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Largest church in the world
January 27, 2008 9:03 AM   Subscribe

The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), is the largest church in the world1. Completed in 1990 for about $300 million by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny - with profits skimmed from the slave labor best cocoa (chocolate) industry - in the small rural town of his birth, it sits today in the bush a vast empty palace of marble and crystal gawked at by the occasional backpacker. Among other trappings it has the only airport big enough in Africa to take the Concorde, a presidential palace with a lake stocked with scores of Sacred Caymans (crocodiles,) and a mansion next to the Basilica reserved exclusively for the Pope on visits from Rome (used once). The President enjoyed his complex for less than 3 years before dieing in 1993.
posted by stbalbach (66 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't understand that Concorde claim. The plane landed regularly in dozens of African cities, especially Dakar, during the 1970s and 1980s.

Odd that the Catholic church got into a tiff about the dome height... is pride still considered one of the deadly sins?
posted by crapmatic at 9:18 AM on January 27, 2008


President Félix Houphouët-Boigny - with profits skimmed from the slave labor best cocoa (chocolate) industry

Could you support or at least explain this claim?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:29 AM on January 27, 2008


LOL...umm... Xtians? Africans? Popes? Human vanity?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:31 AM on January 27, 2008


Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, Werner Herzog, and Kalus Kinski were unavailable for comment.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:36 AM on January 27, 2008


before dieing in 1993----->dying
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:39 AM on January 27, 2008


The President enjoyed his complex for less than 3 years before dieing (sic) in 1993.

Some have suggested it was built mainly to provide a backdrop for his funeral. It certainly wasn't built for the 15% Christian population.
posted by smackfu at 9:46 AM on January 27, 2008


What a tremendous, opulant monument to Not Getting the Concept.

The fact that the church consecrated it would make me lose more respect for them if such a thing was possible.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:47 AM on January 27, 2008


the Yamoussoukro Basilica cost USD$300m

That's a mighty fine investment for a country of 18 million people, a horrendous number of whom are dying of AIDS because asswipes in political power wish to build monuments to their own greed.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:51 AM on January 27, 2008


The President enjoyed his complex for less than 3 years before dieing in 1993.

At least he ended well.

The pope ought to fly in there, make it his winter palace, and lead mass there a few times a week for half of the year. Then at least the pilgrims would make the place pay off while he pushed Catholicism on Africa.
posted by pracowity at 9:52 AM on January 27, 2008


Could you support

Kevin Bales (2007). Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves, page 186 and page 193.
posted by stbalbach at 9:52 AM on January 27, 2008


That's a mighty fine investment for a country of 18 million people, a horrendous number of whom are dying of AIDS because asswipes in political power wish to build monuments to their own greed.

and i'm certain your country would never do anything so silly.

i wonder if he's buried there. that's one hell of a pyramid he's got there. what would the estimated cost for building the great pyramids of giza be these days, hmmm?
posted by mr_book at 9:56 AM on January 27, 2008


See also the documentary Slavery: A Global Investigation (2001), free download. It shows the cocoa slaves in Ivory Coast in a fairly disturbing way. It was this film that rocked the American and English chocolate companies and has led to some big changes in the industry since.
posted by stbalbach at 10:00 AM on January 27, 2008


The Concorde claim makes me skeptical of the rest of the article, but yes, if the church sanctioned this construction (petty politics over height, or not) then it is not LOLXtians at all, it is FUXtians.

But really, this is a fascinating subject for a post but a pretty weak link. Five seconds of googling turns up first person accounts, more photos than the single FPP one, video and audio tours (ram files, so hey), an article from Time, an article from Salon, great photos here, more photos from flickr,

References within a scholarly article (PDF).

Even a half decent wikipedia entry.
posted by Rumple at 10:11 AM on January 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


Modelled largely along the lines of St Peter's in Rome that took 109 years to build, the Yamoussoukro Basilica cost USD$300m and took 1,500 largely-Ivorians just three years to construct.

Easy. Those Largely-Ivorians are like eight feet tall.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:26 AM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Waste of money that could have been better spent elsewhere? Yes.
Monument to self-aggrandizement? Yes.
Stunningly beautiful? Yes.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:36 AM on January 27, 2008


"The Pope consecrated the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in 1990, but today the Foundation Stone for the proposed hospital stands forlornly in an adjacent unkempt field.".

