More than 1,500 tourists had to flee Spain’s famed Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona when an arsonist set fire to the sacristy of the church crypt. Fire fighters in the Catalonian city were called to the scene and were able to control the flames, which apparently started at approximately 9:45 am local time. No serious injuries have been reported. However, a number of the evacuated tourists were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Emergency personnel were observed providing oxygen to some of those affected by the fumes.
The arsonist being held in the attack has been described as “mentally disturbed,” and has a criminal record. On the morning of April 19, there were approximately 1,500 visitors in the nave of the church designed by famed architect Antoní Gaudí, while there were approximately 10 tourists in the crypt. The arsonist is said to have set liturgical vestments alight in the crypt’s sacristy where priests prepare for the celebration of the Mass. The sacristy is said to have been completely destroyed by the sacrilege. The visitors detained the pyromaniac, who is now in police custody.
The crypt had been recently restored, in advance of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI last year. Despite the destruction caused by the flames, the most valuable works of ecclesiastical art were apparently unharmed. Stained-glass windows that were installed at the very beginning of the project that commenced about one hundred years ago are unharmed. The crypt is located at the church facade where there is represented the Nativity of the Lord: which has been named by UNESCO as part of the world heritage.