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Cathedrals rise in the forests of Italy unlike any others you’ll see
Jill Odom | September 3, 2016

The trees are contained by columns of flexible material that will eventually rot away as the trees mature.

When you travel to Europe, ancient cathedrals are likely among the masterpieces you’ll want to go visit. In Italy, however, you’ll find three cathedrals unlike any of the others.

These cathedrals are constructed out of growing trees. Italian artist Giuliano Mauri came up with the concept for the “Cattedrale Vegetale.” The first of the cathedrals was constructed in 2001 in Valsugana, Italy, as part of the Arte Sella, which focuses on environmental and natural art.

“I was moved by the idea of putting myself in relation with the natural cyclus, not offending it, not interfering with it,” .


The cathedral constructed in Bermago used beech trees.
Photo: The Tree Cathedral

When he passed away in 2009, his son created another tree cathedral, completing it the following year, in Bergamo as part of the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity.

The latest tree cathedral was built in 2015 for the Lodi2015 – Living Expo that shows innovative techniques for sustainable agriculture. The cathedral is meant to serve as venue for concerts and other cultural activities.

These natural cathedrals are built with flexible wood, stakes, rope and nails. Woven chestnut and hazel branches form columns with a tree planted inside, so as the tree grows it will follow the structure and once fully mature the column will have deteriorated.

The first cathedral used hornbeam trees, while the one in Bergamo features beech trees. The cathedral in Lodi was designed with oak trees.

It will take the beech tree cathedral 20 years to reach maturity, but when it is done, the 42 columns will mesh together to create a vaulted ceiling along with five naves. The oak tree cathedral also has five naves but is considerably larger with 180 columns.

According to the Tree Cathedral’s website, the goal of the project is to change a clearing of trees into a cultural meeting point that inspires reflections on nature and the particular territory.


The columns create naves for visitors to walk through.


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