This about sums it up.
posted by lalochezia at 11:14 AM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish I could get a better sense of the size, but I think the only way to do that would be to visit. People tell me that St Peters in Rome is just incomprehensible until you see it in person.

Yes, this is a sad story. It is a fascinating building, but it was built on much misery. I'm still learning about African history, but just thinking about the recent past, many places in Africa have had (or still have) a crisis of leadership. Bad declonization, interference from Western powers (who have preferred dictators who would support them to democratic leaders who disagreed with them), and sheer greed and power mongering from leaders has really hurt many countries. A fashion in the world markets against regulation and controls - even of slave labour - doesn't help.

Maybe we can all agree that labelling of products and certifying as non-slave produced is a good thing - not just some chocolate (or coffee, etc) voluntarily being labelled "fair trade", but all having to carry a label saying either "no slave labour" or "may contain slave labour". We do this for nuts.

Now I actually have to go read more about the 1880s and the scamble for Africa. (No, seriously).
posted by jb at 11:19 AM on January 27, 2008


Stunningly beautiful? Yes.

I'm not sure I'd describe it as stunningly beautiful. There's more than a whiff of shopping mall neoclassical about it.
posted by rhymer at 11:28 AM on January 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's not beautiful in my eyes. Another case of worhsipping the temple instead of the god.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:38 AM on January 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Google Maps overhead imagery
posted by pax digita at 11:38 AM on January 27, 2008


Wow, a corrupt Ivory Coast despot builds a temple to his arrogance and everyone here blames the Catholic Church?! What? That's like blaming the Ryugyong Hotel on the hospitality industry.

Sure this would have been better spent on a multitude of other things for the people of the region, and I'm sure every part of the process of planning and construction are absolutely corrupt, but we're talking about a region of the world where treasuries are looted for petty regional conflicts, a $300 million pyramid suddenly looks sort of benign.

Don't blame organized religion for what better can be explained by narcissism and corruption.
posted by geoff. at 11:44 AM on January 27, 2008


Uh, geoff, the Pope consecrated it.
posted by Rumple at 11:48 AM on January 27, 2008


Wow, a corrupt Ivory Coast despot builds a temple to his arrogance and everyone here blames the Catholic Church?!

I love churches even though I am an atheist. However, my enjoyment of the stunning architectural achievement is ALWAYS tempered by the reasons and methods of their building. It is one of those bittersweet things that makes the enjoyment poignant. One man building this is not really different from a religion building it. Wasted money, wasted lives, wasted charity yet still...impressive.
posted by srboisvert at 11:59 AM on January 27, 2008


Not only was it consecrated by the pope, but the Vatican must have been involved in the design process as the pope had a clear case of dome envy -- at least according to the article.
posted by sundri at 12:08 PM on January 27, 2008


mr_book Hard to say what the pyramids cost. We could build pyramids today, I'm sure, for vastly less than it cost back when the Pharos built 'em.

Accurate numbers are hard to get. It is generally accepted that the Great Pyramid at Gaza took about 20 years to build. Figures for the workforce are disputed. At the low end its estimated to have been around 100,000 and at the high end as many as 300,000.

If we use the low end estimate that means the GP took two million man-years to construct. Today wages of USD 0.50 per day are fairly typical in third world nations and near-slavery conditions. If we assume about that much pay for the pyramid workers it works out to about 365 million US dollars.

The high end estimate gives us six million man years, and a total cost of 1.09 billion US dollars.

But the real question is: what's your point?

Who cares what the pyramids cost relative to the Roman Catholic Church's latest Giant Phallic Symbol? Does the existence of the pyramids make the insane waste of resources spent on this Giant Phallic Symbol any more or less obscene? People are frickin' starving in Côte d'Ivoire. The nation has an AIDS rate that is staggering. Its economy just plain sucks ass. The expenditure of $300,000,000 on infrastructure, sex ed and condoms, economic bootstrapping, or just about anything other than a useless Giant Phallic Symbol would have actually helped the people of Côte d'Ivoire. As it is, the Giant Phallic Symbol doesn't even draw very many tourists.
posted by sotonohito at 12:12 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


So are you saying that it is a giant phallic symbol?
posted by vronsky at 12:23 PM on January 27, 2008


Odd that the Catholic church got into a tiff about the dome height... is pride still considered one of the deadly sins?

