Europe

Europe’s Most Beautiful Sacred Destinations

Whether you’re a strong believer or a convinced atheist, you have to appreciate the beauty of certain holy places, and European cathedrals are definitely the most beautiful and the most renown. So here are 10 of Europe’s most impressive sacred structures.

St. Basil’s Cathedral
Location: Moscow, Russia

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Commissioned by Ivan the terrible to commemorate his successful military campaign against the Tartar Mongols in the city of Kazan, in 1552, St. Basil’s was designed by Postnik Yakolev and built between 1555 and 1561. Legend has it that Ivan the Terrible had the architect blinded after the building was finished, so he could never build anything more beautiful, but history records that he did build another cathedral in Vladimir, so the legend is most likely just that.

Built on the edge of the Red Square in Moscow, St. Basil’s Cathedral is a colorful edifice made up of 9 individual chapels, each a symbol of a successful assault on Kazan and topped by an onion dome. The ninth chapel was erected in 1588 between the first eight, giving the cathedral the look of an eight-corner star when seen from above.

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Moscow’s most popular and probably most beautiful building was close to being a victim of the Bolshevik regime; Stalin closed down the church, melted its bells and prepared a plan for its demolition, to ease the movement of parades and vehicles through the square. Thankfully the courage of brilliant architect P. Baranovsky, who, when ordered to make preparation for the destruction, threatened to cut his own throat on the church’s steps, managed to convince Stalin to reconsider.

St. Basil’s interior is less impressive than the exterior, made up of small chapels and tight corridors with colorful, delicate floral paintings covering the walls.
Photo credits: 1,2

Sagrada Familia
Location: Barcelona, Spain

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Designed by now famous architect Antonio Gaudi, Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic cathedral still under construction in Barcelona. Work on the cathedral started in 1882 and Gaudi himself worked on it for 40 years, 15 of which he dedicated exclusively to it, until his death in 1926. When asked about the deadline of his project, now scheduled to 2026, Gaudi said “My client is not in a hurry.”

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Sagrada Familia features 18 huge towers representing the 12 Apostles, the 4 Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, the tallest one, Jesus Christ, which, upon the cathedral’s completion will have a huge cross mounted on top. The height of the church will be of 170 meters, one meter shorter than a neighboring hill, because Gaudi believed his creation shouldn’t be higher than God. It will have three facades, the Nativity to the East, the Glory to the South and the Passion to the West.

You might think the building process has already taken too long but at the start of the 20th century, specialist predicted the project would be completed in several hundred years. Thanks to technological progress we might live long enough to see it completed.
Photo credits: 1,2

Notre Dame
Location: Paris, France

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One of the most famous cathedrals in the world, especially due to the popular novel by Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it is considered the finest example of French Gothic Architecture.

Construction of the cathedral began in 1163, after the Bishop Maurice de Sully considered the current cathedral unworthy of its role, and it lasted until 1345. Over this long period of time, many architects worked on the project, evidenced by the many styles used on the west front and towers.

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Raided during the rioting of the Huguenots in 1548 and during the French Revolution in 1793, Notre Dame has been restored many times and a restoration program started in 1991 is still ongoing because the cleaning and restoration of old sculptures is extremely delicate.
Photo credits: 1,2

Hagia Sophia
Location: Istanbul, Turkey

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Former patriarchal basilica, a mosque and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest structures ever built. Created between 532 and 537 as a church on the orders of Justinian, emperor of the Byzantine Empire and home to many holy relics, Hagia Sophia was the Patriarchal church of Constantinople and the religious ground zero of the eastern Orthodox World for almost 1000 years.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the ottomans started converting this holy place into a mosque, removing the bells, altar, iconostas and relics and covering the murals with Turkish mosaics. For 500 years it was the main mosque of the Ottoman Empire and it has served as an inspiration for pretty much all the mosques built across Turkey, until 1935 when the great reformer, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk decided to close the mosque and turn it into a museum.

The greatest example of Byzantine architecture, Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world for 1000 years, until the completion of the Cathedral of Seville.
Photo credits: 1

Winchester Cathedral
Location: Winchester, England

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Dedicated to the Holy Trinity of Saint Paul, saint Peter and Swithun, Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in England and the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe.

Winchester Cathedral is very popular among tourists who come here to visit the place where famed English writer Jane Austin is buried. Her tomb lies in the north aisle of the nave and marker there praises her work and contribution to international literature. It has also been a film-set for 2005’s The Da Vinci Code.

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It is one of the most impressive structures in England and of its greatest sacred places, with many Saxon kings buried here, as well as William the Conqueror and his son William II.
Photo credits: 1,2

Cathedral of St. Sava
Location: Belgrad, Serbia

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The Cathedral of St. Sava is the largest Orthodox Church in the world, currently in use. It is a monument erected in the memory of Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in Serbian History. It is built on Vracar plateau, the place where it is believed Sinan Pasha burned the remains of Saint Sava in 1595.

