THE WENDY WANDERER: The Mary Baker Eddy “Mapparium”


Staff Columnist

Walk down Massachusetts Avenue towards Boylston. Keep walking. Happen upon a large plaza, hosting a modern sculpture exhibit, a sprawling pool, where an old man is playing with his toy motorboat and an intriguing edifice of stone, glass and steel. On a whim, stumble into the Mary Baker Eddy Library and Museum—an L-shaped building located to the left of the First Church of Christ Scientist.

“Is all of this some sort of religious propaganda?” you might ask the friendly young docent behind the desk. “Are you trying to convert me?”

The answer, in one word, is yes. But that’s not why you should go.

After buying a ticket to the “Mapparium”—a 30-foot stained glass globe from the 1930s that you can literally walk through—you will be directed to the “Hall of Ideas.” Despite its hokey name, the Hall is absolutely breathtaking. The peristasis surrounding the interior of the hall is adorned with glittering mosaics. The many arches, framed by engaged columns, serve to open up the floor plan. Meanwhile, the circular fountain in the center draws one’s attention upwards to the impossibly high ceiling and the two illuminated celestial globes, which serve as chandeliers. However, seeing this Neoclassical stunner is only half of the fun. The other half is experiencing the Mapparium itself.

You have to stand on a bridge, which leads through the center of the globe. As the lights dim, parts of the world are illuminated; the words of famous historical figures reverberate around you.

It has the potential to make you feel very small, and very sentimental. You get the feeling that this is exactly how the people who commissioned this work want you to feel. But, in the end, you don’t care whether it’s propaganda or not.

Because it’s a big ball of glass, and it’s awesome.

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