Rome's main complaint was about how they were spending millions on an outsized church that could have been going to poverty or education programs.

JPII eventually consecrated it on the condition that Houphouët-Boigny build a hospital. The hospital, of course, has never been built.
posted by dw at 12:25 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not to mention, the great cathedrals of Europe were built by the church on the foundation of a feudal, serf society. It's not like this is the first time the church has put mammon before god.
posted by Rumple at 12:36 PM on January 27, 2008


dw: Rome's main complaint was about how they were spending millions on an outsized church that could have been going to poverty or education programs.

JPII eventually consecrated it on the condition that Houphouët-Boigny build a hospital. The hospital, of course, has never been built.


Like the church cares. They got what they wanted - a magnificent building that will get them prestige, money, and converts, and a complaint on the record that will let apologists explain away their obvious lack of actual concern for the poor. The church has a millennia-old policy of not actually caring about human suffering, but putting up a facade that they do.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:36 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


In fact, lack of human suffering would put them out of business.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:41 PM on January 27, 2008


Not to mention, the great cathedrals of Europe were built by the church on the foundation of a feudal, serf society.

no, they were built by the nobles and the craftsmen who wanted to showcase their religious beliefs, their vanity, and their ability to build - the church was quite happy to have it done and often suggested it, but it didn't happen just by their own efforts
posted by pyramid termite at 12:45 PM on January 27, 2008


The money ultimately came from the peasants, pyramid termite eponysterical!, so it is proximate vs ultimate causes, with the Church being the willing beneficiary. So, as you suggest, they were built for the church, not just by the church, but also surely not in a spirit of willing gift-giving but under a church-controlled system of spiritual kickbacks.

Complete financial records for the outlay required to finish construction do not exist for
even a single cathedral. Instead, the archives are peppered with fragmentary notes about the unit
prices of certain materials, payments to specific individuals at various points in time, or the total
outlay for a given period of construction. It is a slender base upon which to reconstruct the
typical cost of bringing forth a cathedral from start to finish. Nonetheless, Henry Kraus has
pieced some of this evidence together to suggest that a typical cathedral under a normal rate of
construction required approximately 1,000 livres annually in the 12th century to maintain an
active campaign (Kraus, Gold was the Mortar, 1979: 193-94). This number would have been
both higher and more volatile in the 13th century, on account of debasements of the coinage, a
practice increasingly resorted to by the French crown as a means of revenue collection. Early
work by James on pricing the construction of Chartres using retrospective costing based on the
bulk billing techniques relied on by modern quantity surveyors, leads to the conclusion that this
magnificent cathedral built in record time cost about the same as the Sydney Opera House, not
inclusive of the latter’s mechanical equipment (that is just over 50 million dollars in 1972--
James, 1972: 56). It is hard to know just what to make of such an estimate. On the one hand, the Opera House hardly represents a crushing financial outlay, 102 million (inclusive of the
mechanical equipment) at completion in 1973. On the other hand, the cathedral at Chartres was
neither a lone achievement, nor was it built by a population of anywhere near the size of late 20th century Sydney. For the latter to have built a population-adjusted amount commensurate to the total ecclesiastical construction within the Paris Basin over the century and a half between 1120 and 1270, would require that Sdyney build three Opera Houses per each of the nine
municipalities within the larger metropolis over that same stretch of time
(Ibid: 57). source

posted by Rumple at 1:02 PM on January 27, 2008


The money ultimately came from the peasants

what money? - they paid their "taxes" with labor or produce

So, as you suggest, they were built for the church, not just by the church, but also surely not in a spirit of willing gift-giving but under a church-controlled system of spiritual kickbacks.

it's much more complicated than that - all through that time, it was a constant source of controversy whether the priests would rule or the nobles would rule - further complicated in that they were often related to one another and both priest and nobleman were more interested in wielding power for their families or vassals, than for "the church"

the problem is that you're judging their society on our terms and our commercial customs and it really doesn't work
posted by pyramid termite at 1:15 PM on January 27, 2008


what money? - they paid their "taxes" with labor or produce

And the fruits of their labour were spent on cathedrals. It's not about the taxes, its about the opportunity costs of building cathedrals.

