Trees are typically cut and scaled to construct houses and buildings. However, in other areas of the world, living trees are used to build cathedrals and abodes for prayer.
An Italian artist, named Giuliano Mauri, had a vision of such architecture that consisted of a building and a natural landscape entwined together. He thought such it would be more elegant to build these materials as one, instead of tearing one down, to reconstruct another.
From 2001-2002, Mauri initiated the laying of the foundations for the sentient tree cathedral, in Valsugana Italy. Sadly, before the temple was finished, Mauri passed away in 2009. However, shortly after his passing in 2010, his well-designed creation came to life. One day, the trees will grow up and together, form a vaulted canopy ceiling made entirely of tree branches and leaves.
Known as “Cattedrale Vegetale” (Tree Cathedral), this masterpiece living Cathedral is located at the base of Mount Arera, near the outskirts of Bergamo.
Although the construction of the Cathedral was completed ten years ago, it is apparent there is much development and tree growth required. In these images, you can observe the framework columns outlining the trees; these columns will eventually decay and rot away, leaving beautifully matured hornbeam trees as the only form of walls and ceiling.
Inside the framework, the hornbeam trees can be seen. There is still a lot of growth needed for their canopies to grow together. Once the canopies morph into one, they will form the spectacular vaulted ceiling of a Gothic cathedral.
The living Cathedral consists of 42 different columns that form five aisles. The columns integrate 1,800 spruce trunks and 600 chestnut tree branches intertwined together with 6,000+ meters of hazelnut twigs. Local traditional methods of nails, a string for entwining, and weaving. were utilized to secure the columns around the trees.
Once the wooden columns decay and fall, the 80 hornbeam sapling trees will take over as the walls and ceiling, creating a truly organic, all-natural, and very alive cathedral.
The Tree Cathedral occupies an area more than 90 feet long, is nearly 80 feet wide, and varies in height from around 16 feet to 70 feet. The entire area is approximately 650 square meters, and this creation took an abundance of time to assemble, and it still isn’t complete in the sense the trees have to grow and fill it out.
This living Cathedral grants humans a place to pray and practice their welcomed spirituality amongst nature, and not in a square-framed building.
A special thanks is dedicated to Mauri, who was born in 1938 in Lodi Vecchio, Italy. The late artist developed a reputation for his natural architectural creations. Mauri created other natural architectural designs as well, such as the vegetable Bridge at the Castle of Padernello, completed in 2008.
The Tree Cathedral is acknowledged as one of the world’s most impressive forms of “natural architecture.” The incredible site stands as an inspiration to everyone to incorporate nature into more aspects of human life. We must take care of this planet and her life, which she creates. The Earth is home to all living things, and we must share it.