Designed largely by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, work on this extraordinary Roman Catholic Church in the suburbs of Barcelona began in 1882 and have yet to be finished. 

The still controversial project, officially known as the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, was instigated by bookseller Josep Maria Bocabella who had been inspired to build a church after visiting the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy.

La Sagrada Familia Nativity Facade

PICTURE: C messier (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The cornerstone was laid on 19th March, 1882, and construction, which began in the crypt, was originally started under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar in 1882.

Originally planned as a standard form Gothic revival church, it took a sharp change of direction the following year when Villar resigned due to creative differences and Gaudi subsequently took over, transforming the property into a fantastical fusion of Gothic and art nouveau styles.

Gaudi, whose first task was the construction of the crypt - which was completed in 1889, went fulltime on the project from 1914 but at the time of his death in 1926, it was less than a quarter complete (and only one of the towers - a 100 metre tall bell tower dedicated to St Barnabas and located on the Nativity facade). 

The project, which was funded by private donations, was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and in July, 1936, revolutionaries set fire to the crypt and broke into Gaudi's workshop, partly destroying his plans and models (it took 16 years to restore the master model).

Construction resumed in the 1950s and in more recent years has been vastly aided by advances in computerised design techniques. It is now anticipated that the building will be complete by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi's death.

The building is one of seven Gaudi designed in Barcelona which are protected under a World Heritage listing - specifically the facade and crypt of the church (the latter is where Gaudi himself is buried). 

In November, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church and designated it a "minor basilica".

Interestingly, a work permit was finally awarded to the project - currently estimated to be about 70 per cent complete - earlier this year, 137 years after construction first began.