Catalan Church Restored Using Ingenious Tensioning System

The object of this architectural restoration is the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Vistabella, the work of Catalan architect Josep Maria Jujol (16 September 1879 – 1 May 1949). The original design dates from 1917 with the construction completed in 1923. The building is a magnificent and personal work of Catalan architecture.

The simplicity of the materials used—basically brick, mortar, and stone—contrasts with the spectacular formal richness of the structural solutions: columns, arches, and vaults that generate a complex, rich, and surreal interior space typical of the mysticism of Jujol.

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Description by the Architect. The use of the building—a temple for Catholic worship—has not changed since its construction, a fact that allows for a clear restorative approach: with the minimum intervention, yet still guaranteeing the survival of the work.


The intent was to treat the problems by seeking solutions in the original design, and to recover the original interior and exterior appearance without erasing any unproblematic changes created by the passage of time—even respecting certain human alterations caused by the historical events that contextualize the building in its time. 

From this approach, the general criteria for the intervention are deduced for each of the subsystems of the building.

© Santi Prats i Rocavert

As for the bell tower of the church, in 1934 the spire was damaged by the wind and the repair was directed by Jujol himself, incorporating eight steel bars into the inner corners of the tower's four pillars. These straps, extending from the spire's base to the cross, were concreted "in situ" and covered with mortar and bricks along the pillars. Over the years, the concrete protection around the steel came off in several places and the oxidation of the steel bars ended up cracking the masonry. 

© Santi Prats i Rocavert

The most conceptually important intervention—though one which is imperceptible in the finished restoration—was the substitution of these passive steel straps for active tensioning straps. This replacement process was monitored with strain gauges and computer control to guarantee the desired tension based on data obtained in scientific and rigorous tests carried out on the bell tower structure itself. 

Ground Floor
First Floor
Roof Floor

The additions necessary to optimize and improve the performance of the building in terms of lighting, ventilation, humidity control and temperature are located in the secondary space, the sacristy and warehouse, to serve the main space without any disruption.  

Once Phase 1, the restoration of the bell tower and the main vault, has been completed, the remaining phases will be carried out with their own constructive logic according to the severity of the problems and the available funds.


Architect: Santi Prats i Rocavert
Location: Plaça del Doctor Gaspà Blanch (Carrer Major, 19), Vistabella, 43765 La Secuita, Tarragona, Catalunya, España
Coordinates: Latitud 41° 12′ 32″ N, longitud 1° 15′ 55″ E
Year: 2016
Area: 312 m2
Promotor: Arzobispado de Tarragona
Team: Enrique Otero Neira, Arquitecto, Roger Señís López, Arquitecto, Carlos Rillo Lizán, Arquitecto Técnico, Ton Fumadó Abad, Ingeniero Industrial
Budget: Fase-1(194.814 Euros) / Fases (1-6) 569.950 Euros
Photography: Santi Prats i Rocavert

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Cite: AD Editorial Team. "Catalan Church Restored Using Ingenious Tensioning System" [Tarragona, España: Restauración del campanario y bóveda principal de la Iglesia del Sagrat Cor de Jesús] 14 May 2017. ArchDaily. (Trans. Franco, José Tomás) Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

© Santi Prats i Rocavert


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