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In Curaçao, a Wondrous Cathedral Constructed out of Thorns

Alexis Flippin, Frommer's


On this Southern Caribbean island, an artist is transforming a ferocious local plant into a thing of beauty and grace that you can visit on your next vacation.

The island of Curaçao has soft sand beaches and sapphire Caribbean seas, but much of the land is dry and scrubby. The prevailing vegetation? Thorns. And not the dainty briers of the delicate rose, either. Curaçao's thorns are big and spiky, the kind that flourish in parched desert conditions.

But acacia tortuosa is more than just a desert shrub—in the hands of Herman van Bergen, it becomes the stuff of art. For years, the celebrated Dutch artist has crafted impressive figures, lamps, and sculptures out of the tree's thorns. But his latest artistic project is his most ambitious: an entire cathedral.

Begun in 2012, Curaçao's Cathedral of Thorns (Landhuis Bloemhof; Tues–Sat 9am–2pm; cathedralofthorns.com/de-visie) is a prickly labyrinth that visitors can explore. Amber LED lamps softly illuminate the thick crosshatched walls while mirrors reflect the warm light. Although the site is still a work in progress (completion is forecast for late 2018), the framework is in place—measuring 20m by 20m (65.6 ft. by 65.6 ft.) and rising 10m (32 ft.) at its highest point.

Read the full story on the Frommer's website.