Last Updated on
Bored of bland buildings and dull designs? Looking for some spectacular structures that will appease your appetite for awe-inspiring architecture? No matter what your beliefs, certain churches and cathedrals are among the most incredible edifices in the world. Join us on a global journey as we discover the most breathtaking basilicas and charming chapels that the planet has to offer.
St Paul’s Cathedral, London
Situated atop Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, this Christopher Wren creation is an iconic London sight consisting of a vast dome framed by sky-high spires. Visitors can climb to the top for spectacular views of the capital, or enjoy the peculiar acoustic effects of the Whispering Gallery, which runs around the inside of the dome 99ft above the floor. Why not visit this distinguished London landmark while on a London weekend theatre break?
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Las Lajas, Colombia
Built on a bridge in the middle of a canyon, this basilica is built on a site where, according to local legend, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared. Walk down a cobblestone track from the nearby town of Ipiales to reach this stunning structure with its pillars and archways trimmed with white and gold. The church houses a miraculous painting of the Virgin Mary, found in a nearby cave and said to be impregnated into the rock.
St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
An iconic part of Moscow’s skyline, this Russian Orthodox church comprises a series of towers topped with colourful, tapering domes, arranged in the shape of an eight-point star. Quite unlike any other building on Earth, this church was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, who is said to have blinded the building’s architect in order to prevent him from henceforth ever designing anything so beautiful (though this is unlikely to be true, since records tell us the designer, Postnik Yakolev, went on to design a cathedral in Vladimir).
The Crystal Cathedral, California
Something of a misnomer, this sparkling structure is neither made of crystal, nor is it a cathedral. It is, in fact, built with over 12,000 rectangular panes of glass in a steel framework and is shaped like a four-pointed star. Built by televangelist Robert Schuller, it was originally the principal place of worship for Crystal Cathedral Ministries, a church organisation founded in 1955. However, it was sold in early 2012 due to bankruptcy, and will now be used as a cathedral by the Roman Catholic Diocese.
Temple de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Possibly one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, this flamboyant but unfinished masterpiece was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, but remains in a state of incompletion. Estimated to be finished in 2026, the building demonstrates his distinctive style, incorporating elaborate touches such as porticos decorated with tortoises, turtles and chameleons, and a facade fashioned like a bare stone skeleton.
Commissioned in 1937, this majestic construction is the sixth tallest building in the country. Designed to look like basalt lavic columns in order to reference the stark and volcanic Icelandic landscape, this impressive edifice took 38 years to build and has a viewing deck from which you can enjoy remarkable vistas of the city and surrounding mountains.
Temppeliaukion Kirkko, Finland
In the heart of Helsinki, this unique Lutheran church opened in 1969 and incorporates a glazed dome, which reflects natural light into its subterranean interior, a basin carved into the local rock. With exceptional acoustics due to the rough-hewn stone walls, the church is often employed as a concert venue, and since the building itself has no bells, the church marks the hour by playing a recording of chimes via loudspeakers on the exterior wall.
Strictly speaking, Meteora is a string of monasteries rather than a church, but nonetheless this is one of the most magnificent religious structures in the world. Built atop a series of sandstone pillars on the edges of the Thessaly Plain, only six of these Eastern Orthodox friaries remain out of the original twenty. Some are still accessible by staircases cut into the rock face, but in the 14th Century they could only be reached by retractable ladders.
St Henry’s Ecumenical Art Chapel, Finland
Shaped like an upturned boat, this chapel nestles among the pine-covered promontories of Hirvensalo, blending into the landscape with its copper-oxidised exterior. Art works inside include an altar window by artist Hannu Konola which filters light through onto the adjacent wall, and a sculpted altar by Kain Tapper.
Graun Tower, Italy
Submerged beneath the man-made Lake Reschen in South Tyrol, this 14th Century steeple is all that remains of the original church, stretching up above the water’s surface. During winter, when the tower can be reached on foot across the ice, the church bells are said to be heard ringing, despite having been removed in 1950. The protruding belfry is all that remains of the small town engulfed by the artificial lake in the same year.
These spectacular suggestions are brought to you by Show & Stay, the cheap theatre break specialists.