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Metropolitan Cathedral


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Top Attractions in Brasília, Brazil
Marcello Casal Jr./ABr

Updated on June 8, 2014


Designed by Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), the Metropolitan Cathedral in Brasília, one of the host cities in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, is among the city's most beautiful and visited attractions. Located on the Esplanade of Ministries, the cathedral had its cornerstone laid in the 1950s and inauguration held on May 31, 1970.

The architect said of his creation that he had avoided the darkness of old cathedrals - "reminiscent of sin", according to a document preserved by the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation (www.niemeyer.org.br). At the Metropolitan Cathedral, there's only darkness in the access gallery with black flooring and walls, which descends into the main nave, by contrast "splendidly overflowing with light and color", in Niemeyer's words. The nave with a diameter of 70 meters and a capacity for 4,000 is partially below ground level.

Sixteen arched pillars which reach out to the sky - and have been compared to hands stretched in a plea or Christ's crown of thorns - are interspersed with glass panels with a design by Marianne Peretti.

The French artist's collaborations with Oscar Niemeyer include other monumental works in glass for buildings such as the Federal Senate, the Jaburu Palace and the Juscelino Kubitschek Memorial. 

Stones thrown by demonstrators in street protest during the Confederations Cup left three of the glass panels broken, but they could be fixed at no cost because they were still in the warranty period, according to a report by Agência Brasil. 

Other great artists contributed their work to the Cathedral. Alfredo Ceschiatti, with Dante Croce, created the bronze statues of Evangelists Luke, Matthew, Mark and John standing in the square in front of the temple. He also sculpted the three angels suspended by steel cables above the nave.

The Stations of the Cross, displayed on a white marble column, are the work of Di Cavalcanti. Athos Bulcão painted the tiles which decorate the baptistry - which has a replica of Michelangelo's Pietá - and ten panels depicting passages of the New Testament, also displayed on white marble. The Virgin Mary is present in all the scenes, in all likelihood as an allusion to the dedication of the Cathedral to the Nossa Senhora Aparecida manifestation of Mary, who is also the patron saint of Brasilia. Her image in the Cathedral is a replica of the original image at the Sanctuary of Aparecida do Norte.

Pope Paul VI donated the main altar; Spain donated the four bells in the campanile.

Acoustics are among the building's top highlights: Mass can be said without a microphone; similarly to what happens in the Whispering Gallery at the Grand Central Station in New York City, you can stand by the curved walls and have a conversation in a normal voice with someone standing by another column.

Latest Restorations

Listed by the IPHAN, Brazil's National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute, the Cathedral was closed for over three years for restorations and reopened on Dec.18, 2012. The work was sponsored by Petrobras, which invested R$17M in the two-phase process with a project by Fundação Ricardo Franco (FRF).

The first phase encompassed the restoration of external glass, the facade, painting, flooring, works of art, and the hydraulic and electrical systems. The second phase recovered the water mirror, campanary, and air conditioning system.

Among the careful preservation measures was the renovation of the glass panels. The original glass panels were mouth-blown, with varying thickness, and high temperatures in the interior of the Cathedral had caused some to break. New panels manufactured in Germany and finished in Rio de Janeiro, meticulously reproducing Marianne Peretti's original design and colors, were installed.

More on the Metropolitan Cathedral from About.com Architecture.

Visitors Information:

Esplanada dos Ministérios
Eixo Monumental, Brasília - DF
Open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; see Mass schedule under "Horários de Missas" on the official website
catedral.org.br (includes a virtual panorama; see Mass schedule under "Horários de Missas")
Wheelchair-accessible (including restrooms)
Dress code: Modest attire, including long bermudas
Photography: Permitted, even with flash, except in cordoned areas.

Next page: The Cathedral lights up in national colors during the World Cup.

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