Barcelona′s La Sagrada Familia gets building permit after 137 years | News | DW | 08.06.2019
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Barcelona's La Sagrada Familia gets building permit after 137 years

Antoni Gaudi's church, which still isn't finished a century after construction began, has received its formal planning permit. The part-Gothic, part-art nouveau landmark is already one of Spain's most visited sites.

La Sagrada Familia Basilica, which has been under construction in Spain's northeastern city of Barcelona for the last 137 years, has finally been granted a building permit.

Barcelona's City Council gave planning consent on Friday to allow the project to be completed by 2026, the centenary of chief architect Antoni Gaudi's death.

City officials say a foundation devoted to completing and preserving the basilica has paid €4.6 million ($5.2 million) for the permit, allowing it to finish construction to a maximum height of 172.5 meters (566 feet) and a ground surface of 41,000 square meters (around 440,000 square feet).

Read more: First Gaudi-built house opens in Barcelona

The agreement between the city and La Sagrada Familia foundation puts an end to "a historical anomaly in our city," said Barcelona official Janet Sanz.

Spanish authorities realized in 2016 that the unfinished church had been operating illegally for over a century. The basilica's first stone was laid in 1882, but there is no record showing a building permit was ever granted or rejected.

According to the committee in charge of finishing construction, Gaudi had asked the town hall of Sant Marti, a village now absorbed into Barcelona, for a building permit but never got an answer.

Inside La Sagrada Familia (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Goldmann)

Construction of Gaudi's unique basilica is funded by private donations and ticket sales

Tallest religious structure in Europe

Every year more than 4.5 million visitors pay €17-38 ($19-43) each to tour the huge Roman Catholic church, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

The Barcelona government estimates 20 million tourists stand outside to marvel at the bell towers; Gaudi envisioned 12, one for each of Christ's disciples, but they may never all be built.

Read more: Gaudi's Sagrada Familia to become world's tallest church in 2026

When completed, work on one of the central towers will make La Sagrada Familia the tallest religious structure in Europe, according to the builders.

Barcelona has the largest concentration of buildings designed by Gaudi, whose bold modernist aesthetic still inspires architects.

Watch video 03:42

Famous European landmark: Sagrada Familia

A fervent Catholic, he dedicated much of his professional life to the huge church project, for which he incorporated elements of Christian symbolism along with the organic forms he often employed.

Gaudi died in 1926 after being struck by a tram when just one facade of the church was complete.

Ongoing construction work is based on the architect's plaster models, and photos and publications of his original drawings, which were destroyed in a 1930s fire, according to the foundation.

mm/cmk (AFP, EFE)

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