Marty’s photos of the day #2755: With this being Christmas week, I’m dedicating it to Catholic-related photos I shot in Italy and Spain. While visiting both countries, I thoroughly enjoyed all the opulent Catholic sights. That being said, how can a religion based on a book whose main character railed against the rich, turn around and waste so much money on vast displays of wealth? Isn’t it a wee bit hypocritical for the Catholic Church to preach “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” while doing the exact opposite themselves?

This is what I wrote about the subject in my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents:

“Roman Catholicism became Spain’s established religion in the sixth century, and it remained that way (except for a brief period) until 1978, when the country’s new constitution declared an end to state religion. The Catholic Church’s long history of wealth and power was on display wherever I looked. Whether it was a store selling silver scepters, golden chalices, and precious metal accessories for the well-dressed priest or the extreme opulence in the cathedrals, all the gold and silver I’d seen in my life up to that point would be a mere speck compared to what I saw in a single afternoon in Madrid. . . . . Many of the churches had massive pillars, soaring arches, beautiful gold-framed antique paintings, colorful stained-glass domes inlaid with gold, huge gold and silver pipe organs, and elaborate stations where you could drop in coins to light electric candles. Even the doors, most with intricate three-dimensional artwork, were remarkable sights. Imagine the good the churches could of done if they had invested their money into helping the poor instead of decorating their buildings.”

Today’s photos are of the Florence Cathedral (Duomo di Firenze) in Florence, Italy. This was one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen while traveling all seven continents. Even with my camera lens set to its widest, I could never get more than a fraction of the building into frame. These eight photos still omit wide sections of the cathedral. Construction began in 1296 and was completed in 1436.