Work resumes on Sagrada Família but Covid-19 will slow it down

Construction at Barcelona’s Basilica of the Sagrada Família will begin again after being suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic in March, but for now the scope of work will narrow to completing the 138-metre-high tower of the Virgin Mary.

And a 2026 deadline for final completion of remaining spires and façades looks unlikely as dwindling tourism eats into the epic project’s finances.

The Covid suspension was only the second time in the project’s 138-year history that work has stopped; the first was during the Spanish Civil war, from 1936 to 1939.

A materpiece of the Catalan modernist architect Antoni Gaudí, who died in 1926, the basilica is thought to be around 70% complete, while work has continued on various façades and spires, such as the central, 172.5-metre-high Tower of Jesus Christ.

After Gaudí’s death, occasioned by a collision with a tram, the project has been directed by a series of chief architects who have interpreted his designs, which were not exhaustive when he died and had been partially destroyed by fire in the Civil War.

The Passion façade of the Sagrada Família in 2018. Admission fees to the basilica finance the ongoing work (Canaan/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Announcing the resumption of work on 16 September, Esteve Camps, chairman of the Junta Constructora – the board overseeing construction – said the project had "seen difficult times, but has always continued making Gaudí’s project a reality, to a greater or lesser degree."

"This time will be no different," he added.

A date of 2026 had been set for completion of the basilica, to mark the centenary of Gaudí’s death, but Camps told reporters yesterday that the pandemic had made the board rethink its schedule, reports Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK. 

On top of the six-month delay caused by the lockdown, the pandemic had reduced tourism in Barcelona, hurting the project’s finances, which rely on admission fees.

The resulting budget crunch meant work would resume at a slower pace.

The Tower of the Virgin Mary is largely complete, with only elements of its 25-metre-high pinnacle, topped with an illuminated twelve-point star, still to be installed. The Junta Constructora said that work would be finished in 2021.

Over 18-20 September, 3,000 people who won tickets will be able to visit the basilica for free to get a first-hand look at what the star looks like.

Top image: Construction proceeding on the spires of the Sagrada Família (

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