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Another brick in the wall for the Sagrada Família, Spain's 'three-century' unfinished cathedral
25 April 2021 @ 21:43

A FURTHER key part of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Família cathedral has been slotted into place, with the final touches and embellishments due to be added over the course of 2021.

Sagrada Família without the cranes - a taste of what it might look like one day

Constructors are back on track and expect to meet their deadline of December for the Torre de la Mare de Déu ('Virgin's Tower', or literally translated, 'Tower of the Mother of God'), after long-term plans for Europe's most famous unfinished building were scuppered due to the pandemic. 

The internationally-loved landmark is quite possibly the world's longest-running building project: Since the foundation stones were first laid, work has never stopped for more than a few months at a time and always due to extreme circumstances, such as last year's lockdown; and yet, in that time, construction engineers, planners, and visiting tourists have been born, lived to a ripe old age and died from natural causes.

And the work is still in progress.

In fact, anyone in the building industry seeking job security or a position for life could do worse than apply to join the team tackling the Sagrada Família.

The long-term goal was to have the cathedral 100% complete according to the original design of the architect, Antoni Gaudí, in 2026, the 100th anniversary year of his cruelly-ironic death after he was run over by a bus whilst crossing the road to his own creation. 

Momentous: Up goes the pinnacle, just another small (11-metre-high) spiky bit on Barcelona's famous cathedral (photo: Sagrada Família trust)

But delays caused by pandemic-related restrictions have not been the only setback; since Covid-19 first hit Europe, tourist and visitor numbers have been so badly hit that ticket sales, which have been funding the works, as well as overheads and staff salaries, for decades, have been far too low to allow any progress to be made, meaning the initial completion deadline is now open to conjecture and could be literally any time in the future. 

Depending upon how things pick up, it could well be that the cathedral is fully finished by the 105th or 110th anniversary of Gaudí's demise.

Even then, cultural historians far into the future will not know whether to call it a 19th-, 20th- or 21st-century structure, but will definitely struggle to fit any of its architectural elements neatly into the typical styles of any era over these three.

Indeed, the Sagrada Família is about as atypical as you can get – evidence of Gaudí's wacky, highly-unconventional approach to building architecture is clearly on display at the psychedelic mosaïc Parc Güell complex a few streets away, and in his red-and-green-tiled spire-shaped restaurant in Comillas, Cantabria. 

Delightfully weird and tastefully crazy, even visitors who are not usually overawed by church or cathedral architecture find the Sagrada Família a source of intrigue; it is not common to see mass taking place beneath a cubist stained-glass Virgin Mary next to a cement-mixer, or towers that look like a cross between pock-marked cacti and red-hot pokers, but Barcelona residents have been very used to seeing all this on their horizon for the last five generations.


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