Well, what do you think of this?
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — It occupies an entire block in this teeming megacity: a 10,000-seat rendition of Solomon’s Temple.
Towering in sharp relief against the graffiti-splattered tenements nearby, it beckons with monumental walls of stone imported from Israel and the flags of the dozens of countries where its owner, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is nourishing an evangelical Christian empire.
A helicopter landing pad will allow Edir Macedo, the 69-year-old media magnate who founded the Universal Church in a Rio de Janeiro funeral home in 1977, to drop in for sermons. The sprawling 11-story complex features other flourishes, too, like an oasis of olive trees similar to the garden of Gethsemane near Jerusalem, and more than 30 columns soaring toward the heavens.
“The Universal Church spared no expense,” said Rogério Araújo, the architect for the project, which is scheduled to be inaugurated on July 31. On a tour of the site, he added, “We sought to build a colossus, something that would make people stop and gaze, and that’s what we delivered.”
The replica of Solomon’s Temple, which took four years to build at a cost of about $300 million, captures the surging growth of evangelical faiths in Brazil. Although this country of 200 million people still has more Roman Catholics than any other nation, the number of evangelicals in Brazil climbed to 22 percent of the population in 2010 from 15 percent in 2000, according to census figures.
Large evangelical churches, particularly Pentecostal institutions like the Universal Church, are also wielding greater political clout across Brazil, reflecting a sizable evangelical voting bloc in Congress and the efforts of candidates across the political spectrum to appeal to evangelical voters in the presidential elections this year.