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The 4-hectare Temple Square complex in downtown Salt Lake City is property of the Mormon Church. This is the most popular attraction in the state of Utah, drawing millions of visitors a year. The most impressive buildings are the Salt Lake Temple, the Salt Lake Tabernacle and the cathedral-like Salt Lake Assembly Hall. There are tours in 40 different languages.
Temple Square was founded in 1847 by Mormon pioneers who settled in the Salt Lake Valley. This would later become the church’s headquarters. Today, concerts are often held on the square. Around Christmas in particular, thousands of visitors flock here to watch the lights. Outside the Assembly Hall stands the Seagull Monument. According to legend, these birds prevented the pioneers’ first harvest from being devoured by a plague of locusts in 1848.
Construction of the Salt Lake Temple took 4 decades. It took this long because construction was interrupted by the Utah War from 1857 to 1858, and the builders used a very specific stone. The stones were extracted from a location 30 kilometres away and moved to the construction site by ox cart. But builders certainly didn’t skimp on materials; in some areas the walls are almost 3-metres thick. Since its completion, the temple is the largest and holiest structure of the Mormon Church.
The Tabernacle on Temple Square is a large hall used for various religious celebrations. It owes its unique shape to Brigham Young who was the first governor of Utah and also president of the Mormon Church from 1847 until his death in 1877. He commissioned the building in the shape of a vertical cross-section of an eggshell. There are no pillars to obstruct the view. Inside, an enormous organ with 11,623 pipes steals the scene.
Salt Lake Assembly Hall was built to allow several congregations to attend mass together. The building resembles a neo-gothic cathedral, a popular architectural style at the end of the 19th century. Inside it has much more modern look. The cross-shaped structure is complemented by Stars of David that hang over the entrances. These reflect the belief that the Mormons are a modern confluence of the 12 tribes of Israel.