Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Most Beautiful Churches in the World

Sacred Spaces. We have been creating them since time began, and need them now more than ever. While I understand that the Church is the people of God (and not the building where they gather), today many of our church buildings resemble event centers and stadiums more than houses of worship. They seem to be built more for utility than as a visible expression of the glory of God. Yet we owe God our best, even in our architecture, and we need beautiful, awe-inspiring churches as well. Here are a few.


Duomo di Milano - Milan (Wikimedia Commons)

Duomo di Milano, Milan, Italy. Begun in 1386, this amazing Gothic cathedral took nearly 600 years to complete. It is also the third-largest church building in the world.

Notre-Dame Basilica - Montreal, Canada (GettyImages)

Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal, Canada. Dedicated in 1829, this Gothic Revival style church was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989. One interesting feature is the stained glass windows, which depict scenes from the religious history of Montreal rather than the traditional Biblical scenes.


St. Peter's Basilica - Vatican City (Wikimedia Commons)

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. Perhaps the most famous church in the world and the most visible representation of the Catholic Church. Construction began in 1506, and the fundraising campaign to complete the project proved (unintentionally) to be a catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. The church sold indulgences to raise money for the construction, Martin Luther objected, and the rest is history.

St. Paul's Cathedral - London (Wikimedia Commons)

St. Paul's Cathedral, London, England. St. Paul's was first consecrated in 1300; that building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The current St. Paul's was begun by the famed architect Sir Christopher Wren in 1669. It's massive dome has dominated London's skyline for centuries.

Washington National Cathedral - Washington, D.C. (Wikimedia Commons)

Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. The National Cathedral took 83 years to complete; it was only officially finished in 1990. It has been the site of 21 Presidential funerals, and has an interesting modern detail: a sculpture of Darth Vader at the top of the west tower, representing evil.


St. Vitus Cathedral - Prague (Wikimedia Commons)

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic. Located within Prague Castle, the cathedral was constructed over a nearly 600-year period and is the largest and most important church in the Czech Republic. One of the most richly decorated churches in Europe, it also houses the tombs of St Wenceslas and Charles IV.

St. Basil's Cathedral - Moscow (GettyImages)

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow Russia. Located in Red Square, work on this famous church was begun in 1554 by order of Ivan the Terrible, the first Tsar of Russia. The vivid colors that grace the domes today were not added until 200 years after construction was completed.

La Sagrada Familia - Barcelona, Spain (Wikimedia Commons)

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain. La Sagrada Familia is one of the world's most amazing churches and one of Barcelona's most famous landmarks. It was designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi, with construction starting in 1882 and ongoing to this day.

Matthias Church - Budapest (Wikimedia Commons)

Matthias Church, Budapest, Hungary. Officially named the Church of Our Lady of Buda, the church takes its more common name from King Matthias, who ruled from 1458-90. In 1541, when the Turks captured Buda, the church became a mosque; it became a church again after the liberation of Budapest from the Turks in 1686. Legend has it that during the bombardment of Budapest by a European alliance, a wall of the church collapsed, revealing a hidden sculpture of the Madonna to the praying Turks. Demoralized, they surrendered the following day.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris (Wikimedia Commons)

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris France. No list of beautiful churches would be complete without the iconic Paris landmark. Construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345. It is both the most popular monument in Paris (beating even the Eiffel Tower with 13 million visitors each year) and a pilgrimage destination for Catholics from around the globe.

Memorial Presbyterian Church - St. Augustine, FL (Wikimedia Commons)

Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Augustine, FL. Florida’s oldest Presbyterian Church, Memorial Presbyterian was built in 1889 by Henry Flagler as a memorial to his daughter.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Jerusalem (Wikipedia Commons)

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel. Easily  the oldest church on this list, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was first consecrated in 335. It was destroyed in 1009, and rebuilt in 1049. According to tradition, the church contains both the site of Jesus' crucifixion and his empty tomb.


As beautiful and important as these churches are, we must always remember that the buildings are never to be the object of worship themselves:

"However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that?’ asks the Lord." - Acts 7:48-49 (NLT)



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