Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Wins Building Permit 137 Years Later

The Sagrada Familia is seen from a hillside in Barcelona.
Chris McGrath / Getty Images

The iconic Sagrada Familia in Barcelona just got a building permit — over a century after its work began.

Construction on the neo-Gothic Spanish church, which was designed by Catalan artist Antoni Gaudi, started in 1882, but turns out it never held a permit in the 137 years it has been there. Now, the Roman Catholic monument has finally been awarded a license by Barcelona’s city council that allows the work that still needs to be done on it to carry out legally, as reported by CNN.

The committee in charge of finalizing the church’s construction work was given a permit for 4.6€ million ($5.2 million), announced Janet Sanz, head of urban planning, on Twitter. Sanz told reporters that “the historical anomaly” had now been resolved, and that the money given by the city will be used for maintenance projects that try and minimize the impact of the millions of people who visit the Sagrada Familia every year.

Gaudi reportedly asked for a permit back in 1885 from the city council of Sant Martí de Provençals (one of Barcelona’s neighborhoods) but was never actually given one, and the construction was carried out illegally. The basilica, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005, is famous worldwide for being constantly under construction. Now, however, builders claim that the license, which is valid until 2026, should allow them enough time to finish raising the landmark’s central towers, according to The Guardian.

If all goes according to plan, the current work being done on one of the towers means that the church is set to become the tallest religious building in Europe at 172.5 meters (566 feet) tall. However, Gaudi’s vision may not come to full fruition as he initially designed 12 different towers (one for each of Christ’s Apostles), which seems unlikely to happen in the near future. The famous architect, whose work can be found all throughout the Spanish city, also never lived to see most of it being complete, as he died when only one of the church’s facade was done. Gaudi was struck by a trolley in 1926, and his body was buried in the Roman Catholic building’s crypt.

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But despite the fact that it has always been impossible to marvel at the incredible structure without scaffolding and cranes around, over 4.5 million people visit the Sagrada Familia every year, paying between 17-38€ ($19-$43) each just to tour the monument. An estimated 20 million stand outside to look at it and take some iconic Barcelona photos, as per The Guardian.