Top 20 Most Amazing Churches in the World
Even though churches are dedicated to things that aren’t of this world, this doesn’t mean the actual buildings aren’t supposed to instill feelings of wonder and awe here and now. Whether you follow a particular religion or not, it’s hard to deny the following edifices have a certain sublime quality about them
20. Seville Cathedral
At the time of its completion in the early 1500s, Seville Cathedral was the largest church in the world, replacing Hagia Sophia who had held that title for almost 1000 years. The cathedral’s construction lasted a century and according to a local tradition, the objective of those who erected it was to build “a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will think we are mad”.
19. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev
Though the original medieval structure was demolished by the Soviets in the 1930s, St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery was rebuilt in the last decade of the 20th century. Aside from its striking mix of Byzantine and Baroque architectural features, the building is notable for the contrast between the white and blue walls and the glittering gold domes.
18. Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe Chapel
Built over 1000 years ago in south-central France, near the Loire River, Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe Chapel overlooks the surroundings from the top of a volcanic formation almost 300 feet high. Even so, it seems to look up to the similarly impressive (and a few centuries younger) Le Puy Cathedral, located at the city’s highest point, an important stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
17. St. Joseph Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Chicago
Built during the 1970s, St. Joseph Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church brings a bit of that Byzantine grandeur to the American Midwest. Featuring thirteen gold domes representing Jesus and the twelve apostles, the edifice has sort of a steampunk feel about from afar, while its beautiful interior frescoes are classic Eastern Church.
16. Hallgrímur Church, Reykjavík
Completed in 1986, Hallgrímur Church is named after the 17th century Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson. Soaring at 244 feet, it is one of Iceland’s tallest buildings and one of Reykjavík’s most prominent landmarks. The church was supposedly designed to resemble the ropey, wrinkly basaltic lava flows so prevalent on the island and in a way is even similar to another 20th century Nordic construction, Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen.
15. Évry Cathedral
One of the newest buildings on this list, Évry Cathedral was completed in 1995 and is located in the small town of Évry, near Paris. With an outlook so modern it’s hard to believe it’s actually a church and not some Silicon Valley headquarters, the building is actually the only completely new, purpose-built cathedral in France in the 20th century.
14. Voroneț Monastery
Perhaps one of the least impressive structures on this list when gazed at for afar, Voroneț is a real gem when you take a closer look. One of the many beautiful painted churches of Moldavia, Voronet was built to commemorate a great victory against the Ottomans and boast such beautiful frescoes that the it has come to be known as ”the Sistine Chapel of the East”. The shade of blue used is particularly spectacular and has been dubbed ”Voroneț Blue”.
13. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
Located on Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of New York’s most recognizable landmarks. Completed in 1878, it was at the time one of the city’s more imposing structures and is still as impressive as ever even though it’s now surrounded by modern sky-scrapers.
12. Westminster Abbey
The magnificent Westminster Abbey is perhaps more closely entwined with the British monarchy than any other place in the UK. Built over 1000 years ago, most coronations and royal weddings have taken place there, most recently the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
11. Milan Cathedral
One of largest cathedrals in the world and the largest in Italy, Milan Cathedral (also known as the Duomo or Dome) lies at the very heart of the northern Italian city and is one of its most important landmarks. The edifice took nearly 600 years to complete and thus features a multitude of different architectural styles – and while this may be questionable from an aesthetic standpoint, its awe-inspiring nature cannot be disputed.
Perched on top of sandstone pillars soaring 1000 feet above the ground, it’s incredible Meteora was even built. And it’s not just a hermit’s hut either – the complex comprises six full-fledged monasteries still inhabited to this day. The remarkable site has even inspired the impregnable fortress of Eyrie of the Vale, from Game of Thrones.
9. Grundtvig’s Church, Copenhagen
Named after the Danish pastor and philosopher N.F.S. Grundtvig, this imposing building, with its western façade reminiscent of a church organ, looks like something from a dystopian movie. Built using traditional materials and techniques, the edifice is a mix of Expressionism and Gothic architecture styles (which probably accounts for its somewhat ominous look).
8. St. Paul’s Cathedral
One of the largest, most impressive cathedrals in the entire United Kingdom, St. Paul’s Cathedral was built as a replacement for an older structure which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666. Designed by the acclaimed scientist and architect Christopher Wren, the building is still among the tallest in the City, dominating the skyline with its monumental dome.
7. Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia is the magnum opus of famed Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Still incomplete to this day, after over 100 years, basilica is a marvelous example of Gaudi’s modernized and personal take on the Gothic style of architecture, popular in Europe during the Middle Ages. Though its idiosyncratic design might seem a bit strange to some observers, it’s hard to deny the Sagrada Familia has a certain awe-inspiring air about it.
6. Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the French capital’s most remarkable landmarks. Completed in 1345, almost two centuries after work began, the imposing cathedral is one of Europe’s finest examples of Gothic architecture – which is also the main focus of Victor Hugo’s famous novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
5. Hagia Sophia
Built almost 1500 years ago by the great Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the majestic edifice was the largest cathedral in the world for almost a millennium. Used as an Imperial Mosque after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans until 1935, it is currently a museum – and still stands as a testament to the skill and audacity of its initial builders.
4. St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
Located near the Moscow Kremlin and the Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral is one of the Russian capital’s most recognizable landmarks. Dedicated to the “holy fool” Basil the Blessed, who allegedly predicted a great fire that destroyed parts of Moscow, the cathedral was built during the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible. Its design, reminiscent of the flames from a bonfire, is unlike that of any other Russian edifice – a fitting embodiment of its patron saint’s eccentric spirit.
3. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is one of the most significant Catholic churches in the world. Designed by such luminaries as Donato Bramante and Michelangelo, it is considered one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture and is definitely one of the most impressive edifices in Vatican City and even Rome itself.
2. Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral is one of Germany’s most visited landmarks, with tens of thousands of people flocking to see the grandiose church every day. Construction started all the way back in 1248, but was only completed in 1880, when it became the tallest structure in the world (it was surpassed after four years by the Washington Monument). After being heavily damaged during World War II, the Cathedral was fully restored to its former glory and now stands one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture.
1. Florence Cathedral
With work on Florence Cathedral lasting almost 150 years, it’s understandable that what started out as a Gothic structure eventually incorporated some early Renaissance features, most notably the gigantic dome designed by the great architect Brunelleschi, which remained the largest such element for over four centuries.