Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Runs into Permit Troubles

10/26/2018 | By Kadie Yale

La Sagrada Familia, the Catholic cathedral in Barcelona that has famously been under construction since 1882, has found itself in the spotlight again, although not for the usual when-will-it-be-completed narrative.

The nonprofit La Sagrada Familia Foundation recently agreed to pay a $42 million settlement to the city of Barcelona after pressure from Mayor Ada Colau. The city argued that the cathedral has failed to file the correct permits to build the structure for the last 136 years.

View of the Sagrada Familia, a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, on February 10, 2016. Barcelona
(Photo: Feb. 10, 2016: View of the Sagrada Familia, a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.)

Known as one of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi’s greatest works and declared the world’s most popular monument by TripAdvisor, La Sagrada Familia was started by architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano before Gaudi took over the project a year later.

[More from around the world: Sneak a Peek at World’s Largest Underwater Restaurant]

At the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project had been completed.


(Photo: La Sagrada Familia, Oct. 30, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain. Been in construction since March 19, 1882 with the donations of people.)

In the last two decades, there has been a push to finalize the building, which is currently due to be completed in 2026.

When construction began, the church was within the municipality of the town of Sant Marti de Provencals. La Sagrada Familia Foundation claims that it received an original permit from the town, but the municipality then became part of Barcelona in the 20th century.

Stained glass windows in the Basilica Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) in Barcelona

Barcelona’s suit claims that regardless of the original permit issued by Sant Marti, new paperwork should have been filed after the absorption of the city.

The suit is, of course, political. Mayor Colau campaigned on the promise to find ways around Spanish law that exempts religions and other nonprofit organizations from paying taxes. The settlement is seen as a victory for the far-left party governing Barcelona.

[Another building construction issue: Leaning Tower of... San Francisco?]

The money from the settlement will be used for transportation and improvements that will allow greater public access to the building.

Interior of La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church) - June 2017
(Photo: Interior of La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church) - June 2017)

Currently 70 percent of the Basilica is finished, with the six central towers, including the towers of the Evangelists and the Virgin Mary, under construction since December 2016.

The tower of Jesus Christ began construction in 2018, as did the symbolic elements on the upper portico of the Passion facade. The Passion facade began construction in 1954 and is officially complete.

Sagrada Familia skyline at dusk Barcelona, Spain
(Photo: Sagrada Familia skyline at dusk Barcelona, Spain)

Construction is closely mimicking the original design by Gaudi, which he left as a plaster architectural model before his death.

When completed, the tower of Jesus Christ will be the tallest pinnacle of the cathedral at 172.5 meters.


Two handpicked articles to read next:


Related Coverage