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Work on the cathedral began in May 1935, after many problems accepting a viable design, but due to the start of WWII and the occupation of the city by the Red Army, it was completed just 4 years ago, in 2004. The structure itself is finished but work on the interior still requires a lot of work.

The building is 82 meters tall and is visible from any side of the city.
Photo credits: 1,2

Cologne Cathedral
Location: Cologne, Germany

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An “exceptional work of human creative genius” as described by UNESCO, Cologne Cathedral is one of the most popular monuments in Germany. It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and between 1880 and 1884 it was the tallest structure in the world, before the completion of the Washington Monument and later the Eiffel Tower. Its spires are only surpassed by the singular spire of Ulm Cathedral, making it the second tallest church in the world, with 157 meters in height.

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Work on this impressive Gothic church began in 1248 but it took more than 600 years to complete in 1880. During WWII the cathedral took 14 hits from aerial bombers but stood tall surrounded by destroyed buildings. Many thought it was a divine miracle, but in truth, the allies wanted to keep the cathedral intact as they were using it to calculate bearings to other German targets.

In 1996, Cologne Cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Photo credits: 1,2

Basillica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Location: Florence, Italy

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Designed to be the largest cathedral in the world, Santa Maria del Fiore is today surpassed in size only by St. Peter’s Cathedral in The Vatican, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Cathedral of Milan. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296, it started as a wish of the Florentines to have a greater holy place than the ones in Pisa and Siena and it is built upon an older church, Santa Reparata. When it was finished, it was the largest cathedral in Europe able to embrace 30,000 Christians.

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The most important elements of the Basillica di Santa Maria del Fiore are its 42 meters dome and its façade, the later considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Its walls are covered with stripes of Carrara (white), Prato (green), Siena (red) and Lavenza marble.

Throughout its history, the Santa Maria del Fiore hosted the council of Florencs, listened to the lectures of Girolamo Savonarola and witnessed the murder of Giuliano de Medici.
Photo credits: 1,2

Seville Cathedral
Location: Seville, Spain

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Formally known as Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede, Seville Cathedral is the largest Roman-Catholic cathedral in the world and also the largest Medieval Gothic religious buildings. The building process began in 1402 on the site where the Almohad Mosque once stood and it stretched into the 16th century.

The interior is just as impressive as the exterior, its main altarpiece is considered the largest in the world and the nave is the largest in all of Spain. It features many gold decorations, religious jewelry, paintings, sculptures and a Gothic retablo of 45 carved scenes from the life of Christ. This is also where you can find the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

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The Seville Cathedral was built to show the world the wealth of the city, which had become a major trading center after “La Reconquista” During its construction somebody is recorded to have said “we shall have a church [so great and] of such a kind that those who see it built will think we were mad.”
Photo credits: 1,2

Nidaros Cathedral
Location: Trondheim, Norway

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Undoubtedly the most beautiful cathedral in Norway, probably in all Scandinavian Peninsula, Nidaros has been an important destination for pilgrims coming from all over Northern Europe since the building process began in 1070. It is supposedly erected over the tomb of King Olav Haraldsson, who was declared a saint 5 days after his death.

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The style of the cathedral is Romanesque and Gothic but the current building was rebuilt several times, since it has had many problems, especially with fire and in 1708 it all burned down except for the stone walls. It has undergone a process of restoration that ended in 2001.

Throughout the years, Nidaros Cathedral witnessed many coronations, the last taking place in 1906 and it is a very popular tourist attraction in Norway.
Photo credits: 1,2

mumu baruchu hotel

65 Comments for "Europe’s Most Beautiful Sacred Destinations"

Maing says on May 28th, 2008 at 8:39 am:

These are all beatuiful places but man let me say that you forgot the christianity headquarter on earth,St.Peters Basilica.

bel says on June 5th, 2008 at 5:01 am:

i’ve been to Hagia sofia…..its ginormous! but heaps beautiful inside. the whole cieling is covered with islamic inscriptions…that would’ve taken years to do…its definately a must see!

Barbara says on July 4th, 2008 at 11:50 pm:

This is a wonderful site, and I hope to see more sacred destinations. Can anyone get pictures of the inside of any Cathedral’s? I have gone in a few in England, and could only buy post cards of the inside area. I look forward to seeing St. Peters Basilica also.

Omnie says on July 5th, 2008 at 11:03 am:

these are definitely wonderful places to see and I would love to go there myself someday…. St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia is a must for me!!!

murat says on July 15th, 2008 at 12:05 am:

Your wonders is so amazing and perfect..

