This city's iconic Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) basílica, begun in the 1880s, will be completed in 15 to 17 years, the outgoing president of the foundation overseeing the project said Tuesday.

"In two or three years the sacristy will be finished, which will be like a dress rehearsal for completing the great central tower that will be some 170 meters (560 feet) tall," Joan Rigol said.

Designed by legendary architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), the unfinished structure is a World Heritage Site and Barcelona's most-visited landmark.

Work began this month on the foundation of the sacristy, a domed construction with parabolic structuring designed to rise some 40 meters (130 feet) high.

"In a little more than seven years," Rigol said, "we'll reach the top of the central tower, which will soar above the intersection of nave and transept and for which construction will begin in a couple of years."

This central tower will be crowned with a four-armed cross that can be reached by an elevator and stairways.

Chief architect Jordi Bonet has said that "after finishing the interior naves, the next important goal is to build the six central towers, five of which are already under construction, those of the Four Evangelists and the one over the apse."

The appearance of Sagrada Familia has changed in recent weeks with the installation of scaffolding some 85 meters (280 feet) high that "will be used for building the central towers."

Before the end of the year, the first stained glass will be placed in the windows of the principal nave, the work of artist Joan Vila-Grau.

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