End finally in sight for project started more than 130 years ago

A group of tourists watch the facade of Spanish architect Gaudi's Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on June 28, 2015. Tourists generated 14% of municipal GDP, but these 27 million visitors in Barcelona are a headache for the new mayor Ada Colau , who wants to prevent this Mediterranean port from becoming a theme park. AFP PHOTO / QUIQUE GARCIA

TO GO WITH AN AFP STORY BY DANIEL BOSQUE        (Photo credit should read QUIQUE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

A construction project which has spanned three centuries could finally be completed in the next two decades.

Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia Basilica, designed by visionary architect Antoni Gaudi, has begun its final phase of raising six immense towers that will make it Europe’s tallest religious building..

The Sagrada Familia, a fixture of the Barcelona skyline and major tourist site, had its first stone laid in 1882. It is now 70% complete.

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Chief architect Jordi Fauli said the plan to have the towers and most of the church’s structure completed in 2026 for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death is still on schedule. But he said there will still be some elements left to finish, such as decorations.

“It’s difficult to predict but we can say that it will be completed by 2030, 2032,” he said.Advertisement

“The central tower of 172.5m will make it the tallest cathedral in Europe.”

Fauli unveiled the next phase of the construction in a newly finished chamber that formed a small amphitheatre 60m above the floor of the church from where hundreds of visitors gazed at the stained glass windows and arching ceilings.

The tower will rise directly above the chamber, which is designed to support the weight of the towers and channel sunlight into the building.

Gaudi, who died in 1926 after being struck by a trolley, never expected the cathedral to be completed in his lifetime. Only one facade was finished when he died.

Fauli took over as the chief architect in 2012. He inherited the charge of carrying on the task of making Gaudi’s drawings, some of which were only rough sketches, into the massive monument that is now reaching its conclusion.

The site received more than 3.2 million visits in 2014, making it one of the biggest tourist sites in Spain.

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