You only need to look to the sky and see the Christ the Redeemer statue or observe the crucifix dangling from almost every Cariocan neck to realise that faith and religion make up a big part of Rio de Janeiro's spirit. While the city is littered with churches and places of worship, none of which are bigger or more impressive than Candelaria Church.
One of Rio's top attractions, the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria stands majestically facing towards Guanabara Bay with the grand Avenida Presidente Vargas running towards its back walls. Not only is it Rio's biggest church, it's also one of the oldest Roman Catholic temples in town and at the time of building was the highest building in the city.
Casting an unexpected air of tranquillity over the chaos of downtown traffic, the 1775 built church combine Baroque, Neoclassical and Neo-Renaissance architectural styles to create a unique design all of its own. Mesmerising both inside and out, it's the classic symmetry of Candelaria's white dome and bell towers that offer the best photo opportunities. Inside, the church walls and columns are covered with Italian marble of various colours.
On the ceiling of the main aisle, Brazilian painter Joao Zeferino da Costa and his assistants have done an excellent job depicting the church's history with six painted panels telling the church's centuries old story. Other elements of interest inside the church include the main altar, various German stained-glass windows, the bronze doors of the main entrance, and the Art-Nouveau style bronze pulpits.
Recent history has seen Candelaria remain very much in the headlines and the church was the site of the memorial mass of high school student Edson Luis de Lima Souto and the 1983 campaign for direct presidential elections that attracted over a million people in 1983. The area around the site of the church was also where the Candelaria massacre took place in 1993, an event that brought worldwide attention to the issue of police brutality towards street children in Brazil. Don't let that make you think Candelaria is a sombre place though. It's quite the opposite.