Because of Gaudí’s commitment to masterful work, la Sagrada Família quite literally proclaims the gospel to millions of people each year. What can we learn from Gaudí’s example that would inform our own pursuit of masterful work that glorifies God?
First, Gaudí and his church teach us that excellence requires a tremendous amount of hard work. Gaudi spent forty-three years—more than half his life—dedicated to la Sagrada Família. No doubt there were friends and community members urging Gaudí to take shortcuts so he could see some level of completion of his grand vision in his lifetime. But Gaudí would have none of it. Gaudí knew that mastery requires time, and his vision for the church kept him on a slower, more deliberate path. When asked why the church was taking so long to build, Gaudí once commented, “My client is not in a hurry.”
There is a second lesson we can draw from Gaudí’s story and it is a central theme in this book: masterful work requires tremendous focus. Throughout his four decades working on la Sagrada Família, Gaudí took on fewer and fewer projects until, twelve years prior to his death, he decided to focus exclusively on the building of his church. From 1914 until his death in 1926, Gaudí “dedicated himself exclusively to prayer, to long periods of fasting, and to the construction of la Sagrada Família,” spending most of his days building three-dimensional models of his designs that subsequent generations of architects and craftsmen could follow. A true essentialist, Gaudí went to extremes to eliminate anything from his life that would distract him from his mission of setting la Sagrada Família on a path to its glorious completion after his death. The renowned architect took a vow of poverty, putting himself in the shoes of those his church is meant to serve. In a very real sense, Gaudí poured everything he had into mastering the one thing he believed God was calling him to create. Quite fittingly, Gaudí is buried inside la Sagrada Família, under a headstone that describes the great architect as “a man of exemplary life, and an extraordinary craftsman, the author of this marvelous work.”
Today, dozens of craftspeople continue the work Gaudí started, working diligently to bring la Sagrada Família to its highly anticipated completion (currently slated for 2026). But with an annual construction budget of nearly $30 million, this work continues amidst significant debate and controversy, with some arguing that those funds would be better spent more directly on the poor the building is meant to serve. But there’s no denying that this costly masterpiece-in-the making has already produced something of great and increasingly rare value. In an age in which we are addicted to rapid production, quick fixes, fast food, and speed at the cost of everything else, the sheer excellence of la Sagrada Família commands our attention. Then, once it grabs us, the magnificent architecture redirects our gaze to the glory of God and the life of his Son, causing us to yearn to learn more about the exceptional character of the God the church seeks to reflect.