Navin says on September 22nd, 2008 at 1:02 pm:

Beautiful presentation. Very refreshing to see all these wonderful places of worship.

protector says on January 15th, 2009 at 10:34 am:

I’ve been both to Basillica di Santa Maria del Fiore and St. Peters Basilica and I must say that Santa Maria exceeds St. Peters by far! Santa Maria del Fiore is the most beautiful cathedral in Italy.

Jef says on January 29th, 2009 at 12:32 pm:

And the Kathedral of our lady in Antwerp

Giorgia says on June 3rd, 2009 at 10:01 pm:

You forgot the Milan Duomo! Unbelievable!

Graziella says on June 5th, 2009 at 4:06 am:

the site said that the Sevti Sava orthodox church in belgrade was finished in 2004, but when i went there this past summer only the outside in complete. at the rate they are working it is not going to be done for an other century.

US Traveller says on June 8th, 2009 at 10:14 pm:

Thanks for these beautiful sacred places.I have seen them for the first time.Cologne Cathedral looks most beautiful to me.

John Fotzgerald says on June 26th, 2009 at 8:03 am:

In reply to comment made by Graziella.

I visited St.Sava Temple this April and in last 6 months they have done more then in last 15 years.Its impressive its amazing…very spiritual…especially when the bells ring…

I was honestly touched by beauty and sheer presence of St.Sava temple….

Velid says on July 8th, 2009 at 1:25 pm:

I think Gazi Husrev beg’s mosque in Sarajevo is one of the most important and most stunning sacral objects in Europe. It represents authentic European muslim community from 16th century.
Anyway, nice list. I have visited cathedral in Cologne, Florence and St. Sava template in Belgrade. You shold definitely consider putting Gazi Husrev beg’s mosque here :) Greeteing from Bosnia.

JakeMan says on July 22nd, 2009 at 5:48 am:

I don’t know what you are smoking. I looked up the Gazi Husrev-Bey’s Mosque…it doesn’t hold a candle to any of the cathedrals listed here! I want to see them all, especially the Basillica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Only inspired people have created such beauty and grandeur, we couldn’t do it without holy inspriation. I’ve been to the Dom in Koln, Germany….stunning priceless works of art housed there.

Rahming says on August 23rd, 2009 at 5:20 am:

Hi, this is really nice post i like it so much
thank very much

Megann says on November 23rd, 2009 at 10:08 pm:

My god the Cologne Cathedral is so pretty. I wanna get married there.

linuxgid says on December 1st, 2009 at 11:33 pm:

I learn English and copy writing from blogging. :D

mySardinia says on December 2nd, 2009 at 12:04 pm:

I suggest Sardinia’s Pisan churches of Santa Trinita di Saccargia near Sassari and the one in San Gavino in Porto Torres. Both of them are open every days and will definitely mesmerized every visitors for their unique appearance.

Raj says on December 15th, 2009 at 11:51 am:

I suggest Birla mandir in hyderabad

Matthew says on January 10th, 2010 at 2:14 am:

st sava is a MUST

samon says on January 25th, 2010 at 6:16 pm:

they al ite

Raj says on January 31st, 2010 at 5:44 pm:

all these places suck

adas says on February 14th, 2010 at 6:32 pm:

Cathedral in KRAKÓW, i think this is the best place in Poland!

yazmine says on February 23rd, 2010 at 5:20 am:

wowwwwwwwwww that was amazing

Calvin Ross says on March 2nd, 2010 at 11:59 am:

i have been to some of these places before and to be honest they all suck. They are the worst places I have ever been in my life.

hulk says on March 15th, 2010 at 10:56 pm:

hey calvin your a f**kin idiot

hulk says on March 15th, 2010 at 10:57 pm:

and raj the terrorist

Ashleen says on March 20th, 2010 at 12:50 pm:

I have been to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral and i was soooo amazed at the beautiful image i saw. They are still busy preserving the Cathedral, but the exceptional job that Antonio Gaudi had done is world history…Barcelona is really a beautiful city and holds a great heritage!! those of you who are having doubts about this place, dont, cause you wont regret coming here.

Achmed the dead terrorist says on March 25th, 2010 at 12:22 pm:

“Quiet! I kill you!”….No, no, it’s okay. But why are there no mosques shown? The Dome of the Rock is the most beautiful place of worship in the world! Allah akbaru!

yuri m says on March 31st, 2010 at 2:56 pm:

It is very nice man made structures, CAN YOU IMMEGINE WHAT KIND OF STRUCTURES GOD PREPARED FOR US IN HEAVEN

melissa says on April 12th, 2010 at 5:39 pm:

I love all of the cathedral, it is beatiful and tall!

ferien schweiz says on April 17th, 2010 at 8:04 am:

If you are Barcelona you should really visit the Sagrada Família. It is really worth a picture, just faszinating.

