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The cathedral was designed by Edgar Fonceca in a modern style based on Mayan architectural style of pyramids. The current Cathedral was built between 1964 and 1979 and replaced as seat of the Archdiocese a series of churches that had served as cathedrals since 1676, the most recent and notable of those being the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel of the Ancient See, now known as the Old Cathedral, built in the 18th century, and that had been declared Rio's cathedral in the early 19th century.
The New Cathedral, as it is sometimes called, is located in the center of the city. Conical in form and with a 96 metres (315 ft) internal diameter — 106 metres of external diameter — and an overall height of 75 metres (246 ft), it has a standing-room capacity of 20,000 people.