Tall and cone-shaped, the modernist Rio de Janeiro Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao) doesn’t look like a typical church. The unusual design was constructed between 1964 and 1979 by architect Edgar Fonseca. One of Rio’s most important religious structures, it is dedicated to St. Sebastian, the city’s patron saint.
Though the cathedral is striking from the outside, the hollow interior, which stands at 315 feet (96 meters), is the most impressive part of the building. Massive bronze doors give way to the circular nave that’s nearly 350 feet (106 meters) in diameter and fit to accommodate 20,000 churchgoers. Four floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows surround the structure, and a skylight in the shape of a cross at the top allows natural light to flood the space.
Visit the cathedral independently or join a guided tour of city landmarks. Architecture-focused tours, in particular, visit to the cathedral, as well as other important sites such as Sao Bento Monastery and the nearby Carioca Aqueduct. Things to Know Before You Go
- This unique cathedral is a must-see for those interested in contemporary architecture.
- Rio de Janeiro Cathedral is free to enter.
- The cathedral is noted for its excellent acoustics.
- There is a small museum of religious art in the basement.
How to Get There
Rio de Janeiro Cathedral is located downtown, in the Centro district. The nearest subway stations are Cinelandia, a 5-minute walk away, and Carioca, a 10-minute walk. Both stations are served by Lines 1 and 2. When to Get There
Rio de Janeiro Cathedral is open every day from 7am to 5pm. One of the best times to visit is during Sunday Mass, which begins at 10am. This tends to attract large crowds, however, so try to arrive early to get a good seat.
From the outside, the cathedral resembles a steep-sided, stepped pyramid; the design is said to have been inspired by the Maya pyramids in Mexico. The tilting walls, however—each covered in small, square windows—give it the look of a honeycomb. The conical shape is also believed to provide better proximity to God.