Re: presentism, sure, the medieval comparison is just fucking around, except, the Ivory Coast example shows that 15 years ago the Church was still in its medieval mindset. But maybe we shouldn't judge the church of 15 years ago either.
posted by Rumple at 1:20 PM on January 27, 2008


Not just the Concorde, but the Space Shuttle, had several African airports large enough (runways ca. 3800m). Primarily Ben Guerir, but also Kano (Nigeria), Casablanca, and Dakar.

Also, one of the Concorde's first experimental flights was to Johannesburg.

None of this undermines the point that it was hubris to build such an airport for Yamoussoukro, a city which is exceeded in population by Fremont, California.
posted by dhartung at 1:25 PM on January 27, 2008


It's not about the taxes, its about the opportunity costs of building cathedrals.

what else would have they done with those resources? not what YOU would have done - what would have THEY done, with their knowledge at that time?

the Ivory Coast example shows that 15 years ago the Church was still in its medieval mindset

no, it shows that the president was still in a medieval mindset - it ought to be obvious to anyone that he was going to build that church whether the pope approved or not
posted by pyramid termite at 1:28 PM on January 27, 2008


Like the church cares. They got what they wanted - a magnificent building that will get them prestige, money, and converts, and a complaint on the record that will let apologists explain away their obvious lack of actual concern for the poor. The church has a millennia-old policy of not actually caring about human suffering, but putting up a facade that they do.

That's just a staggeringly ignorant statement from beginning to end. I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school. I'm an atheist now, but it was my Catholic moral upbringing that invested me with my current very liberal world-view. The idea of poverty, charity, humility, caring for the poor, etc was something that pressed on me from the first grade. The Catholic church, unlike other Christian religions tells its adherents that faith isn't enough to get you into heaven, you also need to do good for your fellow man.

Leaving Mother Theresa aside (since I think we all know about the at-best dubious morality of her mission), the Catholic church (as an institution and its members individually) spends billions of dollars on charity every year, feeding, educating and caring for the poor and sick.

I disagree STRONGLY with the Church's position on birth control, which causes untold misery and death in the third world, but the Church and Church membership DOES care about the poor.
posted by empath at 1:45 PM on January 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


People overestimate the amount of power the Pope has, btw. There was no way he was going to stop that guy from building that Church. It was a done deal.
posted by empath at 1:46 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


what else would have they done with those resources? not what YOU would have done - what would have THEY done, with their knowledge at that time?

Who knows? Not taxed them at all? Maybe run some more of those Christian Charities that existed back then, too? Orphanages? Alms Houses? Though maybe the cathedrals were the TVA of the day.... You seem to imply that the money was going to be extracted from the peasants anyhow, but maybe not, and maybe even within the realm of other things the Church was ostensibly committed to, and indeed did spend money on, it is not unreasonable to argue the money could have been spent in a different way without invoking presentism.

no, it shows that the president was still in a medieval mindset - it ought to be obvious to anyone that he was going to build that church whether the pope approved or not

And yet .... the church ..... approved.
posted by Rumple at 1:51 PM on January 27, 2008


So what's the answer? It would seem to me that this is the point where the faithful Catholics with sense start petitioning the Vatican for the deconsecration of the church to turn the building into something more useful to the population of the city and country, like a combination AIDS outreach center and educational facility and so on. If poorly attended parishes across the US can be closed and combined with one another and the churches turned into nightclubs and brewpubs and upscale condominium buildings, then the same should be done here.
posted by Dreama at 1:53 PM on January 27, 2008


empath I'll agree unreservedly that the Church's *membership* cares about the poor. As for the Church itself [1], I rather strongly doubt it.

The Church runs hospitals, not free. The Church runs schools, also not free. The Church runs adoption agencies, also not free.

The Vatican keeps its financial records strictly secret, so we have no idea, really, how much the Church actually spends on the poor. I'd guess little to none. Admittedly that guess is based largely on the fact that Mother Theresa sent large sums given to her ministry (and intended to be used to benefit the poor) back to the Vatican, but it hardly seems reasonable to guess that Mother Theresa's action was unique.

[1] By which I mean the upper echelons of the hiearchy, say Bishops and above.
posted by sotonohito at 1:59 PM on January 27, 2008


Uh, geoff, the Pope consecrated it., also, And yet .... the church ..... approved.

