Destination Rio de Janeiro, the second travel to the former capital of Brazil.
Near the Lapa Aqueduct is the Catedral São Sebastião, better known as Catedral Metropolitana.
Day 2, 13.00
It was midday when I had my warm lunch in Downtown Rio, near Biblioteca Nacional. My two years in Brazil (at the time of this travel) provided me enough experience what to assemble from a buffet. I will not opt for tasteless or taste-conflicting combinations, but I manage to select a tasteful and balanced buffet. Even the colors fit with each other! Stella, my travel companion that day, assisted me with the selection; she already had her lunch, and now she only was accompanying me. She was keen enough to indicate some delicious fish for me. And she was right, it was really delicious! Less than half an hour later, I had finished my plate and I was ready to join her in our exploration of Downtown Rio. Now it would me much easier for me: Stella is Brazilian, and I had my city map.
We did not need to argue about what we should visit next. We both had observed an obvious shape in the background, some building that looked like a funnel upside down: The Saint Sebastian Cathedral.
The cathedral was not far from Biblioteca Nacional, and not far from the restaurant where we both had our lunch. We looked at the map, before our walk. Walking around with a map in your hand is not recommended in any big city, it draws too much attention. When I need to see the map, I will not unfold it in the street: I then will go to the entrance of a store or better: the entrance of a gallery. I do the same for answering phone calls. Not in the street, but near stores or galleries. Nevertheless, you will notice many Brazilians walking in the streets, with their phones at their ears.
The conical shape of the cathedral was hard to miss, the top towers above most buildings in its direct vicinity, and is only blocked by some skyscrapers. From a distance, I already became aware that this cathedral must be huge. Of course, it could not be as immense as the giant of all Catholic Churches: Saint Peter in Vatican City. In the Holy Year 2000, I had visited Saint Peter, during a ten-day trip to Rome and Vatican City. It had been an unforgettable time in one of the historical centers in Europe. Here in Rio, the Saint Sebastian, also known as Catedral Metropolitana do Rio, is not as old as Saint Peter. Moreover, during the centuries, the cathedral was moved various times. This doesn’t say that the cathedral was moved stone by stone, but that various churches throughout Rio had gained the predicate ‘cathedral’.
Only in 1676, the first cathedral was founded in Rio. This church was constructed on the top of Morro de Castelo. This hill became leveled in 1922. In 1734, the predicate ‘cathedral’ moved to Igreja de Santa Cruz dos Militares, for only three years. Other churches as Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário and São Benedito dos Homens Pretos were its successors. With the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Court in 1808, the predicate moved again, to Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo. The archdiocese of Rio wished a new cathedral; the wish became fulfilled with the placement of the cornerstone in 1964. In 1979, the new cathedral was consecrated.
The Catedral Metropolitana is immense. Its conical shape is inspired upon ancient Mayan temples in Mexico. Architect Edgar Fonseca changed the pyramidal shape of the Mayan temple into the conical shape.
The cathedral is 75 meters high; from the inside, the ceiling is at the height of 64 meters. The outer diameter is 106 meters, the inner diameter is ten meters shorter. Inside, the area measures 8000 square meters, sufficient for 5000 seats. Without the seats, the cathedral may host no less than 20,000 believers.
As is the case with every Catholic church, the cathedral possess a cross. There is not only the giant wooden cross that is supported by six heavy cables, but the inner cupola contains the shape of a n immense Greek cross, with a diameter of no less than 30 meters. The arms of this cross extend to the four glass-stained windows that extend from base to ceiling: 65 meters long and 17 meters wide at the base, and reduced to almost 10 meters at the top.The glass-stained windows allow daylight to illuminate the church.
The images in the four glass-stained windows are based upon four Catholic themes: Una, Santa, Católica, and Apostólica. Unity, Holiness, Catholic Faith, and Propagation of Faith.
Green window: UNA (Unity).
The window symbolizes God’s people, with God as the guide. This window is located at the opposite side of the main entrance. The window contains symbols of unity and faith: the Bible, the episcopal miter, the Papal Crown, the Chalice with the Host. The window is headed southward.
Red window: SANTA (Holiness).
This window symbolizes the sufferings of Christ, the redemption of the sins of mankind The window contains images of Saint Joseph, Holy Mary, and some other saints, and the Holy Spirit. This window is headed eastward.
Blue window: CATÓLICA (Catholic Faith).
Catholic faith invites all races (white, black, red, and yellow) to participate in this faith. The window contains symbols of the four authors of the Gospel: Lion (Mark), Bull (Luke), Child (Matthew), and Eagle (John). The universality of the Catholic faith is symbolized by the glob and the Cross. This window is located above the main entrance and is headed northward.
Yellow window: APOSTÓLICA (Propagation of Faith).
The window contains the image of the first Pope: Saint Peter, with the keys. Above,there are the cross on which Christ was crucified, the M-shaped winding sheet (‘M’ stands for Holy Mary, Christ’s mother, and for the mysticism of His resurrection). This window is headed westward.
From the outside, the cathedral already looked impressive. The walls are composed of diamond-like shapes, as if it was constructed of concrete only. You are not able to see the glass-stained windows from the outside. There was a small tower next to the church, with giant church bells in the top. There was a cross on top of this tower. We went to the main entrance of the cathedral. We climbed the stairs that were flanked by man-size statues. We got our first impressions of the huge space inside the conical shaped building. When you have read the books of ‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘Da Vinci Code’, both written by Dan Brown, then your thoughts quickly will refer to these books. The pyramid shape, the symbol ‘M’, als expressions of the Illuminati. There may be more symbols that one may refer to this mysterious movement…
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom
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