AD A look at some of the most beautiful churches around the world – from Turkey’s Goreme Mosque to the Holy Cross Chapel in the United States.
Shrine of Our Lady of Las Lajas, Colombia
Our tour of the ten most beautiful churches in the world begins in Colombia. Pilgrims and everyday tourists alike have made this shrine a must-see in South America. Its history as a pilgrimage site predates the current church – in 1754, the Virgin Mary appeared to two Amerindian women seeking shelter from a storm, an event that has been commemorated by many shrines over the years. Located in a canyon formed by the Guitara River on the border with Ecuador, Colombian architect Lucindo Espinosa and Ecuadorian engineer J. The construction of the Neo-Gothic church by Gualberto Pérez began in 1916 and the church was completed and inaugurated in 1949. At more than 330 feet above the river below, it’s cinematic.
Panagia Paraportiani Church, Greece
Overlooking the Aegean Sea, the church is one of the oldest of more than 400 churches on the Greek island of Mykonos. The Byzantine-Cycladic building from 1425 is located in the historic district of Chora town. Its most distinctive feature is originally five separate churches built over the centuries, eventually joined together in the present structure. The church or churches were built inside the ancient city gate – Panagia Paraportiani means “Our Lady of the Side Gate”. The ornate, whitewashed exterior is a striking example of Cycladic architecture.
Churches of Goreme, Turkey
A highlight of Turkey’s Cappadocia region is its many monastic structures, carved into the region’s volcanic peaks, now a wonderful open-air museum. The mosques of Goreme Valley are well known. The beautiful cave structures were created by monks beginning in the 4th century, and their interior walls are painted with stunning frescoes. Although the caves were originally monasteries, many chapels, refectories and houses have been carved into the rocks over the centuries. In 1985, Goreme Mosques were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Church of St. George, Ethiopia
St. George’s Church is one of 11 monolithic churches carved from the volcanic tuff of Lalibela in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, dating from the late 12th to early 13th century. Built during the reign of King Gebre Meskel Lalibela, this Ethiopian Orthodox Church is described as the eighth wonder of the world. Surrounded by a very narrow man-made gorge, the frescoes depict the life of St. George, a Roman soldier who refused to renounce his Christian faith. The mosques of Lalibela are divided into two groups by an 80×80 feet moat representing the Jordan River. The mosques are located at an altitude of about 8,500 feet and are accessible through a network of tunnels and labyrinths.
Saint Michael d’Aiguille Chapel in France
Located in the hills of the commune of Aiguilhe, less than two hours by car from Lyon, the Chapel of Saint-Michel is on a 269-foot volcanic peak. Built in 969, the Romanesque church is dedicated to Saint Michael, the patron saint of mountain peaks. Accessible by a 268-step staircase, the stone structure was called “the gem of Romanesque architecture” by French romantic writer Prosper Mérimée and offers a panoramic view of the city. In 1247, the bell tower was struck by lightning and later rebuilt in the 19th century, while the frescoes were restored by the French painter Anatole Dauvergne from that period.
Chapel of the Holy Cross, United States
The formal designs for the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona were commissioned and designed by philanthropist Marguerite Brunswig Stoudt. Since the Catholic chapel opened in 1957, it has become one of Arizona’s top tourist attractions. Staudt was inspired by American skyscrapers, particularly the Empire State Building, and the highlight of the building is a 90-foot iron cross by sculptor Keith Munro. The church is a unique and beautiful monument in the harsh and beautiful desert landscape. Its concrete walls create a stark contrast with the surrounding red rocks.
Stykkisholmskirkja Church, Iceland
This futuristic Lutheran church on the Snæfellsnes peninsula was designed by architect John Haraldsson. Opened in 1990, the concrete church and bell tower resembling the vertebrae of a whale can be found in Stykkisholmsborg, a picturesque little fishing village of just over 1,000 people in western Iceland. Visible from a distance, the smooth lines of the mosque piercing the sky make for an extraordinary sight.
Borgund Stave Church, Norway
Located in the village of Borgund, about a three-hour drive from Bergen, the construction of this medieval wooden church began in the late 12th century. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the church in Norway is considered one of the best-preserved stave churches in the country. (The name comes from the staves or vertical wooden boards used to form its walls.) In 19th Many historic turn-of-the-century wooden churches were neglected and others were deliberately demolished to make way for new buildings. The great Romantic landscape painter Johann Christian Claussen Dahl is credited with highlighting their beauty and historical significance, ensuring that many are preserved as historical landmarks.
Cadet Chapel, United States Air Force Academy, United States
Opened in 1962, the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel stands 150 feet tall and is one of the most impressive modern religious buildings in the United States. Designed by architect Walter Netsch, the chapel is crowned with 17 glass spiers and aluminum panels. With its steel structure and stained-glass windows, the modern chapel has been compared to a spaceship or an airplane wing. The Ecumenical Chapel provides a place of meditation where Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish cadets can worship.
Tempeliukio Church, Finland
This modern monolithic church was designed by Finnish brothers and architects Timo and Tumo Sumolainen and completed in 1969. It is a mosque carved directly into the granite rocks with walls 16 to 26 feet high. Atop the church, a 79-foot-diameter copper dome sits on concrete beams and 180 glass panels. The church is known for its excellent acoustics, credited to its rough stone walls, and is often used for concerts.