I think the misunderstanding is with how Catholicism works, the hierarchy involved and the political stature of the Vatican at the time. The "Church" is not a single entity with a Hapsburg like bureaucracy. It is in many ways a top-down organization and in just as many ways, a bottom up, organic entity. For every dogma beating Irish Catholic stereotype I've met, I've also encountered Jesuits who have backgrounds so liberal that it'd make a Peace Corps volunteer look like a College Republican. I think most telling is the designation of basilica and not a cathedral. It means a lot when you build the world's largest church and the seat of the bishop doesn't transfer to it. That's more than just a mild slap in the face and a somewhat clever political move.

But the Pope consecrated it? That's not really that big of a deal, and he only went on the condition that a hospital be built in its place. Who would the Pope have been benefiting by not consecrating it? The poor people who were exploited and who toiled in building the church? I think, personally, the same people who were fucked out of getting a hospital and who were fucked out of using their funds to more directly would have been even more fucked had their work been chastised. It is not as if you could sell a $300 million Basilica and send it to Utah or something. It is there to stay whether or not the Pope does a little ceremony or not, at least give the people what they built.

So we can look at this from the view of punishing one man who exploited people and his country to build a monument to himself, or at least giving the people who were exploited something to be proud and not give them another slap in the face. I know this is hard for all us non-church going liberal elites to grasp, but it is sort of like an Anglo-Saxon version of Carnegie building a huge library or museum. What are we going to do? Tear it down? Not put books in it?

While I strongly disagree with the Catholic Church and JPII on a whole range of issues, I will have to say that in this paticular case he made a slick political move. He didn't give the church the credence that this corrupt administration wanted (hey if a church even a quarter of that cost was built anywhere else and wasn't made into a cathedral, it would be a big deal), while still not screwing over the generations who have to live with it by making it into a architectural wonder for the occasional backpacker.
posted by geoff. at 2:17 PM on January 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


Who knows? Not taxed them at all? Maybe run some more of those Christian Charities that existed back then, too? Orphanages? Alms Houses?

all that depended on whether the crops came in or not

You seem to imply that the money was going to be extracted from the peasants anyhow

the amount of labor and produce, not money, that was extracted from the peasants was set down by the feudal lords, NOT the church, unless of course, the church itself owned the land in question

yes, it would have been extracted anyhow - and it probably would have gone to luxuries for the nobles

it is not unreasonable to argue the money could have been spent in a different way without invoking presentism.

it's only unreasonable if you can't come up with a realistic program that the nobles, who controlled much of this money, would have subscribed to

and you haven't, have you? your argument, as far as you have one, isn't just based on the flaw of presentism, it's also based on the fallacious idea that the church of those days had dictatorial power over all

And yet .... the church ..... approved.

no, they consecrated the church, with the stipulation that a hospital be built - you're certainly not going to argue that the money would be less wasted if they'd refused to do that, are you?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:18 PM on January 27, 2008


the amount of labor and produce, not money, that was extracted from the peasants was set down by the feudal lords, NOT the church, unless of course, the church itself owned the land in question

which they did in large part own, but ok.


it's only unreasonable if you can't come up with a realistic program that the nobles, who controlled much of this money, would have subscribed to


Not at all. I am just noting that if we are agreeing that it is accurate to equating the nobles buying trinkets with the church building pyramids, then I rest my case, such as it is.


no, they consecrated the church, with the stipulation that a hospital be built - you're certainly not going to argue that the money would be less wasted if they'd refused to do that, are you?


I take geoff's point above, but consecrating it, including sending the presence of the Pope, sure looks like approval to me. The subtlety of the basilica vs. cathedral argument surely stems from the long theological tradition of splitting hairs. To the rest of the world, the symbolism is pretty clear, alright, and the theological subtleties mean squat. And, as pointed out, the hospital was not built, and still is not built, and yet, the church could have built it had they the will -- they srely have the way -- and perhaps building the hospital might have sent a better message about the Christ they claim to channel than engaging in theological spin-doctoring.

Who "owns" that church anyway? The diocese? Could they sell it to Donald Trump?
posted by Rumple at 2:29 PM on January 27, 2008


empath: I disagree STRONGLY with the Church's position on birth control, which causes untold misery and death in the third world, but the Church and Church membership DOES care about the poor.

Well, when I say the church, I mean the leadership. Like in the Republican party, I'm sure a significant proportion of the lower echelons and followers are good although misguided. However, the upper leadership is corrupt and amoral, concerned only with their own aggrandizement and success.

