sagrada (Photo: The Sagrada Familia church, with chairs outside for the consecration Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on Saturday, 5 Nov 2010/Albert Gea)

For decades tourists have visited the twisting spires of Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia church, but 128 years after construction began Catholic faithful will worship there for the first time on Sunday.

Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass to give his official blessing to the church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, whose sculptural masterpieces dot the city in the region of Catalonia.

The pope consecrates Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) during a visit to northern Spain where on Saturday he joins pilgrims at the shrine to St. James, Spain’s patron saint, in Santiago de Compostela.

sagrada 2 (Photo: The Sagrada Familia church, 4 Nov 2010/Albert Gea)

While work is not scheduled to finish for many more years on the intricate and colorful Sagrada Familia, enough has been done to welcome the pontiff, including installing last minute stained-glass windows.

Jordi Bonet Armengol, chief architect of the cathedral and seventh successor to Gaudi, hopes the pope’s visit will provide the boost needed to finish the work.