Simon Roberts’ photographs of Cuban religious architecture
In a large-format photographic study, artist Simon Roberts pauses in Cuban’s religions spaces, allowing light to fall on the histories & spatial qualities of architectures grand and improvised.

Simon Roberts is a British photographer with a deep interest in people’s connection to, and use of, place. His work frequently touches on notions of Britishness, his Merri Albion series looked at the landscape of a “small island” through public, communal experiences from political and activistic, through to cultural and ideological. His National Property series considered historical notions of the picturesque in its gaze of important British sites of nautral and built history, including those replicated in art history, but with carefully observed contemporary uses by the modern age’s visitors.


He has also turned his large-format camera onto piers, his Pierdom series looking at those extremeties of the built edge of the country, where pleasure penetrates into the sea, seemingly at once trying to help people leave the island but also extending its reach.

His most recent body of work looks further afield, and over the course of three years into deeper, more contemplive spaces, than those of funfairs, country houses, and battle reenactments.

In Cathedrals Are Built In The Future, Roberts has carried out a deep study of Cuban’s religious spaces, across all their architectural forms. From the splendour of Havana’s Catholic cathedral, through to makeshift spaces of spiritual pause in corners, basements, and appropriated buildings.

In his project text, the artist writes:

Although officially a secular country – between 1960 and 1992 Cuba was declared an atheist state – the number of practicing Christians is growing and practitioners now attend church without fear of retribution. There is a rapid spread of evangelical denominations across the island with Baptist, Pentecostal and Methodist churches increasing their congregations alongside hundreds of tiny churches that have popped up in Cubans’ living rooms.


In his de-peopled spaces, the viewer of Roberts’ photographs can pause as if they too are worshipping, but worshipping across the whole spectrum of beliefs. The detail shines through - whether the light quality, the glimmer from gold gilding, or the personal touches of how a space has been adapted and used.

Though the majority of spaces the artist recorded are internal, the city can be glimpsed through the design, material, colour and maintenance present.


The work sits alongside a two-screen video piece exploring the role and history of religious ritual on the island, narrated with words of Fidel Castro.

The project was realised as part of a two-year collaboraation between ISA, Universidad de las Artes in Havana and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, working towards projects by Roberts and three other artists currently in exhibition at the Cultuurecentrum in Mechelen, Belgium.

Simon Roberts (b.1974) is a visual artist based in Brighton, UK. Widely recognised for his large-format, tableaux photographs of the British landscape, his practice also encompasses video, text & installation work, which together, interrogate notions of identity and belonging, and the complex relationship between history, place & culture

He has exhibited widely and his photographs reside in major public & private collections, including the George Eastman House, Deutsche Börse Art Collection, & Victoria & Albert Museum. In 2010 he was appointed the official British Election Artist by the House of Commons Works of Art Committee to produce a visual record of the General Election on behalf of the UK Parliamentary Art Collection; and in 2014 he represented Britain during the UK-Russia Year of Culture. He has been commissioned to make several large-scale public artworks and recognised with numerous awards including an Honorary Fellowship to the Royal Photographic Society, the Vic Odden Award, & grants from Arts Council England & the John Kobal Foundation.

see & read
Cathedrals are Built in the Future will be published in book format by Another Place Press in summer, 2022.

Where are you from? Cuba Photography Missions, a group exhibition, is on show at Cultuurcentrum, Mechelen, until 17 April 2022.


fig.i Maria Auxiliadora Church, Havana, Cuba, 2020.
fig.ii The Gran Parque on banks of River Almendares, Havana, Cuba.
fig.iii Chuch of the Holy Spirit, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.iv The Church of San Agustin or San Francisco el Nuevo, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.v Our Lady of Mercy Church, Havana, Cuba, 2019. Former Synod of Missouri Lutherian Church, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.vii Baháʼí Centre, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.viii Church of Santa Rita de Casia, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.ix Beth Shalom Grand Synagogue, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.x Adath Israel Orthodox Synagogue, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.xi St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.xii Our Lady of Kazan Orthodox Cathedral, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.xiii Abdallah Mosque, Havana, Cuba, 2019.
fig.xiv Divine Love Missionary Community Church, Havana, Cuba, 2020.
fig.xv Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Havana, Cuba, 2019.

All photographs © Simon Roberts.

publication date
14 April 2022

Another Place Press, Cathedral, Church, Cuba, Cultuurcentrum Mechelen, Religious architecture, Photography, Simon Roberts.