Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia finally gets building permit after 137 years

After 137 years, 10 architects, and millions of euros of administrative costs, Barcelona’s modernist masterpiece the Sagrada Família has finally been granted a building permit.

In what has been satirised as the ultimate tale of sluggish bureaucracy, Barcelona City Hall gave the belated go-ahead for the construction of the basilica on Friday, following a provisional agreement last October.

The Sagrada Família Foundation said that the licence would allow it to “continue to build Antoni Gaudí’s project”, expected to be completed in 2026, coinciding with the centenary of the death of its main designer.

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The cathedral now has legal approval for ongoing works to restore and expand the existing structure, with a budget of 374 million euros (£332.5 million). The licence itself cost 4.6 million euros (£4.1 million).

The construction board will also have to pay 36 million euros (£32 million) over 10 years to cover public costs incurred by its activity.

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Perhaps the world’s most famous unfinished landmark, the basilica will eventually have 18 towers, including a 172.5-metre central spire, making it the tallest building in Barcelona, around two-and-a-half times the height of Notre-Dame and 60 metres taller than St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The foundation added that the licence is “the result of a combined effort between Barcelona City Hall and the Sagrada Família, who have worked closely together over the last two years”.

As recently as 2016, municipal officials were shocked to discover that the request for a permit had been pending since 1885, when Gaudí, having taken over the project from Francisco de Paula del Villar, submitted his plans to the town hall of Sant Martí de Provençals, a village now part of Barcelona, but never received a reply.

Financed solely by private donations and ticket sales, construction has been intermittent since Gaudí was fatally run over by a tram in 1926 and revolutionaries set fire to the crypt during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, partially destroying the original designs.

Nevertheless, the Sagrada Família has become Barcelona’s most-visited monument, welcoming 4,5 million people in 2017, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.  

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