Visitors to Barcelona are set to notice something different about the city’s most iconic building. A tower at the famous Sagrada Família cathedral has been adorned with a colossal 12 point star.

The steel and glass structure known as the star of Bethlehem was maneuvered onto the Virgin Mary tower at Gaudí's famous basilica last week. According to a statement by the Sagrada Família foundation: “A great luminous star has changed Barcelona’s skyline and rises up to bring light and hope.” The star weighs 5.5 tons, is 72 meters in diameter and cost €1.5 million.

The Virgin Mary tower is the first to be completed on the building since 1976. Consisting of 800 windows, each is set to light up in blue to resemble the cloak of the Virgin Mary, when the star is officially unveiled on December 8.

The Virgin Mary tower is set to be illuminated on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception © AFP/Getty Images

The foundation has invited people around the world to be part of the illumination, which starts on December 4. The base of the Virgin Mary tower will be the first to be lit, and the lighting will climb higher and higher on consecutive days, culminating with the star of Bethlehem lighting up on December 8 at a mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Barcelona, who said the completion of the tower was “a historic moment after a year of darkness and tireless struggle”. The illumination festivities will be livestreamed here

When will Sagrada Família be complete?

The Virgin Mary tower is set to be joined by another five towers currently under construction. When completed, the building will become the tallest church in the world. The Sagrada Família was named a Unesco World Heritage site in 2019 and was expected to be completed in 2026, to mark the centenary of the death of master architect Antoni Gaudí – but its completion has been delayed due to construction being suspended during COVID-19 lockdowns. 

The gigantic star is said to change the Barcelona skyline when lit up  © AFP via Getty Images

Sagrada Família is seen as the most prominent example of Catalan modernism and the best known work of Gaudí, in a city dotted with his designs. It has been under construction for the best part of 140 years.  

Gaudí set out to build a church to reflect three phases in the life of Jesus Christ: the nativity, the passion and the glory. However, the work stopped short when the architect was killed by a tram in 1926.  Following his death, a succession of architects tried to decipher his complex geometric designs and continue the project; but work halted several times; with parts of the church destroyed by fire in the Spanish Civil War during the 1930s. Finance was an issue for many years, but the construction is now funded through thousands of anonymous donations from around the world.  The building is today the most photographed piece of architecture in Barcelona.  In pre-COVID times, Sagrada Família welcomed over 60,000 visitors every day. 

Discover La Sagrada Família, Barcelona

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