Rio de Janeiro Cathedral – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Atlas Obscura

Rio de Janeiro Cathedral

This massive Brazilian church is built like an angular, technicolor pyramid left by Mayans from the future. 


Elaborate churches can be found all across the world, showing off the glory of God through the language of architecture, but the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral may be the only one that looks like an angular beehive from the future.

Construction on the massive cathedral began in the late 1960s, and continued on into the 1970s. Designed by architect Edgar Fonseca, the modern temple was intended to echo the ancient Mayan pyramids. The church can hold as many as 20,000 people (if standing room is included), and includes a museum in the basement, a markedly more efficient use of space than the Mayans had. It also incorporates features such as ornate doors made of dozens of religious-themed bronze plaques.   

While each tilting wall of the modern pyramid is covered in small, square windows that give it the look of a space-age honeycomb, towering stained glass windows run down the center of each wall as well. The giant colored windows reach over 200 feet up from the floor, straight to the tip of the church. At the top, they connect to the four points of a crucifix-shaped skylight, that is set into the flat ceiling, made up of the same honeycomb pattern of panels as the walls.

It is the rare church that appeals to faithful religious churchgoers and godless fans of science fiction architecture, but the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral surely won’t disappoint either.   

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