La Sagrada Familia Basilica, a church in the Spanish city of Barcelona, has received formal planning rights after being under construction for the last 137 years.
Having gone unnoticed, Spanish authorities realised in 2016 that the unfinished church did not have planning permission and as such, had been operating illegally for over a century.
Construction of the church began in 1882, but there is no record of a building permit ever being granted or rejected.
According to the committee in charge of finishing construction, chief architect Antoni Gaudi requested a building permit from the town hall of Sant Marti, a village now absorbed into Barcelona, but never got a response.
Planning consent was finally granted in June 2019 by Barcelona’s City Council, allowing the project to be completed in 2026, 144 years after construction started – 100 years after Gaudi’s death.
City officials say a foundation devoted to completing and preserving the church paid €4.6 million for the permit.
The government of Barcelona estimates 20 million tourists stand outside to marvel at the bell towers. Gaudi planned to create 12 bell towers, one for each of Christ’s disciples, but it is uncertain whether they will all be built.
Ongoing construction work is based on the architect’s plaster models, photos and publications of his original drawings, which were destroyed in a 1930s fire, according to the foundation.
Once construction is completed, one of the central towers will stand 172.5 m tall and the entire building will have a ground surface area of 41,000 m2. According to the builders this will make La Sagrada Familia the tallest religious structure in Europe.