Brutalist or Welcoming? The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

“The TRAVELER sees what he sees.  The TOURIST sees what he has come to see.” —  GK  Chesterton

Every night on the ship, on the bed, we get a card with a quote about travel along with two pieces of chocolate.  It’s one of the nice little touches of this cruise.  On a cruise much of the time we are tourists.  We see what we have come to see, or what we pay an excursion to take us to see.  It the case of Puerto Limon it was a train and Sloths.  However, for most of the ports Suzi and I have decided wander on our own and see what we see.  We have guidebooks but we have not booked many tours.  Puerto Limon was one of the exceptions, having booked the train/canal wildlife tour.  We did have an afternoon free to wander.

On the bus coming from the Canal we saw a pair of towers, one was a traditional Spanish Colonial looking church tower that we would expect to see, and one was a much taller, concrete construction with crosses and bells.  We decided to wander through town toward the towers.  I was expecting to find some sort of town or market square.  Instead we found the very modern Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This church is not on the port map Holland America gave us.  The lecturer did not mention it.  I do not know much about it.  After we got back on the ship I tried to look it up on line but there was not much in English. The cathedral is a 21st century building, replacing the old cathedral destroyed in an earthquake and finished off by a hurricane in the 1990s.  The old church tower and part of the original building still stand and are incorporated into the new structure.

One traveler, reviewing the new building, called it “Brutalist” in style, and, perhaps he is technically correct, made from gray poured concrete.  From the outside it is “interesting” but not inviting, except for the wide open carved wooden doors and the glimpse of stained glass inside.

Inside, however, it is delightful.  The mix of concrete, wood, fabric and glass make it a wonder of shadow and light.  And it is cool.  Some of the walls are lattice work reminiscent of the Islamic world, letting air flow through.  The stained glass windows cast a kaleidoscope of light across the floor and walls.  The stained glass above the alter opens like jalousies, allowing air to flow from the big open doors and lattice work in the back to the front.  Banners and Christmas decorations lend color.  The slatted wooden ceiling allows hot air to rise, pass through and then be swept away by the breezes that blow between the ceiling and the raised corrugated metal roof.

Suzi and I wished there was a service so we could hear how it sounds, although, after the fact I read a blog from a member of a traveling choral ensemble that said it was “acoustically challenging.”  She felt they did not give their best performance because singers could not hear each other.

When I get back to a place where I have Internet connectivity that is fast and not metered I’ll try to find out more about this building.  I would love to know the architect.  To me it seems a lovely place to worship.

One thought on “Brutalist or Welcoming? The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

  1. Brutalist perhaps on the outside … but lovely inside. I love stained glass windows and the color that filters through them to delight viewers.

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