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La Sagrada Familia: Spain’s Most Unique Basilica

An image of La Sagrada Familia basilica's exterior

“My client is not in a hurry,” reportedly said Antoni Gaudí, the architect behind La Sagrada Familia, when asked about the timeline for his grand project. But if Gaudí could see the state of the basilica today, he may not say the same. Construction began in 1882, but the projected finish date is 2026—144 years later.

La Sagrada Familia has a long and complicated history. The work on this building has always been slow due to the complex architecture and detailed artwork (both on the interior and exterior), but other roadblocks have stalled the construction progress. In 1936, the building was vandalized during the Spanish Civil War, and Gaudí’s studio was sacked. Countless drawings, plans, and models were destroyed, and in general, the violence of the war was a major setback.

More progress was made as the twentieth century progressed, but still more complications arose. Four different head architects led the project over the course of forty years, and no significant milestone was reached until the bell towers accompanying Gaudí’s Passion Façade were completed in 1976. Prospects became more optimistic when the basilica was dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, but a new Barcelona underground train network threatened the project in 2007.

In recent months, however, much progress has been made. In November 2021, the Star of the Virgin Mary was lifted into place, completing the tower of the Virgin Mary. If all goes according to plan, this year the towers of the Evangelists Luke and Mark will be raised, and the tower of Jesus Christ will gain three levels. When this tower is finished, it will make La Sagrada Familia the tallest church in the world.

Whether you’re able to make it to Barcelona before or after La Sagrada Familia’s completion date, be sure to prioritize a visit to the basilica. It’s a sight to behold the grand height and complex artistry—and the construction equipment.