Due to their place in society, churches have long had the wealth and power to preserve history and fund creative, often extravagant works of art. The best churches in the world are often the ones that not only have a history or legend to them but are also the most beautiful churches in the world and dazzle with their extraordinary beauty.
1. Notre Dame de Paris, France
The Notre Dame Cathedral Paris or Notre Dame de Paris (Meaning ‘Our Lady of Paris’ in French) is a Gothic cathedral located in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France, It has its main entrance to the west. Building work began on the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris way back in the 12th century, it was not until some 300 years later construction finally came to an end. It is now one of the most prominent cathedrals in France and one of the oldest ones too. Notre-Dame Cathedral consists of a choir and apse, a short transept and a nave flanked by double naves and square chapels. Its central spire was added during the restoration in the 19th century, replacing the original, which had been completely removed in the 18th century due to instability. The interior of the cathedral has a plan of 427 by 157 feet (130 by 48 meters) and the roof is 115 feet (35 meters) high. Two massive towers of early Gothic (1210-1250) crown the west facade, which is divided into three floors and the doors of which are adorned with fine sculptures of early Gothic and surmounted by a row of figures of kings from the Old Testament. The two towers are 223 feet (68 meters) high; the arrows with which they were to be crowned were never added.
2. St. Peter’s Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, or simply Saint Peter’s Basilica, is a church built in the Renaissance style located in Vatican City, the papal enclave that is within the city of Rome. The construction of the new basilica began in 1506, when the old basilica had been torn down, and was finished in 1626. It was consecrated on 18 November, 1626. Several renowned architects designed the temple, highlighting the works of Bramante, Michelangelo and Carlo Maderno. The basilica was called St Peter’s after one of Jesus’s twelve disciples known as Saint Peter, who became one of the founders of the Catholic Church and was executed in Rome and buried where the Basilica now stands. St Peter’s Basilica can accomodate 20,000 people. It measures 190 m (624 ft) long and the central nave is 46 m (150 ft) tall. The dome stands 136 m (447ft) tall. Inside, visitors will find extremely impressive pieces of art, including St. Peter’s Baldachin, a large bronze baldachin designed by Bernini, The Pietà, a sculpture by Michelangelo and the statue of St Peter on his throne. St Peter has his right foot worn down due to the touches of the devoted.
3. Sagrada Familia, Spain
The Basílica de la Sagrada Família, also known as the Sagrada Família, is a large unfinished Roman Catholic minor basilica in the Eixample district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Designed by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, his work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sagrada Familia re-opens its doors on the 29th of May 2021 on Saturdays and Sundays. When you visit the building you will see the contrast in the stone colour between the front and back of the building. Also the actual style of construction appears somewhat different between the new and old parts of the building. Gaudí played an active role in directing the construction of the Sagrada Família until his death in 1926. He would often request that work be modified and adjusted until it was exactly what he had in mind. However today, because of the nature of the existing designs, his work is partly open to interpretation. Interpretation of the designs by present day architects is particularly challenging because the actual construction stones are irregularly shaped. The building is still under construction so be prepared to see a lot of work continuing when you visit. However this in itself is interesting, especially if you visit the museum inside the building.
4. St. Basil’s Cathedral
The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, commonly known as Saint Basil’s Cathedral, is an Orthodox church in Red Square of Moscow, and is one of the most popular cultural symbols of Russia. Also called “Pokrovsky Cathedral” or “The Cathedral of Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat”, it is the most recognizable Russian building. This Cathedral means to Russians the same as the Eiffel Tower to the French, being an honorable symbol of their past, present, and future. The cathedral stands on the Red Square, facing the Ivory Gate Chapel. Historians claim that Ivan the Terrible blinded the St. Basil’s Cathedral architect right after the construction was finished to prevent him from building another cathedral as magnificent as that. Originally its sides were wooden but during the reign of Catherine II the Great the walls were reconstructed in the same stone seen today and covered in swirling colors and designs. Another time the Cathedral fell under threat was when Stalin decided that it was an obstacle to his military parades. The demolition plan was prepared but the architect threatened that if the Cathedral was ruined, he would cut his throat on its steps. Miraculously, Stalin changed his mind, and the brave architect Piotr Baranovsky was granted a couple of years in prison for saving St. Basil’s.
5. Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland
Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík, Iceland. At 74.5 metres tall, it is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in the country. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, author of the Passion Hymns. Visible from almost any point in the city, Hallgrimskirkja Church sits at the top of Skolavordustigur Street, the central art and design shopping street in the capital. The iconic building is 74,5 meters (240 ft) high, and a visit to the top will reward you with awe-inspiring views of Reykjavik and even Snaefellsjokull glacier on a clear day. For a modest fee visitors can enter the church tower and enjoy the majestic view. The fascinating shapes of the basalt rock columns surrounding Svartifoss Waterfall fascinated the architect. The church features a gargantuan pipe organ, designed and constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. The organ weighs over 25 tons. It is 15 meters tall. The organ is driven by four manuals and a pedal, 102 ranks, 72 stops and 5275 pipes. The organ is quite powerful and capable of filling the huge space of the church. The organ’s construction was complete in 1992. Hallgrimskirkja Church is open every day 9-21 from May to September, and 9-17 from October to April. The church tower, from which you get an excellent view over Reykjavik and surrounding areas, closes half an hour before the general closing time. The tower is also closed on Sundays during mass. Not to the church itself, but if you wish to enter the church tower you must pay a moderate fee. Adults pay an entrance fee of 900 ISK for access to the tower. Children aged 7-14 pay 100 ISK.