Mapparium: A Jewel in Boston’s Back Bay

Faneuil Hall, Fenway Park, The Public Gardens, Museum of Fine Arts, The State House, etc… these are just some of the many highlights that Boston has to offer. But there are countless gems that may not show up in the guide books.

The Mary Baker Eddy Library and Church of Christ ScientistOne gem is hidden in The Mary Baker Eddy Library at The Christian Science Plaza in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Built in 1935 to celebrate the success of the Christian Science Monitor is the Mapparium. The Mapparium is a 3 story stained glass globe with a 30ft glass bridge connecting the ends of the world as it was in 1935.

The architect was Chester Lindsay Churchill and his inspiration came from the spinning globe inside the lobby of the New York Daily News building. There are 608 glass panels held in a bronze frame and it took over a year to build. Over the first four months of its debut in June 1935, over 50,000 people came to visit. People were able to see the world in a new way and make connections they never could before. For example, most of the world’s land masses are above the equator or the magnetic North Pole and the actual North Pole are not the same thing or in the same place.

The most amazing feature of this structure even took it’s designers by surprise. Because the entire globe is curved glass and glass does not absorb sound, the acoustics inside the globe create magic. If a person stands in the center of the globe and speaks, their voice is heard in surround sound. If two people stand at either end of the bridge and whispers to the other, they will hear it as if it was being whispered directly in their ear.

Churchill knew the world would be changing with the talk of war and he designed the Mapparium in panels so changing his glass globe would be possible. However, after committee discussions in 1939, 1958, and 1966 it was decided that the cost to create and change the panels was too great and the Mapparium held more value as a world frozen in time.

In 1998, the Mapparium was shut down for a 4 year renovation. When it opened again in 2002, a new sound and light show was added to illustrate how much the world has changed from 1935.

The Mapparium is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-4pm and located at 200 Massachusetts Ave. Visit their website for more information about the Mapparium and The Mary Baker Eddy Library. Be aware that photography inside the Mapparium is not allowed.

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