It only took 137 years, but the Sagrada Familia finally has its first official building permit. Barcelona’s historic Antoni Gaudí-designed church has been under construction since 1882 and is already a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but has surprisingly been without a construction permit. Now, work on the church—which is 70% complete—can continue without interruption.
The news broke when Barcelona’s deputy mayor for ecology, urbanism, and mobility, Janet Sanz, tweeted a photo of herself signing the official documents. Under the permit, the Sagrada Familia will be able to keep its timeline and complete construction in 2026. While there’s still a lot to do—only 8 of its 18 spires have been finished—the permit is a big step in the right direction.
Of course, a building permit doesn’t come without costs and the city of Barcelona made no exceptions for the Sagrada Familia. The church will pay €4.6 million ($5.2 million) to the city for the permit in addition to the €36 million ($40.7 million) it had previously agreed to pay in order to cover the expenses generated by the construction. While this may seem like a hefty fee, the Gaudí masterpiece is a big money maker for the Roman Catholic Church. More than 3 million people a year flock to the Sagrada Familia, making it Barcelona’s most visited site.
Though it may seem odd that it took so long for the permits to arrive, the Sagrada Familia hasn’t had an ordinary history. Gaudí himself took over the project from another architect, completely changing the design. He dedicated the rest of his life to it until he was tragically killed by a tram just outside the construction site in 1926. At that point, only 20% of the church had been completed, and with the Spanish Civil War causing a halt in construction, things moved along slowly.
If all things move as planned, however, the end is in sight. Once the main spire is raised, the Sagrada Familia will take its rightful role as the tallest church in the world and Gaudí’s complete vision will finally become a reality.