Top Ten Stunning Sanctuaries

We’ve chosen ten churches all across the world to be recognized as our Top Ten Stunning Sanctuaries. When looking at online photos of these worship centers, it’s only natural to wish you could travel to see these places and see them for yourself. Our choices were mainly decided on by architectural beauty or distinctiveness, but many of these churches have interesting histories as well. We’ve included a brief description about each of our favorite choices around the world of churches. It was hard enough to narrow the list down to ten, so here’s our list in no particular order. We hope you enjoy this post as much as we did!

 

Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France

Notre DameFrench for “Our Lady of Paris,” Notre Dame de Paris is one of the largest and most well known churches in the world. Part of its familiarity comes from its shrine, which holds the professed crown of thorns, a small portion of Jesus’s cross, and one of the crucifixion nails. The architecture of the church is also quite notable. This cathedral was one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses for support, and has many gargoyles and grotesques throughout. After nearly a 200-year construction process, the magnificent church was completed and is now among the largest and most well-known churches in the world.

Duomo di Firenze, Florence, Italy

Duomo Di FirenzeThe Duomo di Firenze, also known as the Florence Cathedral was built between 1296 and 1436 in Italy. One of the largest churches in the world, it hosts a gothic front façade, with a limited amount of interior decoration, with the exception of the elaborate marble flooring, and the painted fresco of the Last Judgment on the dome ceiling (the largest dome in the world at the time). Even though the interior of the church has minimal color, there is actually a museum devoted to works of art strictly from the cathedral.

Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona, Spain

Santa Maria Del MarThe Santa Maria del Mar, designed in 1324 and completed 55 years later, is considered the finest example of Catalan Gothic architecture in existence. During the 1960s, excavations under the church revealed that the church’s grounds had previously been used as a Roman cemetery during the 4th through 6th centuries. During the Spanish Civil War, locals burned out the interior after the Church turned their back on the people. Since then, smoke continues to darken the walls of the vault, but it is still a beauty to behold.

The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Church of Spilled BloodThis stunning Russian-style church has a unique story behind its construction and name. In 1881, Emperor Alexander II was assassinated by a group of radicals who threw a bomb at his royal carriage. This event ended the string of efforts to take the life of the emperor who had earlier freed Russian serfs and made many attempts at military, judicial, and urban reform. After the assassination of Alexander II, a decision was made to construct a church, almost completely funded by the royal family and many private investors, at the location where the assassination took place. The “Blood” mentioned in the church’s common name, refers to that of Alexander II, as well as the crucified Jesus. The Russian Orthodox cathedral even showcases a marvelous shrine on the exact place of Alexander II’s death. After much history in the 1900s, the church is no longer functioning as a full-time place of worship, but has become a major tourist attraction for St. Petersburg, Russia.

 

Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Thorn Crown ChapelNestled in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, this modern church was built during 1979 and 1980 out of pinewood beams and glass windows, and even appears to be an open-air space. The Thorncrown Chapel has won numerous architectural awards, been showcased in many major magazines, appeared on television programs, and been visited by over 6 million people since it’s opening in 1980. The church is now open daily for touring with free admission, along with church services April through December, and weddings and special retreats available throughout the year as well.

Stavanger Cathedral, Stavanger, Norway

St. Avenger CathedralThe Stavanger Cathedral was built shortly after Sigurd Jorsalfarer named Stavanger, Norway a cathedral city, around the year 1100. It was not completed until roughly 1150. About a century later, the church’s Anglo-Norman style was damaged by fire, which allowed some reconstruction to follow a Gothic style instead. To this day, Stavanger Cathedral is the oldest Norwegian cathedral and has been in use ever since its founding.

 

 

Chesme Church, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Cheseme ChurchThe Chesme Church was consecrated in 1780, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Russia’s naval victory at Chesme Bay, and also John the Baptist’s birthday, both giving way to the naming of the church. This church has been described as having a “wedding cake structure”, which makes it unique from many other Russian cathedrals. Also known as The Church of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, it still holds regular services today, even after its unique history of being turned into a labor camp by the Soviet government, and later becoming a burial ground for those killed in war.

 

La Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada FamiliaIn 1882, construction began on this uniquely designed church which has become Barcelona’s most popular tourist site. The original design has not been completed, due to the unexpected death of the primary designer and builder, however it is still certainly a majestic tourist attraction. The original design called for 18 columns to represent the Twelve Apostles, the Four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ. There are also three large facades decorating the building, including the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory facades, each representing significant Biblical history or prophecy. One of the most distinctive aspects of the interior of this church is its interior columns that evolve into different geometric forms as you look further up the column.

 

St. Bridget’s Church, Jersey City, New Jersey

St. BridgetFounded in 1887, St. Bridget’s Church in New Jersey, this is one of America’s most beautiful worship centers. Today the church includes the parish business office, a growing day-care center and school, and a religious education center for children and adults. Many of the current church members are descendants of the Irish, Italian and Polish settlers who founded St. Bridget’s Church, along with many Filipino and Spanish locals. As a special touch to the worship service, this church has two volunteer choirs, one in English and one in Spanish.

 

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome, Italy

Sistine ChapelAnd what would a list of the top stunning churches or sanctuaries be without the famous Sistine Chapel? Built in the Vatican City during the late 1400s, at the commission of Pope Sixtus IV, the pope’s chapel has become a hugely popular tourist attraction. So much history and beauty lies in the walls of this chapel, most remarkably the artwork of Michelangelo Buonarroti. After a request to paint the Twelve Apostles and a few ornaments on the ceiling, Michelangelo found himself deeply involved in this project and his final work ended with over 300 human figures. His work between 1508 and 1512, in cramped areas on high scaffolding, produced 9 scenes from Genesis, 7 prophet paintings, and the world-renowned “Last Judgment” on the altar wall.

 

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