Published: May 30th 2012May 29th 2012
Brazil is known to be a Catholic country and this is evident on the streets of Rio de Janeiro where you can find an enormous number of churches. Each one however, is very different to the one before. There are churches of all sizes and styles. I visited a few of these and was struck by the huge differences in appearance and feeling.
On Easter Sunday we celebrated Mass in a relatively modern church on the beach in Florianopolis. This was a rather lively catholic mass with an established and popular band who led the singing of the hymns. The words were projected onto the walls and the sound system was new and very effective. Inside the church, there was little in terms of decoration and the walls were very clean and pure. The feeling inside this church was one of people coming together and worshipping as a community, a warmth that welcomed you.
In Rio de Janeiro, I have visited two very different places of worship. The first was the Candelária, a beautiful church built in the late 1700s who has found fame for tragic reasons, which I will leave you to research or remember for yourselves. The
building is situated in a very busy part of town and at night the steps and surrounding area become home to sleeping children who have nowhere else to go, a stark contrast to the lavish interior. Inside of the church, there is a feeling of solemnity, as soon as you enter you are aware that you are in a place where depth of emotion has been expressed. The feeling is overwhelming and almost upsetting. Looking up onto the delicately painted ceilings and feeling the cold of the expensive and luxurious marble, you can see breathtaking beauty, yet the feeling that the building gives you is more grave than this. Here you become internally aware of the seriousness that the work of religion can hold.
Somehow I expected the feelings that the Candelária gives to you be more suited to the very modern São Sebastião Cathedral that is also located in Rio. This building is shaped as an enormous cone that stands 96 metres tall and is made mainly from concrete. From the outside I thought it was possibly one of the ugliest buildings that I had seen however the minute that you stepped into the cool air inside the
cathedral your opinion changed completely. Inside the four stained glass panels that reach from floor to ceiling come to life as the brightness of the Rio sun streams through, lighting the room with colour and energy. The Cathedral is very large and can hold upto 20,000 people at any one time. On entering the Cathedral, you genuinely feel uplifted. The sense of gravity from the Candelária is replaced with a feeling of peace and contentment. All memories of the grey, prison like structure seen from the outside is instantly replaced with calm and happiness. Shattering all my first impressions this quickly became one of my favourite places of worship.
Seeing the different styles and the surprising feelings that they evoked was a real experience and a reminder not to judge a book by its cover, you never know what could be held within.