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24 July 2013 / leggypeggy

Gobsmacked by the cathedral in Brasilia

Metropolitan Cathedral, Brasilia

From the outside, the Metropolitan Cathedral looks just black and white

Brasilia’s Catedral Metropolitana sneaks up on you and hits you between the eyes.

From the outside, the hyperboloid building, which was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, seems to be just a black and white structure—16 brilliant white, flared concrete columns, that weigh in at 90 tons each, interspersed with acres of black fibreglass.

Near the entrance are four bronze statues of the evangelists, Matthew, Mark Luke and John (each with his own pigeon or two when we were there). Sculpted in 1968, these three-metre artworks are the work of Dante Croce.

Also out the front is a bell tower with four large bells donated by Spanish residents of Brazil.

All in all, it looks impressive but with no particular wow factor. Then you enter the dark tunnel that leads into the cathedral and you begin to realise how gobsmackingly beautiful and clever it all is.

Metropolitan Cathedral, Brasilia

Stained glass creates a slice of ‘heaven’. The lightest blue is the sky outdoors

What you see from the outside is merely the cathedral’s roof. Within there is a vast space flooded with light and capped with a 360-degree, suspended ceiling of stained glass in blues, greens, white, browns and glimpses of the actual sky.

Poor John and I (wearing our shorts like everyone else) sat in one of the back pews for a long time just admiring and trying to take in the design, colours, sky and space. Marianne Peretti created this 2000-square metres of ‘heaven’ in 1990, and all pieces were handmade.

Metropolitan Cathedral, Brasilia

Three angels suspended from the ceiling

Three metal angels hang from the centre of ceiling. Designed in 1970 by Alfredo Ceschiatti, in the collaboration with Dante Croce, the angels range in length and weight from 2.2 to 4.2 metres and 100 to 300 kilograms.

The cornerstone was laid in 1958, but once the presidential term of Juscelino Kubitschek (who spearheaded the development of the new capital) ended, the push to finish many structures in Brasilia stalled.

It seems Kubitschek wanted the cathedral to be ecumenical, and to be paid for by the state and open to all faiths. But future governments did not provide funding, and the building was eventually turned over to the Catholic Church to complete. The cathedral was consecrated in 1968 (still with no roof), and officially opened in 1970.

Metropolitan Cathedral, Brasilia

More of the 360-degree stained glass ceiling

The cathedral, which is also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady  Aparecida, was extensively renovated over the last year, with work being done on the roof, stained glass, marble surfaces, angels, concrete and bell mechanisms.

P.S. We only had an afternoon in Brasilia, and Poor John and I already knew that the inner city of this created capital was well worth seeing. So we left the truck before it got to the hostel and hopped in a taxi so we could race into town and see as much as possible. As it turned out, we were the only people from the whole group who made it to the cathedral. How lucky we feel.

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  1. Joanne T Ferguson (@mickeydownunder) / Jul 24 2013 12:19 pm

    G’day and WOW , true!
    Nice to know Peggy with all of your worldwide travels with Poor John, you can STILL get gobsmacked too! 🙂 Cheers! Joanne


    • leggypeggy / Jul 24 2013 12:23 pm

      Oh yeah, we were well and truly gobsmacked, and there’s more to come.


  2. skippersy / Jul 24 2013 12:35 pm

    Simply a Bee-U-Tee-Full Cathedral… nice photos and nice that the nuns did not notice that you were wearing shorts!


    • leggypeggy / Jul 24 2013 9:14 pm

      You bet. We were a little nervous when we saw the ‘please don’t wear short’ sign, but once we saw half the visitors were wearing them, we were pretty confident. And the shorts rule didn’t appear in the guidebooks. 🙂


  3. Lesley Snow / Jul 24 2013 12:47 pm

    Just fabulous!


    • leggypeggy / Jul 24 2013 9:15 pm

      I know. I still can’t get over how beautiful it is.


      • ali / May 13 2015 5:20 am

        this work is the best architecture


      • leggypeggy / May 13 2015 2:41 pm

        You’re right. The work is completely wonderful.


  4. weggieboy / Jul 25 2013 12:51 am

    Fantastic! I think I’d avoid a pew under all that suspended metal, for fear an “angel” might descend and “take me to Heaven”!

    A spectacular building, and thanks for sharing both exterior and interiors of it.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 25 2013 1:57 am

      Good point. Fortunately there aren’t any pews under the angels, so I guess no one has to be panicky about the possibility of them ‘descending’.


  5. skippersy / Jul 25 2013 11:28 am

    I like the cathedral’s stained glass and allowing the natural outdoor sky lighting to be seen, shines through and varies depending on the weather outside and time of day. And I am sure that G-D is looking in at people praying to see who is doing a good job and who are bad by looking at their cell phone LCD screens reading text messages and replying.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 25 2013 9:10 pm

      I loved the fact we could see the sky through the stained glass—means every view, every day, is different.


  6. safelake / Aug 16 2013 2:04 am

    Reblogged this on Lavender Turquois.


  7. Sartenada / May 28 2017 4:00 pm

    Thank you for this post. These three churches are indeed gorgeous, but on our countryside, there are more beautiful churches. These churches present big churches, but on our countryside there old wooden churches which offer amazing art for example. After photographing in Finland about 440 churches, I can make my opinion.

    This is simply awesome:

    Church of Haukipudas.

    Thank you for this post. These three churches are indeed gorgeous, but on our countryside, there are more beautiful churches. These churches present big churches, but on our countryside there old wooden churches which offer amazing art for example. After photographing in Finland about 440 churches, I can make my opinion.

    Our churches offers many things, which do not exist elsewhere. For example Poor-man statues. These were presented inside of the world’s biggest church:

    Poor-man statues.

    Beautiful pulpits in our churches:

    Pulpits in churches.

    Our churches offer gorgeous Votive ships:

    Ships inside churches.

    Did You know that on countryside, many bell towers are separated from churches and there is a reason to it? Our bell towers are maybe most beautiful in the world:

    Bell towers.

    Here is my favorite church:

    Old church at Petäjävesi.

    Petäjävesi Old Church.

    Maybe these few examples open eyes that outside Helsinki there are real “gems”.
    Welcome someday to travel outside Helsinki and explore what “real” Finland offers.

    Happy and safe travels!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 28 2017 4:23 pm

      Oh wow, thank you for all those links. I’m sure this list will help fellow travellers. Now I need to return to Finland to see more churches. 🙂


      • Sartenada / May 28 2017 6:16 pm

        Thank You appreciating my post. If You visit Brazil and Rio de Janeiro, why not visit at the same time Penedo – Little Finland. I have more information at the end of this post:

        Airing national costumes .

        There You can dance old Finnish dances on Saturday, buy Finnish products, visit Saunas and maybe to meet Santa. Penedo is awesome.


        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / May 29 2017 1:09 am

        Oh my, thank you for this information and the link. I hadn’t heard of Penedo, but I will certainly visit if I return to Brazil.



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