After traveling the world, embracing new sights, and being exposed to various architectural wonders abroad, Brian Cox returned to his native New Zealand full of inspiration. Cox, who grew up as head altar boy in his hometown church and once wanted to be Pope, was heavily involved in religious services. But he had one other special interest—trees.

“People know how much I love trees,” said Cox. So much so, that he started his own company, Treelocations, a group that removes and relocates living trees.

“They call me when there are trees that would otherwise be cut-down or removed. I go and kind of rescue them," Cox notes.

And rescue them he did. In April of 2011, Cox combined his two passions in one ginormous plan to build a living, breathing, church made almost entirely from foliage.

His awe-inspiring establishment, a combination of various trees in different colors and densities, allows light to pass through, and was formed over an iron frame. Cox designed it to reflect all of the different architectural wonders that he had seen throughout his travels. The most important derivatives, however, came from his family and his Italian ancestry.

The altar standing proudly at the head of the church is from Cox’s family church in Shannon, the marble cast from Italy’s Lago di Como (Lake Como), and the wrought iron gates that guard the building from Cox’s family farm. His personal ties to the church do not end there. Cox had originally created the church for his own enjoyment, but his plans changed when his nephew asked to be wed there. (Not surprisingly, this was only the first of many weddings conducted at the church.)

In January of this year, Cox opened his church to the public. Although Cox initially intended for it to be his own serene space, he enjoys the appreciation that it’s receiving from friends, family, and gardeners. In fact, the popularity of Tree Church has caused him to begin planning for an expansion. Along with his backyard labyrinth, Cox wants to plant a European garden and an amphitheater to host summer events.

If this seems like a lot of hard work, that’s because it is. And yet, Cox does not bow down from the challenge.

"It takes me five hours to mow the lawns and at least three hours of final primping to get the gardens and Tree Church to the standard I need to be happy for an event,” he said.

But, although his joints are aching and he is aging, he only becomes inspired to fashion more efficient equipment to alleviate the pain and increase his productivity.

All images via Sally Tagg
[h/t: Stuff]