Guys, what does going to Church mean to you? For some, it’s about finding salvation. For others, it’s about finding the most holy way to recover from a Saturday night of partying. As a kid growing up Catholic, it provided me with an opportunity to dream about those delicious donuts that were served in the church basement following Mass. But ignoring the spiritual (and tasty fried dough) side of things, some of the world’s most magnificent churches can be pretty awe-inspiring even if you don’t subscribe to any particular Faith. With that in mind, here are ten churches to put on your bucket list.
10. Sagrada Familia
This UNESCO Heritage Site located in Barcelona began construction in 1882 and guess what? It still isn’t complete and who knows if it ever will be. It’s huge size and the way in which it was designed means is in constant need of renovation. As a personal note, this writer has been to Barcelona twice and still hasn’t visited this church because it’s actually a little ways off from the center. A lazy excuse, I know.
9. St. Paul’s Cathedral
Built in the 17th century and located at the highest point in London (thanks to the hill it was built upon), it is the seat of the Bishop of the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 80th and 90th birthdays there, so it also has that going for it. Keep in mind that it costs £18 (around $24) to enter, although regular worshipers can enter for free. So make sure to say, “Oh! But of course I’m a worshiper, chap! Isn’t it obvious from my fake British accent?”
8. Westminster Abbey
Gang, this place is dope. (I have always wanted to write an article in which I described a church as “dope” and my dream just came true). It was built in the 10th century and is one of the most iconic examples of Gothic architecture. It’s also serves as kind of a cool indoor cemetery as well, as Darwin, Churchill and a whole lot of notable Brits in history are buried here. And if you care to know, Prince William married Kate here.
7. Church of the Nativity
This basilica, where God’s Son Himself was said to have been born, is located Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem. Due to the ongoing conflict in the region, it’s not regarded as the safest tourist destination. But if you believe in divine protection, by all means book that flight to the West Bank!
6. St. Mark’s Basilica
Fan of Byzantine architecture, are you? Well, who isn’t!!! This church in Venice was originally commissioned in 823, although the current rebuilt version “only” dates back to 1650. If you intend to make your way to Venice, Piazza San Marco, where the church is located, it is actually a pretty happening place.
5. Hagia Sophia
If you’re looking for a church that is suffering from a centuries’ old identity crisis, Hagia Sophia is the place for you. Construction started in 537 and it took more than 900 years to complete. It began as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, though for a few decades in the 1200s it was converted into a Roman Catholic church, before the Ottomans converted it into a mosque in the 15th century until 1935 when it was turned into the secular museum that it remains today. Whew!
4. Church of Resurrection
Located on the site in Jerusalem’s Old City where many believe Jesus was crucified and then resurrected, this church was built by the world’s first generation of Christians back in the 300s. Consequently, it is also one of the holiest sites for Christians, Muslims and Jews.
3. St. Peter’s Basilica
Gee, you would think that the largest church in the world (and one designed by Michelangelo, no less) would top this list, but no. Our standards are that high, folks. Located in the Vatican, the seat of Papal power, it has the world’s largest dome and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. But don’t let the t-word scare you away. St. Peter’s really is worth your time.
2. St. Basil’s Cathedral
Avoiding politics and stereotypes about the country being full of vodka swilling bears, what comes to mind when you think of Russia. How about that church on Red Square with the super colorful architecture? Built by Ivan the Terrible in 1561, St. Basil’s is featured in pretty much every Western-made movie whenever it includes scenes of Moscow.
1. Notre Dame Cathedral
Guys, the fact that Notre Dame ranked #1 is not evidence of bias against Alabama or Ohio State. I can’t even stand the football team. Lame joke aside, we’re talking about the famous cathedral in Paris, which took a full century to build, finally being completed in 1345. There is simply no comparison. It’s got the columns, spires and statuary that make it truly a medieval marvel to behold. No wonder Parisians are so snooty.