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Sagrada Família’s rehabilitation and cleanup due to small fire in crypt to last five or six days

Barcelona’s famous church designed by Antoni Gaudí was attacked on Tuesday morning by a mentally-ill person, who set fire to the crypt's sacristy. No people were injured and the 1,500 people in the church at the time were evacuated immediately for safety reasons. There are no structural damages and in less than a week the area will be completely restored. Security will be strengthened.

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21 April 2011 07:42 PM

by

ACN / Lluís Vilaró

Barcelona (ACN). - Tuesday morning\u2019s fire at the Sagrada Família church in Barcelona did not provoke serious damage, neither for the people present, nor for the church structure. The fire was set in the church crypt, a space isolated from the main nave and area of the temple. A suspect was detained by Catalan Police, as he was seen fleeing the crypt\u2019s sacristy moments before the fire started. Two lighters were found in the suspects pockets and small religious objects from the sacristy were also recovered. As a precaution, all 1,500 people in the church at the time, including tourists and workers, were evacuated. The fire burned a small wooden altar, a wardrobe, religious clothing and the smoke tainted the sacristy\u2019s walls. The water used to extinguish the blaze also contributed to the damage. However, none were considered serious and in five or six days, everything will be rehabilitated, explained the Chairman of the Sagrada Família\u2019s Trust, Joan Rigol. He added that they cannot give a precise date when the crypt will be reopened. Barcelona Mayor, Jordi Hereu, wanted to commend the fast response of the emergency services and the evacuation protocol. After the fire was extinguished and security checks had taken place, tourists were allowed to enter again in the afternoon. The Sagrada Família\u2019s Trust announced that more security will be put in place in certain areas of the church. Catalan Police will contribute to design the new security plan.


The cleanup operation of the Sagrada Família will last five or six days. However the Basilica\u2019s Trust cannot give an exact day of reopening to the public. Joan Rigol, Chairman of the Sagrada Familia Trust, explained that the fire only affected the 10 square-metre sacristy of the crypt. The crypt is an isolated area on the north side of the church\u2019s basement, under the apse.  Access to this area is separate to the rest of the church. Since last November, when Pope Benedict XVI came to declare the temple a \u201Cbasilica\u201D, the crypt has been opened to the public and mass is celebrated daily, as construction works in that space are finished. In the church\u2019s main area, the great nave, mass is only celebrated on special occasions. The structural work in that space is also finished, although some details and decoration are still to be completed. The largest part of the current construction works at the Sagrada Família Basilica are focused on building Maria\u2019s Tower, on the apse. Then, the construction of the Glory Facade and the Jesus Tower will finish off Gaudi\u2019s masterwork.

The fire was started by a person with a mental illness

The only suspect is a 65-year-old man, from Barcelona, who is suffering from a mental illness. He was seen running away from the crypt\u2019s sacristy. He closed the door behind him at 10.20 in the morning, moments after a smell of burning was picked up by people in the crypt at the time. The man was seen running from the crypt and hid in an annex structure, next to the church. He was found and detained by church security until the Catalan Police arrived and arrested him. In his pockets, two lighters, an oil spray, five keys from the crypt\u2019s alms boxes and a small religious bell made out of copper and silver were found. He was taken to a police station and will be formally charged with starting the fire and theft.

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  • Firemen working at the crypt's entrance (by L. Vilaró)

  • The smoke coming out from the crypt, which is located under the Basilica's apse (by L. Vilaró)

  • Firemen working at the crypt's entrance (by L. Vilaró)
  • The smoke coming out from the crypt, which is located under the Basilica's apse (by L. Vilaró)