history.
The most striking feature of the Sagrada Familia is its eighteen towers, flanked by four central towers. Each tower symbolizes a specific individual, with a unique form and its own character. The towers were chosen by Gaudi after careful research on the saints that the temple was built to honor. Every tower was designed by Gaudi for its own purpose.
The four most important towers of the Sagrada Familia are the central towers, the most visible from the outside. These towers reach a height of over 170 meters, almost twice the height of the side towers. Three of them, the highest of the Sagrada Familia, we can find the Nativity Tower, the Passion Tower and the Glory Tower.
The Nativity Tower is the highest and most noticeable of the central towers. It is dedicated to Jesus Christ and its slender form stands at a height of 172.5 m. It is adorned with bell towers and topped with a golden cross. It is taken to represent the birth of Christ.
The Passion Tower, 71 metres high, is the closest to the entrance gate and the one that Gaudi designed with the greatest care. It has a black and white marble façade and eight bells, each dedicated to a passion of Jesus Christ. It is topped with a cross and a sphere, symbolizing respectively the redemption of man and his will to reach Heaven.
The third and tallest tower is the Glory Tower, pointed freely and crowned with a vast golden cross which Gaudi wanted to form part of the 8 heights of the Sagrada Familia (177 meters high). It symbolically recalls the sacrifice of Jesus Christ while overlooking the entire city of Barcelona.
Finally, the fourth central tower, the Tower of the Cross, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, is 155 metres high. It has an octagonal shape and four bells, symbolizing the four evangelists.
The architecture of the towers
The towers of the Sagrada Familia are structured on a latticework of huge columns, interconnected with beams and arches without any solid walls or frames. This innovative concept was styled with various uses of stone, stained glass and ceramics, creating an abstract landscape. The elimination of an external frame allowed Gaudi to create different shaped volumetric structures, blurring the distinction between towers and facades.
This structure is reinforced with a structure of buttresses in the shape of an inverted v, thereby creating an upward motion that gives it much of its visual impact. Gaudi used the arch shape to reduce the structural load while achieving greater height. The façade of each tower is divided into two parts: one upper made of stones and a lower which consists of unidentified materials such as glass, granite, tiles, and vegetative decorations.
The towers of the Sagrada Familia were built with a unique construction method that was used by Gaudi himself, which he called the “natural method”. The natural method consisted of mixing concrete with sand and lime, along with the use of other materials such as tile, stone and ceramics. In the process of construction, Gaudi used a system of scaffolds, which he designed himself, in order to reduce the time of the construction.
The symbolism of the towers
The towers of the Sagrada Familia are full of religious and allegorical symbolism. The shapes of the towers represent the heavenly form of Christ, while the four cardinal towers symbolize the four evangelists of the gospel. Each of the side towers has four faces, representing the apostles Peter, Paul, James, and John.
Gaudi also incorporated symbols from the Catalan tradition into his design. For example, the circular shapes-that adorn the towers- symbolize the processions with the burning of the candle in the Barcelona days of the 17th of January and the 28th of May, believed to protect the city from evil.
The use of color is also very important in the symbolism of the Sagrada Familia towers. Red and purple are used to represent the Catholic faith, while yellow and orange symbolize glory and holiness. It’s remarkable how Gaudi infused his work with so much meaning and symbolism, creating something that is simultaneously both awe inspiring and educational.
Light and sound
The Sagrada Familia towers form an impressive skyline of Barcelona, both at night and during the day. At night, they are illuminated and come to life, making the towers glow and creating an almost surreal atmosphere. In the day, sunlight filters through the stained glass windows of the towers and refracts in a beautiful way.
The effects of light, sound, and colour all come together in a transcendent experience, as spoken by Gaudi himself:
The light, the colour and the sound that comes from the towers will lend them a special character, like a colourful carpet woven of light.
The bells of seven of the towers are tuned and rung at the same time, creating a very unusual and original melodic sound. Through this method, Gaudi creates a link between the architecture and the daily life of the people of Barcelona.
The construction of the Sagrada Familia has always been surrounded by controversy. Initially, it was the innovativeness of Gaudi’s design that caused an uproar, and many people disliked it. Over the years, there have been protests against the continued expansion of the building, including plans to construct a stadium inside the church.
Critics continue to argue that the construction of such an imposing and awe inspiring structure on a site of great historical and cultural value is inappropriate, and that it detracts from the original, traditional masterpiece of Gaudi. Others argue that the presence of the structure serves to protect the cultural heritage of the city and elevate Barcelona to a global level, rather than usurp the original designs of Gaudi.
In spite of the controversy, however, the Sagrada Familia towers remain an iconic symbol of Barcelona, and a testament to the genius of the great architecture that Gaudi was able to produce.
Maintenance of towers
The towers of the Sagrada Familia are one of its most impressive visual elements, but they are also one of its most vulnerable aspects. Due to their height and unusual structure, they need regular maintenance and care. This involves a lot of work, both on the towers themselves and the other structures that support them. To ensure the safety of the towers, certain routine inspections are carried out every year. Regular maintenance also includes specialist cleaning, painting, and other restoration work.
The cost of these works is immense, and the responsibility of their bearing has thrust a financial burden upon the city of Barcelona. To offset these costs, the city undertakes various initiatives and campaigns in order to bring in donations from all over the world.
The meticulous maintenance of the towers demonstrates the commitment of Barcelona to preserving the memory of Gaudi and safeguarding this beautiful and timeless structure for future generations.
The towers of the Sagrada Familia are among the most iconic architectural structures in the world. They are designed with great symbolism and meaning, inspired by religious and Catalan tradition. Their remarkable design, remarkable structural stability and innovativeness, has earned them equal parts admiration, and controversy. But ultimately, these towers remain a symbol of Gaudi’s genius, and a powerful reminder of the rich culture of Barcelona.