Oops, Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia Has Been Building Without a Permit… for 136 Years. Now It Has to Pay a $41 Million Fee

The trustees of Gaudí’s Barcelona landmark will pay the fine over 10 years as the famous cathedral finally completes its construction.

Gaudí's Sagrada Família church in Barcelona. Photo by Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images.

The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s landmark church designed by Antoni Gaudí, has been slapped a with a €36 million fine for lacking a building permit—136 years after construction began. The fine will be paid in installments to city authorities by the trustees of Gaudí’s still unfinished masterpiece. 

Construction on the cathedral began in 1882, with Gaudí taking over the design of the building the following year. As the local council never approved it, no authority oversaw the project to ensure it complies with municipal rules. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of Barcelona’s most visited monuments, the basilica was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

The city’s mayor, Ada Colau, tweeted about the news, writing, “Historic agreement with the Sagrada Família after 130 years without a license!”

Colau broke down how the €36 million ($41 million) will be spent. The bulk of the sum, €22 million ($25 million), will go towards improving public transportation, which is somewhat poetic given that Gaudí was killed by a tram while on his daily walk to confession in 1926. Another €7 million ($8 million) will go towards improving accessibility on the city’s metro system, €4 million ($4.5 million) for redeveloping the local streets, and €3 million ($3.5 million) for maintenance, cleaning, and security. In exchange for the municipal contribution, city officials will formalize a planning permit for the building.

Colau wrote in another tweet: “After two years of dialogue, we made an agreement that will guarantee the payment of the license, secure access to the monument, and facilitate local life with improvements to public transport, and the redevelopment of the nearby streets.”

Gaudí, who is buried in the basilica’s crypt, died with three-quarters of the building left to complete. A series of architects have since continued his work painstakingly, based on the models and drawings the artist completed, however, many were lost in the Spanish Civil War.

There is continued debate over how close the current design is to the artist’s original vision. Some 30 percent of the basilica remains to be finished, which is due to take place in 2026 to mark the centenary of the Gaudí’s death.


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