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Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church has taken over 140 years to build, why it's worth it

Sagrada Familia will officially open in 2026, marking the end of decades of delays and setbacks.

Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church has taken over 140 years to build, why it's worth it
Cover Image Source: A general view of the tourist site of the Sagrada Familia on April 25, 2024 in Barcelona, Spain.(Photo by James D. Morgan /Getty Images)

They say "slow and steady wins the race," and this couldn't be truer for Barcelona's famously unfinished Sagrada Familia church. This architectural marvel has been under construction for over 140 years and is still in a race against time. According to EuroNews, the project is now set to conclude in 2026.

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Image Source: A general view of the tourist site of the Sagrada Familia on April 25, 2024, in Barcelona, Spain (Photo by James D. Morgan /Getty Images)

The construction of this religious masterpiece began in 1882 when Bishop Urquinaona laid its cornerstone. Why has it taken over a century to complete? The reasons are many, but the main culprits are unavoidable delays and funding issues. Known as La Sagrada Familia, this iconic Barcelona attraction was designed by Antoni Gaudí, a Catalan architect famous for his modernist and nature-inspired designs. He took over the project within a year of its start and transformed it into a masterpiece. Despite his intense efforts and visionary 3D models, Gaudí knew the project wouldn't be finished in his lifetime.

 

Image Source: Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) Catalan architect c. 1882 (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)
Image Source: Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) Catalan architect c. 1882 (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)

Gaudí dedicated over 43 years of his life to this marvel, but his death in a tram accident in 1926 was the first major setback. At the time, the project was only 15 to 25% complete.

Image Source: La Sagrada Familia' stands over residential buildings on October 26, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. The first stone was laid on March 19, 1882. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Image Source: La Sagrada Familia' stands over residential buildings on October 26, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. The first stone was laid on March 19, 1882. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

A decade after Gaudi's death, the church faced its second setback in the form of the Spanish Civil War. Anarchists halted the work on the church and destroyed vital parts of the building, which significantly impacted the construction. After the end of the civil war in 1939, the construction resumed for the ambitious project but there was no major progress. From 1939 to 1986, four architects were appointed to oversee the construction, but sadly, lack of funding got in the way. The completion of the bell towers was considered a major milestone for the project in 1976.

Image Source: A general view of the tourist site of the Sagrada Familia on April 25, 2024, in Barcelona, Spain. It is the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world.
Image Source: A general view of the tourist site of the Sagrada Familia on April 25, 2024, in Barcelona, Spain. It is the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world.

Like a slow-moving train, the project started to pick momentum and in 2005, the structure's prowess was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Soon in 2007, the Spanish government handed a setback as they proposed to build an underground rail system underneath the century-old structure. Three years later, Pope Benedict XVI visited La Sagrada to dedicate it as an official basilica. The last setback for the church happened due to COVID-19 in 2020, which halted progress by two more years.

Image Source: Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd on his way from the La Sagrada Familia on November 7, 2010, in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Image Source: Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd on his way from the La Sagrada Familia on November 7, 2010, in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

In 2026, Spain will finally see the completion of one of the longest-running constructions of the present era. With the construction of the Tower of Jesus, one of the cathedral's 18 towers, set to be completed in the year, the project will finally mark its completion.



 

As of now, the architectural marvel is open to tourists and has been visited by millions of people worldwide. A stat from Sagrada Família has claimed that it had received over 3,781,000 visitors in 2022.

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