The unusual, ultra-modern and totally-unique temple – the inside of which is split almost equally between the mass area, the tourist trail and the cement-mixer zone – remains unfinished to this day, but work has never stopped on it since the 1920s.
Plans are afoot to have it completed by June 2026, exactly 100 years after its creator, Antoni Gaudí, met his end when hit by a bus whilst crossing the street to his very own masterpiece.
In total, it will have 18 towers, or spires, and will stand at 172.5 metres in height, once finished.
The six central spires are currently being built – four for the Evangelists, the Mary Tower, and the final pièce de résistance, the Jesus Christ Tower, which will be the highest of all and will take eight years to construct.
The first row of bricks will be laid by the end of this year if everything goes to plan, and it will be the final part of the cathedral to be completed, according to Esteve Camps, managing director of the Sagrada Família Foundation, during a press conference at 85 metres above the ground.
Reporters braved vertigo to attend the announcement on the part of the cathedral that will become the base for the Jesus Christ Tower.
Milestones are gradually being ticked off – by the year 2020, the still-unfinished cathedral will be the highest building on the Barcelona skyline, and by 2022, the 17-metre cross on the roof will be finalised.
Certain decorative elements are unlikely to be finished by the June 2026 deadline, but the actual construction will be and is expected to see hundreds of thousands of tourists and reporters converge on it the day the building site is cleared away.
Tourists are, in fact, the ones to be thanked for the progress made so far – the Sagrada Família’s construction, and maintenance of the existing building are funded entirely from visitor tickets.
But as one of Spain’s, if not Europe’s, most highly-rated tourist attractions, work on the cathedral has always been non-stop as funding from holidaymakers is an endless and lucrative source.
Whilst some may be put off by the queues stretching far around the block, in practice the wait to get inside is rarely more than 20 minutes to an hour, which is a tiny price to pay to see this surreal and splendid structure – and the price in financial terms is very inexpensive for such a weird and wonderful globally-acclaimed monument.
The four million annual visitors have made it possible for €50 million to be invested in the works this year and in 2017.
And normally, this four million figure would have been higher, had it not been for terrorist attacks on the Ramblas on August 17 last year leading to a lean eight months as international sightseers gave Barcelona a swerve out of fear – although, since June 2018, visitor numbers are starting to skyrocket in comparison as the attacks become a distant memory for many people elsewhere in the world and those who have not forgotten put them in perspective: that the probability of a terror attack in peacetime is statistically very low, and that they could happen in any large city.
Barcelona worked hard after the attacks – the authors of which were either dead or in jail within 24 hours – to remind potential visitors that Spain is, in terms of violent crime, one of the safest countries in the world.