Giant 'shoe church' gains foothold as wedding destination

The shoe is not a place of worship but its creators hope it will attract enamoured couples as a backdrop for their wedding photos.

Thursday January 14 2016

Tourists take pictures in front of a shoe-shaped church in southern Chiayi on January 11, 2016. The church, which measures 55 feet tall and 36 feet wide, took two months to build. Members of the public will be able to visit the exterior of the church before it is officially opened on February 8, 2018, before the lunar new year. PHOTO | AFP

Tourists take pictures in front of a shoe-shaped church in southern Chiayi on January 11, 2016. The church, which measures 55 feet tall and 36 feet wide, took two months to build. Members of the public will be able to visit the exterior of the church before it is officially opened on February 8, 2018, before the lunar new year. PHOTO | AFP 

By AFP
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TAIPEI

A giant blue stiletto heel dubbed Taiwan's "shoe church" is bringing a touch of oversized glamour to the island's southern coast.

The shoe is not a place of worship but its creators hope it will attract enamoured couples as a backdrop for their wedding photos, hence the name.

It is the latest bid from authorities to boost tourism to the area and lies just a 40-minute drive from the newly opened branch of Taiwan's famous National Palace Museum.

But in contrast to the museum's historic objects, the shoe is a glitzy modern sculpture made from blue glass and steel.

It stands 17 metres (56 feet) high at a coastal park in southern Chiayi county.

ENDINGTRAGEDIES

Despite some criticism that it is at odds with the natural environment, authorities say it will be an asset to the area.

"We have faith it will become a new sightseeing landmark," Hung Chao-chang, spokesman for the Southwest Coast National Scenic Area, told AFP.

"The design itself is unique. Most brides love to wear high-heel shoes and I believe this building will match their imagination. Actually we already got lots of phone calls asking when it will be open."

The sculpture will open to the public next month. 

It follows the success of another government-built glass installation nearby — a double arch known as the "crystal church" — which has become a favourite backdrop for wedding photos.

However the shoe — which cost local authorities Tw$23 million ($686,500) to build — is also a testament to tragedy.

In the 1950s, villagers in coastal areas in the south developed blackfoot disease from drinking underground water with high levels of arsenic.

Subsequently some patients had their feet amputated to save their lives.

Hundreds were affected by the disease.

"This shoe structure is to mark the end of the tragedies," said Hung.

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