Lifestyle & Belief

Barcelona's Sagrada Familia suffers arson attack


Firemen secure the area around the Sagrada Familia after a fire broke out inside the church on April 19, 2011 in Barcelona.


Joseph Lago

A suspected arson attack on Barcelona's Sagrada Familia forced 1,500 tourists to be evacuated from the historic church Tuesday.

The small fire in the Roman Catholic church, which is one of Spain's most famous tourist attractions, caused four people to be treated for smoke inhalation, the Associated Press reports.

Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire, which began in the sacristry, before it could destory the stonework of architect Antoni Gaudi's famous masterpiece, though it damaged some of the furnishings, AFP reports.

"The structure has not suffered any damage, but there was damage to furniture," Barcelona mayor Jordi Hereu told AFP.

A suspect who appears to be about 55 and was found with several lighters in his pocket has been arrested.

The 1,500 tourists were evacuated as a precaution.

The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Pope Benedict XVI consecrated it in November 2010.

Construction of the church began in 1882, but the it still has not been completely built.

Gaudi is an architect well-known for the many buildings he designed in Barcelona. By the time he died in 1926, only one of the 18 towers he had planned for the church had been built, CNN reports.

Asked why it took him so long to finish the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi reportedly responded: "My client — meaning God — is not in a hurry."