BARCELONA’S famous Sagrada Familia cathedral has become the latest victim of coronavirus.
Its final completion – 143 years after the first stone was laid – has been put back after the project was thrown into financial turmoil when tourist numbers plunged.
It had been scheduled to be completed in 2026, which is the 100th anniversary of the death of its architect Antoni Gaudi.
The cathedral relies on tourism for the vast majority of its income – with 94% of the 4.5 million people who visited the basilica last year being foreign.
It expected to take €103 million in entrance fees and donations this year, with more than half of that earmarked for the final phase of construction.
Speaking to El Pais, a cathedral official said: “We planned to use €55 million from our tourism revenue for construction. But we reduced the budget to €17 million due to a sharp drop in tourists.”
The total number of tourists to vist the basilica in July was a paltry 2,000 – last year July saw 15,600 visits a day.
Construction work was suspended in March when the nationwide state of emergency was declared in Spain to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Last year the project was finally given planning permission, 137 years after construction started.
The licence given – it was first applied for in 1885 but no record could be found that it had actually been granted – is valid until the end of 2026.
It is not known what will happen should the cathedral not be completed by then.
The licence cost the foundation in charge of the project €4.1 million in fees.
While the foundation says that the cathedral will be completed, it will not be as Gaudi originally designed it.
His plan for 12 towers, each representing one of Christ’s disciples will probably never be fulfilled. One central tower due to be completed would be Europe’s tallest religious structure at 172.5 metres tall