Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

1/21/2014

An Unusual Cross in Rio

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

I don't consider myself overly religious, but I do like architecture that surprises. In Rio de Janeiro, I wasn't so much impressed with the Sugarloaf mountain or even the huge Christ the Redeemer statue. What took me by surprise was the Cathedral of St. Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro.

It doesn't look like much from the outside, just a gridded conical structure (supposedly inspired by Mayan architecture.) It was gray and forbidding, much like a lot of brutalist modernist works of the time. That all changes once you step inside.



Designed by Edgar Fonceca, the Cathedral can host up to 20,000 people and stained glass windows overhead slash across the cone, creating an all-encompassing cross. It is difficult to really get a good photo of the cross, but like many things, it takes physical presence to really appreciate its immensity.

Photo via Wikipedia
If architecture is about imbuing emotion into space, this is a great example of how omnipresence is communicated with such impact. Most chapels content themselves with minimalist crosses, but not this Rio church. Much like the loud and raucous country it hails from, the cross is colorful, vibrant, and borderline ostentatious.

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