There’s a lot of Instagrammable spaces, public art and of course, murals / walls to experience in Calgary, Alberta, but one of the most unique ones I’ve encountered is this stunning, 25-foot tall, world famous “Upside Down Church”, located in Calgary’s popular East Village neighbourhood!
This Upside Down Church is titled “Device to Root out Evil” by artist Dennis Oppenheim, and was first unveiled in Vienna back in 1997. It called Calgary home for five years from 2008 to 2014, and returned in 2019! The public art piece is considered one of the most recognizable sculptures in the world.
Where to find the Device to Root Out Evil: You can find this really cool piece of art in the public square at the East Village traffic circle, located on 5th Street just south of 7th Avenue in downtown Calgary. It’s just steps away from some great Calgary bakeries, restaurants, and the RiverWalk / beautiful river valley.
What the Device to Root Out Evil means: This sculpture represents a tilted, upside down, 25-foot tall country style church, which (according to the artwork description) has “a steeple thrust into the ground and base raised up high as if to invite scrutiny from the heavens.” According to My Modern Met, Oppenheim had additionally described the piece this way: “A country church is seen balancing on its steeple, as if it had been lifted by a terrific force and brought to the site as a device or method of rooting out evil forces.” It was originally called “Church” and was proposed to sit on Church Street in New York, where Oppenheim lived, but the title was apparently deemed too controversial (anti-religious), so he changed the name.
When is the best time to visit the Device to Root Out Evil: My friend Rachel and I visited the Upside Down Church on a Sunday morning in mid September 2020. It was around 10 a.m. and there was no one else there! (The quietness may be pandemic-related though lol), But I have found in general for Instagrammable places, early morning or just before sunset are good times to visit for the least amount of people and cars potentially blocking your shots.
This little public square (well, circle, as its around a traffic circle) also has patio chairs and tables set up so you can grab a coffee or bite nearby and sit with the church in view.
What else should you know about the Device to Root Out Evil: This isn’t the first Calgary location for the Upside Down Church. The church also stood in Calgary’s Ramsay neighbourhood for about five years from 2008 to 2014. It’s also been in Vancouver and Europe. It returned to Calgary—this time in the current (as of writing this blog post) location of East Village in 2019. The Internet says the lease should be about five years (similar to the last time it visited Calgary) so depending on when you read this, the Upside Down Church should still be warding off evil around that East Village traffic circle!
This stunning art piece is made of galvanized steel, aluminum, Venetian glass and plexiglass!
Watch my 15-second video of my visit to the Device to Root Out Evil:
I’m not a religious person, though I am spiritual and believe there are greater powers at work in life. But you really don’t need to have a relationship with a church or religion in order to be impressed with this Upside Down Church by Dennis Oppenheim. My friend Rachel is religious, and this art piece made her think about how Jesus was someone who challenged hyper religion and helped flip some of the church’s big ideas upside down—so this felt like it fit there. She loved this piece. So did I!
The Device to Root out Evil is truly a unique, eye-catching, very Instagrammable public art piece that is well worth your visit when you’re in Calgary. You’ll certainly want to be explore the East Village anyway, so be sure to plan a stop to the world famous Device to Root Out Evil too!
- Be sure to check out my other Calgary, Alberta Travel Guides!
- Use my Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Calgary!
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