Book details city's churches

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- As with many destinations, church-viewing here heightens architectural awareness and provides insights into the country's culture.

A government-published guidebook describes 71 historical churches, ranging from chapels to the Metropolitan Cathedral, all within the city limits. A sampling follows:

  • For most visitors, Sao Bento should head the list. This church and adjoining Benedictine monastery date to the early 17th century. While the exterior is austere, the interior overwhelms with gilded swirls, angels and cherubs sculpted in native woods. In its early days, priests sang from four small balconies lining a side chapel. Today, Sunday Mass is accompanied by Gregorian chants.
  • The Gloria church, situated atop a hill, was the site of several royal baptisms and marriages. In addition to ceiling paintings and wood engravings used for ornamentation, tiles, painted in Biblical themes, cover some walls. A museum of religious art stands behind the church.
  • Located in the midst of the business district, the Candelaria church once dwarfed its surroundings. The site's first church was built to fulfill a vow made by a shipwrecked captain. A Neoclassic dome, built of Portuguese limestone, is perhaps its most notable characteristic.
  • Architecturally unique, the cone-shaped Metropolitan Cathedral soars 315 feet.
  • The massive interior, which can accommodate 20,000, is brightened by stained glass windows which divide the walls at the four cardinal points.

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