Why do you think they've clung so desperately to their anti-birth-control policies? Is it because it's some sacred edict from some mysterious God only the Pope gets to talk to, or because every unplanned pregnancy that occurs due to it will probably be another catholic, giving money and lending power to the church leadership?

As far as the pope lacking power, he could have publically denouced it. That would be good enough for me.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:34 PM on January 27, 2008


I am just noting that if we are agreeing that it is accurate to equating the nobles buying trinkets with the church building pyramids, then I rest my case, such as it is.

how you could get that out of what i said is beyond me

The subtlety of the basilica vs. cathedral argument surely stems from the long theological tradition of splitting hairs.

it's an organizational and episcopal argument, not a theological one - and it's not all that subtle

by the way, if you zoom out far enough, you'll notice a couple of other impressive looking structures - and a golf course

i have no idea who's responsible for the other buildings but if jack nicklaus ever played there it's plainly the pga's fault - or scotland's to start with - certainly not some monument obsessed president's in a 3rd world country

i'm sure that logic makes perfect sense to you

oh, how long, how long will the peasantry suffer the cruel exploitation of vain oppressors who go around trying to knock balls in holes with crooked sticks?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:49 PM on January 27, 2008


yes, it would have been extracted anyhow - and it probably would have gone to luxuries for the nobles


How am I meant to read that, other than you meaning that the peasants were going to have wealth extracted from them anyhow, and since it otherwise would go to luxuries for the nobles, then it might as well go to building cathedrals?


i'm sure that logic makes perfect sense to you


Not really. The PGA does not pretend to be the medium of God's word on earth and its actions are not generally imbued with moral qualities, nor does it spend a considerable amount of time flooding the world with sanctimonious rhetoric on how to live our life, nor does it have a long history of forcibly converting people to golf. Plaid, yes.

But hey, if you want to say this cathedral is ok because there is a golf course next to it AND Jack Nickolaus didn't object to that, then FORE. Play through!
posted by Rumple at 3:00 PM on January 27, 2008


The PGA does not pretend to be the medium of God's word on earth

when you understand that it was the NOBLES who financed these cathedrals, for the most part, and not the church, get back to me

if you want to say this cathedral is ok

when you understand that it was the PRESIDENT who financed that church and not rome, get back to me

bye
posted by pyramid termite at 3:08 PM on January 27, 2008


When you understand that the nobles did it to gain the approval of the church ...

When you understand the Pope approved of the church building exercise by consecrating it ...

I mean, really, excusing the church based on their crimes of omission? Wow.
posted by Rumple at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2008


oh, how long, how long will the peasantry suffer the cruel exploitation of vain oppressors who go around trying to knock balls in holes with crooked sticks?

I don't know, but this peasant is pretty fucked off about it and isn't ruling out revolting against them some time soon.
posted by Mocata at 3:15 PM on January 27, 2008


if you want to say this cathedral is ok

Not a cathedral.
posted by smackfu at 4:10 PM on January 27, 2008


Not a cathedral

posted by Rumple at 4:14 PM on January 27, 2008


The PGA does not pretend to be the medium of God's word on earth

True, but can churches can win when it comes to buildings? They build a utilitarian airplane hanger church and are accused of lack of taste. They build an ornate architectural wonder and are accused of wasting money that should serve the poor. And do organizations like the Gates Foundation get a pass on this kind of stuff? They spent $50m just for their headquarter's land. Couldn't that money be better spent elsewhere?

not that any of that really applies in this particular case of insanity.
posted by nangua at 4:18 PM on January 27, 2008


They build a utilitarian airplane hanger church and are accused of lack of taste.

That reminds me of the underground basilica at the pilgrimage site of Lourdes. It holds 25k people and actually does get used by that many, but it's awful. Lourdes in general is pretty much the tackiest Catholic place ever. Lots of concrete and tourist crap. Pretty surroundings in the Pyrenees though.
posted by smackfu at 4:30 PM on January 27, 2008


nor does it have a long history of forcibly converting people to golf.

