Jesus and Cathedrals – Join islam

Churches and cathedrals are some of the most elaborate and expensive buildings ever constructed.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City: Arguably the most renowned Catholic church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Its construction spanned over a century (1506-1626), involving legendary artists like Michelangelo and Bramante. The church was funded by donations, indulgences, and significant financial resources of the Vatican. According to Wikipedia, “Cost of construction of the basilica: more than 46,800,052 ducats.” To calculate the cost of construction based on this number, we can make the following calculations.

  • One ducat is equal to 3.5 grams of gold.
  • 46,800,052 ducats * 3.5 grams/ducat = 163,800,182 grams of gold.
  • 163,800,182 grams / 28.3495 grams/ounce = approximately 5,777,160 ounces of gold.
  • The cost of 1oz of gold today is ~$2,000
  • 5,777,160 ounces of gold * $2,000/ounce = $11.554 billion
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Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain: This iconic basilica, designed by Antoni Gaudí, has been under construction since 1882 and is funded entirely by private donations and ticket sales. Its intricate design and prolonged construction period make it one of the most expensive church projects in history. The final cost is projected to be substantial, reflecting its elaborate architecture and ongoing construction. It is hard to determine the total cost of the project. Still, one article from 2019 estimates that the cost would be over $400 million, while a Quora post that provides a more detailed breakdown estimates north of $1 billion dollars, not including the perpetual tens of millions of years that will be necessary for expected upkeep.

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Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany: Construction of this Gothic masterpiece began in 1248 and was completed in 1880, although its two spires were not finished until the 19th century. The church, city, and donors funded the cathedral’s construction. While exact figures are elusive, it is estimated that the original cost in today’s dollar was around $1 billion. But this doesn’t include the perpetual cost of the cathedral’s maintenance and restoration, which continue to require significant funds even today.

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Basilica of National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida: This church is one of the greatest catholic churches in Brazil. Brazil has the most number of churches after the Vatican. With an area of 12,000 sq.m, this church was started built-in 1995. It happens to be one of the most sacred places for Catholics in Brazil, and its estimated cost is around $100 million.

10 most expensive religious buildings ever built - sheet1
basilica of national shrine of our lady of aparecida

What Would Jesus Think?

Aside from the fact that Jesus would be absolutely appalled to know that he has been worshiped as God in these buildings (Quran 5:109-120), do we have any indication in the Bible that Jesus would have approved such lavish structures to be built for his religion?

Jesus’ teachings and actions in the Bible frequently emphasize humility, modest living, and caution against extravagance. From what we can unpack from the Bible, Jesus led a life of humility and simplicity, with nowhere to lay his head (Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58). His ministry focused on people rather than on buildings or material wealth, indicating that Jesus in the Bible considered resources to be better spent on helping the needy and spreading the Gospel, rather than extravagant buildings. So, the construction of these over-the-top cathedrals appears to be at direct odds with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins by stating, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).” This suggests that spiritual richness does not depend on material wealth or grandiose displays of religiosity in this world, but the real treasures to be obtained in the Hereafter. This beatitude encourages simplicity in life and an internal focus on one’s spiritual state rather than external expressions of faith through grandiose structures.

Jesus then advises against storing up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal, but to store up treasures in heaven. This teaching emphasizes the transient nature of material wealth and the importance of focusing on eternal, spiritual values. Jesus encourages storing treasures in heaven and not in this world, emphasizing that where one’s treasure is, one’s heart will also be. This highlights Jesus’ focus on the eternal rather than the temporal and material. The resources invested in building immoderate cathedrals are directly contrary to this principle, suggesting that efforts and resources should instead be directed towards actions with eternal significance.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[c] consume and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust[d] consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6

The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21), tells the story of a wealthy man who, after a bountiful harvest, decides to tear down his existing barns to build larger ones to store all his crops and goods. He believes this will secure his future, allowing him to relax, eat, drink, and be merry. However, God calls him a fool because he is not rich toward God and will die that night, leaving his amassed wealth unused by him.

In a similar vein, those who pour vast resources into the construction of opulent cathedrals may be mirroring the rich fool’s error, placing their faith in physical manifestations of wealth and achievement rather than nurturing a deeper spiritual connection with God. These structures shift the focus from genuine worship and community service to a display of wealth and human accomplishment. This mindset overlooks Jesus’ teachings on humility, service, and the prioritization of spiritual wealth over material possessions. By investing in grandiose buildings at the expense of direct acts of kindness, charity, and fostering communities of faith, they miss what it means to be truly rich toward God.

13 One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12

In the clearest example that Jesus would be against such extravagance, Jesus tells a rich young ruler to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Him to inherit eternal life. When the young man walks away sad, unable to part with his wealth, Jesus comments on how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Notice Jesus did not say to give the money to the church or to build up cathedrals, but to give to the poor.

18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” 22 And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. 24 Jesus looking at him said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “Lo, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Luke 18

Beyond the Facade: Jesus’ Critique of Superficial Righteousness Among the Religious Elite

Jesus also appears to have had a particular disdain towards the religious elite who attempt to portray their righteousness superficially through outward signs of devotion to gain the flattery of others.

1“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.“Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6

One of the only times where Jesus was clearly angry in the Bible was when he cleaned out the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:13-16). Jesus’ act of cleansing the Temple, driving out those who were buying and selling, demonstrates his concern for the house of worship being a place of prayer rather than a commercial enterprise. Yet today, many cathedrals charge fees and generate millions of dollars from individuals, making them as much a commercial enterprise as a place of worship.

12 And Jesus entered the temple of God[a] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.”

Matthew 21

Consider the amount of money these projects raised that could have been used for charity and causes that Jesus advocated, rather than for buildings that will be raised one day and gone the next. People are being duped into thinking that their funding of such projects will wipe out their sins or make them more righteous.

In one of the most scathing passages in the Bible, Jesus calls people who exalt themselves by means of their religious accommodations at the places of worship so they can signify their prestige among the people: hypocrites!

23 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.[b] 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell[c] as yourselves.

Matthew 23

Final Thoughts

The conclusion is clear, Jesus’ teachings and actions from the Bible indicate he would have been staunchly against such endeavors of constructing buildings that only boost the egos of their adherents. He would have prioritized the use of resources for the direct benefit of the needy and the spread of the Gospel over the construction of grandiose buildings. His emphasis on humility, spiritual wealth, and concern for the poor demonstrates that investments in extravagant cathedrals do not align with the values he espoused, but corresponded with the actions of people he called hypocrites who eventually had him put to death.


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