This past Friday, the famed Basílica de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona finally received its official building permit from the city — just 137 years since construction first began. The Antoni Gaudí–designed church has been in the works since 1882, but there was never a record of the 1885 building permit request being accepted or rejected, which left the project's status in limbo. Construction of the famed Roman Catholic church still has yet to be finished, but with Barcelona City Hall’s recent granting of a work permit through 2026, the UNESCO World Heritage Site may finally reach its completion.

The project has not been without controversy. La Sagrada Familia is in debt for 36 million euros, which is approximately £32 million, from its 137-year-long run without the proper building permit. The city of Barcelona is set to be paid 4.6 million euros, or £3.7 million, in fees as part of an agreement in negotiation with a foundation that is committed to the completion and preservation of La Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia finally receives nstruction permit

Janet Sanz, Barcelona’s deputy mayor for ecology, urbanism, and mobility, told the Associated Press that it is "a historical anomaly that La Sagrada Familia did not have a license,” and, understandably so, the "La Sagrada Familia team knew they could not continue like this and that they would need to pay accordingly."

Every year, more than 4.5 million visitors pay 17 to 38 euros to tour the basilica. According to the Barcelona government, an estimated “20 million tourists stand outside to marvel at the bell towers,” reports the Associated Press. Gaudí intended on building 12 bell towers, to coincide with the number of Christ’s disciples, but it is not yet clear whether his vision will be realised. If just one of these towers is completed, it will make the church “the tallest religious structure in Europe” at 566 feet tall.

Antoni Gaudí began designing the basilica after fellow architect Francisco de Paula del Villar resigned from the project in 1883, just one year after construction began. Gaudí combined Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture for his design of the church, and he continued to work on his creation until his death in 1926, whereupon he was buried in the crypt.

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