Oh for fucks sake, if we can get over Germany's, England's, Russia's, Frances, and America's long histories of atrocities, we can get over the Catholic Church's. The Catholics barely proselytize any more, let alone try to forcibly convert people. And even in the most egregious cases -- the Spanish Inquisition for example, those were driven as much by local politics as they were by any edict from Rome.
posted by empath at 5:52 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I believe I read the other day that the Inquisition was driven very much locally, affected at most a few thousand people, and really isn't as big a deal as it is made out to be.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:03 PM on January 27, 2008


Who is this "we" of whom you speak, empath? I work every day with the fucked-up products of Catholic residential schools. Those folks aren't over anything, yet.

I'm glad you lump them in with Germany, England, etc. as purveyors of atrocities. But hey, ok, I forgive the Catholic church, FWIW. I sure as hell don't forget though, and that's the subject at hand.
posted by Rumple at 6:12 PM on January 27, 2008


So . . . what do we do now then?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:47 PM on January 27, 2008


On the "what is a cathedral" question, I grew up attending a church that was supposed to be a cathedral. In fact, it has a spot for the bishop's chair. In the 1920s Tulsa was awash in oil money and Catholic immigrants, so they decided to build a second Catholic church. With the permission of the bishop, they built it to be his seat. Made sense at the time -- Tulsa was full of Catholics (while Oklahoma City wasn't).

Rome wouldn't have any of that, though, and kept the bishop's chair in OKC.

About 50 years later, the cardinals in Rome decided it was time to split the Diocese of Oklahoma into two, giving Tulsa its own. But they still refused to make Christ The King a cathedral, instead putting the bishop in the original church downtown. They now store the elements of communion where the bishop should be sitting.

And thus, a church built to be a cathedral but never actually being a cathedral.
posted by dw at 11:31 PM on January 27, 2008


People tell me that St Peters in Rome is just incomprehensible until you see it in person.

Eh. I guess. They say the letters of the inscription inside the dome are something like 10 feet tall. But it doesn't really feel that big when you're inside.

I know this will probably come off as sappy sentimentalism, but honestly the only buildings I've ever seen firsthand that genuinely left me stupified by their sheer bigness-ity were the World Trade Center buildings. I recall after they fell, maybe a month or so, I was on the rooftop apartment of a friend of mine in the Lower East Side. We were looking at the memorial lights they had set up, and I mentioned that I was starting to forget what the skyline used to looked like. He, a life-long Manhattaner, pointed to the lights and said, "Well, see the tallest building over there? Three times that." Those were some big fucking buildings.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace is ugly as sin, and not just because of the excess. What makes it stone-cold ugly is the fact that the surrounding area is just empty. What makes St. Peter's so monumental, or the World Trade Center or the Eiffel Tower, is the relationship of the building with its environment.

I mean, really, what's the point of having such a vast, groomed entryway when the whole rest of the region is empty? The reason the Piazza San Pietro is so beautiful isn't because it's the symmetry. It's the huge open space in an area of town where there's no huge open space. This beastly building is almost (but not quite) as ugly as The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception of the City of Washington of the Country of the United States of the Planet of Earth. Now there's an ugly-ass church.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:30 AM on January 28, 2008


Sorry, just had to back that last statement up a bit more...
CEILING JESUS IS WATCHING YOU MASTURBATE.

Holy Fuck what an ugly church.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:34 AM on January 28, 2008


More like "My Jesus can kick your Jesus' @$$" -- and (as usual) not nearly Jewish-looking enough.
posted by pax digita at 5:19 AM on January 28, 2008


But it doesn't really feel that big when you're inside.

I'd agree, but only because you don't realize how big the stuff is. Like in this crappy photo I took years ago. That thing in the middle is 100 feet tall, and it's just nothing in that space. Somewhere there's a roof, but who knows where.
posted by smackfu at 6:40 AM on January 28, 2008


Wow. That's...fucked up.
posted by brain cloud at 7:01 PM on January 28, 2008


Hey, it's really important to make impressive superstructures for God. He's got no respect for those that would worship in humble surroundings. I think the Jesus story tells it all, from sumptuous accommodation as a newborn infant, to the luxurious mode of travel, to the architectural wonders in which he gave his sermons, the man made it clear that displays of conspicuous displays of consumption, grandeur, and prosperity are the keystone elements of his new church.

God is a playa, sucka, and don't forget it.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:55 PM on January 28, 2008


Anyone need a barely-used displays of? I've found myself with one too many.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:57 PM on January 28, 2008


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