From towering tops and onion domes to extravagant artworks steeped in history and gargoyles as watchdogs, there are some magnificent churches dotted throughout the world. Standing head and shoulders above the rest, these places of worship are filled with history and dazzled with extraordinary beauty.
These churches, built to host religious ceremonies, inspire and summon God’s adoration, have ranked among society’s most magnificent and significant structures. With monumental facades, spires reaching towards the heavens and treasures displayed in their chapels and naves, these beautiful churches make for some of the most influential and historical landmarks.
Psst… While you’re on the hunt for the best churches, be sure to keep your eyes peeled, as most are located in the most beautiful cities in the world.
12 Best Churches in the World
From Romanesque and Gothic design to Renaissance and Baroque architecture, let’s take a look at the best churches in the world. These popular churches are numbered for ease of reference, but in no particular order.
12. Seville Cathedral
Nothing can prepare tourists for the majesty of the Seville Cathedral. The magnificent structure is Christendom’s biggest Gothic-styled church and the third-largest when compared to the Neoclassical Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
Be awed by the cathedral’s sheer size and incredible Gothic splendor, from its enormous interior to the 30-meter-tall altarpiece gilded with gold. Book a skip-the-line ticket and spend a few hours exploring the grandiose sanctuary, the treasury containing religious objects, and chapels adorned with Spanish paintings.
11. Las Lajas Sanctuary
Nestled in a canyon on the Guaitara River in Colombia, Las las Sanctuary displays a magical sight of Gothic Revival-style architecture. The extravagant basilica church was built between 1916 and 1949, taking a total of 33 years to build.
The incredible building is most impressive when you see how the church fits into the dramatic landscape, with a bridge crossing the cascading cliffs to the canyon floor.
10. Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, in the center of London, is a church fitting for a king or queen. In fact, the former Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster is where the British Monarchs have been crowned for centuries.
The abbey church was built in 1065 and held strong ties with the British Royal family. There’s plenty to see inside this masterpiece of Gothic architecture, from the Royal Tombs, the Poet’s Corner, the Cloisters and the Nave, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries.
Known for its stained glass windows, Westminster Abbey also has two impressive Western towers built in the Gothic Revival style.
Top Tip: Skip the line and buy your ticket to Westminster Abbey here.
9. Hagia Sophia
Out of all the churches on this list, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is the only building used as a mosque. Interestingly, this famous European landmark hasn’t been an active church for over 500 years, yet Christian elements still remain.
Built in 537 as the patriarchal cathedral, Hagia Sophia is also one of the oldest cathedrals in the world. The imposing building was also the largest Christian church of the eastern Roman Empire.
Today, the Hagia Sophia stands as a mosque and museum for visitors to explore the restored frescoes and mosaics that date from the time it stood as a Byzantine Cathedral.
8. Milan Cathedral
Milan Cathedral, also known as Duomo di Milano, is the largest church in Italy. The gigantic Gothic masterpiece took nearly six centuries to complete, with construction beginning in 1386 and officially completed in 1965.
One of the largest churches in the world at 11,700 square meters, the Duomo has a great location on Piazza del Duomo. This Roman Catholic cathedral is dazzling with detail, from overly ornate spires and pinnacles of the Duomo to the elegantly tiled floors welcoming you to the interior space. If you get a chance to visit Milan, don’t miss a walk on the roof of the Duomo, it’s great fun.
Psst…Get ahead of the crowd and book your ticket to explore all the splendors of the Milan Cathedral.
7. Borgund Stave Church
The Borgund Stave Church, erected around 1180, is one of Norway’s best examples of a stave church from the Medieval Period. The triple-nave church is intricately designed with rickety roof-tops and carved dragon heads guarding the gables – giving you that chilling Viking-like feel (and look).
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway, Borgund is nestled in a verdant valley and is one of the 28 remaining wooden churches today. The landmark, which is no longer utilized for religious reasons, now functions as a visitor center with information about Norwegian stave churches.
6. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been recognized since the early Byzantine era. Today, this historical monument is identified as the site where Jesus Christ’s crucifixion took place and is one of the world’s major pilgrimage destinations.
The church is on a more modest scale than some of the great cathedrals of Europe. Moreover, the Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem’s famous Christian pilgrimage walk, ends here.
5. Saint Basil’s Cathedral
St. Basil’s Cathedral, located in the heart of Moscow’s Red Square, has a kaleidoscopic appearance owing to its whirling patterns and bright onion-colored domes.
The candy-colored creation, commanded by Ivan the Terrible in the mid-1500s, is one of Europe’s – and the world’s – most recognized landmarks. Although the cathedral is famed for its distinctive appearance, the inside is just as splendid as the icons and murals that cover its surface.
4. Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame de Paris, meaning ‘Our Lady of Paris,’ is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité. A famous example of a Gothic cathedral constructed during the Middle Ages, you’ll find gargoyles guarding this magnificent structure and flying buttresses jutting out from the wall tops.
The ruins of two older basilicas constitute the foundation of the present cathedral, which was built during the 12th and 14th centuries. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is temporarily closed.
That’s because unfortunately, Notre Dame was partially destroyed by fire in April 2019. Restoration work is ongoing, with 200 construction workers on site each day. The aim is to completely restore Notre Dame before the 2024 Summer Olympics in France.
The famous Pieta of Notre-Dame de Paris survived the fire. This white marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus Christ is normally located on the high altar but has been moved to the Louvre Museum for now.
Psst… While you’re in France, don’t forget to snap a few pictures at some other famous French landmarks.
3. St Paul’s Cathedral
At the seat of the Bishop of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral is the largest and most famous of London’s churches. Located on the site of a Roman temple, the structure was built after the original church was destroyed. The Renaissance church boasts magnificent dimensions: 365 ft high, 227 ft wide across the transepts, 515 ft long with two 212-foot-high towers, and a 365-foot dome.
Today, after restoration and the removal of 250 years of accumulated grime, St Paul’s Cathedral has been fully restored and still holds daily services. This well known London landmark has a temporarily closed whispering gallery where you can hear the faintest whisper from each side.
Top Tip: Book an entry ticket and explore the cathedral floor, its three galleries, and enjoy phenomenal views from the towering dome.
2. La Sagrada Familia
One of the world’s most renowned churches, the La Sagrada Familia construction began in 1882 and stands uncompleted to this day. Famous architect, Antoni Gaudi, died before his masterpiece in Barcelona, Spain could be realized.
There are, however, plans to complete the La Sagrada by 2026. And despite being unfinished, this modernist basilica is stunning to see, from its towering spires to its splendid ornate facades.
Top Tip: Tickets to tour the Sagrada Familia are often sold out; it’s best to buy your skip-the-line tickets in advance.
1. St. Peter’s Basilica
Considering that the Vatican City is home to the pope and the seat of Catholicism, it comes to reason that it also has the world’s biggest church, St. Peter’s Basilica. The enormous building covers approximately 22,300 square meters.
This Roman Catholic church was commissioned by Pope Julius II to be the grandest building in Christendom. The cathedral was built between 1506 and 1626, with legendary figures contributing to its works, including Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bramante.
Take a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and marvel at the cavernous interiors, glittering treasures, elaborate decorations, and centuries-old artwork on display in this architectural masterpiece.
A Footnote on the Best Churches in the World
Whether or not you consider yourself to be a spiritual person, there is something special about visiting these sacred historic sites during a trip. Not only have these beautiful buildings served a place in the community, but they also stand to be some of the most incredible masterpieces.
From the place of Jesus’s crucifixion to the largest cathedral in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, you’re bound to be awed by their history, arts, and extraordinary beauty.
So, now that we’ve covered the best churches in the world and all their glory, which one have you been to? And what’s your favorite thing about it? Please share; we’d love to know.
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Source: Luxury Columnist