Evangelist Maxwell Gabriel says on April 24th, 2010 at 10:21 am:

please i want to work for God in Europe because like to share the word with people over their. and to friends them and to make them happiness.

sutharsan says on May 14th, 2010 at 4:09 am:

wow..very beautiful places

sutharsan says on May 14th, 2010 at 4:11 am:

wow very beautiful places

punk says on May 29th, 2010 at 5:06 pm:

Some beautiful buildings on display here, but surely Durham Catherdral is Englands most impressive example of religious architecture and not Winchester?

Dafydd says on June 2nd, 2010 at 11:22 pm:

Clearly, you have never visited St David’s Cathedral in Wales; otherwise it would most certainly have been on your list!

Syeda says on June 10th, 2010 at 4:46 pm:

i like hagia Sofia. an nothing alse…seriously..

oscar says on July 8th, 2010 at 9:17 pm:

Do you know the marvelous cathedral of Burgos in Spain yet? It’s a beautiful gotic monument of the 13th century. It’s Unesco Monument. I recommend you. This the place where are the rests of Cid Campeador, the famous medieval spanish heroe. This is a monument sighted along the Saint Jacques Road.

xenotypos says on July 15th, 2010 at 2:51 pm:

Huuum yeah Notre-Dame is famous and very old, but in beauty there are many cathedrals in France really REALLY better than that.

The most Beautiful cathedral in France (it’s communly know here) is CHARTRES CATHEDRAL. And also the most beautiful in Europe in my opinion, with Cologne Cathedral in Germany.
I can’t even understand why it’s not here.

In France Cathedral of Reims is also more beautiful than Notre-Dame. Notre-Dame have a great history though, and is in a great place.

romantichotelparis.com says on August 2nd, 2010 at 9:30 pm:

Thanks for this post, they really are some of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m lucky enough to work near the Notre Dame and am never failed to be in awe of the monster. The list could be endless though, certainly in Paris!

Zlatan Ilic says on August 16th, 2010 at 2:49 pm:

I am happy to see St Sava church in Belgrade among the other beautiful sacred buildings of Europe…if people like it now, when it isn’t even finished, it means it will receive even more fame, acclaim and visitors when its interior is completed too…

marben bascon says on August 25th, 2010 at 6:41 am:

The cathedral in manila should be the most gorgeous!!

slick says on September 14th, 2010 at 2:19 am:

Which idiot left out York Minster – the largest Gothic cathederal in Europe?

Pepita Stancheva says on September 15th, 2010 at 5:54 pm:

You forgot one of the most beautiful cathedrals – Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria. I can cooperate with pictures. Thanks to the pure gold coverage you can see it even from the mountains near Sofia town.

Danny, 26 says on September 28th, 2010 at 6:21 pm:

The Sagrada Fammille is utterly fantastic, crafted in all its beauty, the cathedral is still under construction, but if your ever in Barcelona, you must see this fantastic spectical. P.S watch out for the dodgy stairs with no inside railing, its a nice 200-300ft drop

WPW says on September 29th, 2010 at 10:02 pm:

Chartres certainly trumps Notre Dame (as do almost all the English cathedrals, including Westminster Abbey); indeed Chartres trumps almost every building on earth. I’d have included St Paul’s and San Marco.

Drew says on October 19th, 2010 at 3:55 am:

My favorite cathedral in Europe is Cologne’s. I visited Europe for the 1st time in 2009 & when I exited the train station in Koln, there it was, a mountain of stone, beautifully illuminated. It’s immensity blows your hair back & the intricacy of it’s carving’s are mesmerizing. Nightime is a must see for this monumental sculpture! The same goes for Milan’s Duomo, it’s a tremendous example of Gothic architecture too! Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia is a wonder to behold & should be. Get there somehow & see this Modernisme work of art, (as well as Koln’s Gothic wonder)! I returned to Barcelona again in 2010 & saw the Sagrada Familia from the inside this time. Besides the Sagrada Familia there’s mucho Modernisme architecture to behold in Barcelona. Notre Dame in Paris does not disappoint either. The gargoyles are wonderful touches to this beautiful Gothic cathedral.

shobo says on November 7th, 2010 at 1:43 pm:

st. Sava is beautiful church BUT st. Aleksandar Nevski in Sofia, Bulgaria is bigger!

HJ says on January 25th, 2011 at 11:17 am:

How can “the finest cathedral on planet earth” (according to travel writer Bill Bryson) – Durham Cathedral be omitted from this list?

Or, indeed, Lincoln Cathedral?

Chris Lynch says on June 25th, 2011 at 5:52 pm:

St.Peters Basilica should be Number One!

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