It’s hard to deny that church architecture has some pretty impressive examples, regardless of religious affiliation. Many churches fall into the thought process of, “the bigger, the better,” especially among those of Catholic persuasion. So which churches are the largest in the world? What other cool facts are there to know about them?
Stick around as we count down the 25 Largest Churches On Earth.
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City - 15,160 Square Meters
Coming in at number one is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It’s not too surprising as it’s the most important church in the Roman Catholic faith. The original cathedral was built by Emperor Constantine in 320 AD. The dome, which is 41 meters high, was designed by Michelangelo, and the Basilica contains 100 tombs, including that of Roman emperor Otto II.
Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, Aparecida, Brazil - 12,000 Square Meters
This church is yet another established in honor of Virgin Mary. The story goes that a group of fishermen pulled up two separate pieces of a statue of Mary. They took it and housed it in a shrine. The current church was built on the spot where the original shrine stood. It can hold 45,000 worshipers at a time.
Seville Cathedral, Seville, Spain - 11,520 Square Meters
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the third largest church and the largest cathedral in the world. It was built to commemorate the wealth and power of the city of Seville and was built on the site of the Almohad mosque. There are also 45 carved wooden scenes of the life of Christ.
Cathedral Of Saint John The Divine, New York, United States - 11,200
This is the largest Anglican cathedral in the world and is home to the largest stained glass window in the US and 5th largest in the world. The main door is made of bronze and is adorned with 48 relief panels.
Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy - 10186 square meters
This Catholic church has 135 spires, each topped with statues of prominent figures in Italian history, along with one of the Virgin Mary at 108.8 meters high. It took 5 centuries to complete and can accommodate 40,000 worshipers at any one time.
Basilica Of Our Lady Of Lichen, Konin, Poland - 10090 Square Meters
This impressive church, completed in 2004, is full of symbolism. It has 365 windows, 12 columns, and 52 doors, which represent days, months, and weeks of the year. It also has 33 steps leading up to the church which represent the 33 years of Christ on Earth.
Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool, United Kingdom - 9687 Square Meters
We’ve had the tallest church included on this list already, and now here is the longest. This cathedral spans 189 meters in length and still has a peak at 67-meters high. Other impressive features of this church include a colorful interior and a grand pipe organ that has 10,268 pipes.
Church Of The Holy Trinity, Santarem, Portugal - 8700 Square Meters
We’ve covered a lot of older church architecture in this list so far, but here is one of much newer construction. How new? Well, it was built between 2004 and 2007. This church has an oval design and can hold about 9,000 worshipers at a time. It’s the largest church in Portugal.
Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Rome, Italy - 8,515 Square Meters
No Paul isn’t outside the walls, but the church is. It’s technically in Italian territory, but Italy recognizes that ownership belongs to the Catholic Holy See. It was founded by Emperor Constantine I over the burial place of Paul of Tarsus.
Basilica Of Our Lady Of Pillar, Aragon, Spain - 8318 Square Meters
While Virgin Mary has a few mentions on this list already, this church was the first to be dedicated to her. The story goes that she appeared to the Apostle James while he sat in prayer along the Ebro River. Not only did she pop by for a visit, she gifted him with a pillar, a wooden statue of herself, and instructions to build a church. While the church has changed and expanded over the centuries, the pillar and statue remain intact today.
Ulm Minster, Ulm, Germany - 8260 Square Meters
Not only is this Lutheran church one of the largest, it’s currently the tallest. What’s cool is that you can climb a good way up for a gorgeous view of the city and, on a clear day, the Alps. All you need to do to get to the top is climb 768 steps. While construction started in 1377, it wasn’t completed until 1890. The spires represent the way to heaven.
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico - 8,167 Square Meters
This Catholic church is dedicated to a sighting of the Virgin Mary in Guadalupe. Each December, roughly 9 million people visit the sanctuary for a celebration held for Saint Mary. This is almost half of the 20 million annual visitors.
Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium - 8,000 Square Meters
This Catholic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its Gothic structure. It’s also home to many significant works of art by Peter Paul Rubens, a Baroque painter. If you visit, you can even get a beer in the courtyard and enjoy the gardens.
Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 8,000 Square Meters
What’s especially impressive about this cathedral is not only its size, but its shape. This Catholic building is shaped like a cross between a beehive and a pyramid. Standing on the inside, you’ll see an impressive display of technicolor windows. Designed by Edgar Fonseca, the intent was to resemble ancient Mayan pyramids. The colored windows reach up to 200 feet from the floor. The church can hold up to 20,000 people (standing).
Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels, Belgium - 8,000 Square Meters
This Art Deco styled Roman Catholic basilica opened in 1970 despite the first stone being laid in 1905 during the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence. It’s used for both national and parish celebrations and has two museums with various expositions. The view over Brussels doesn’t hurt either.
Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast - 7,989 Square Meters
According to Guinness Book of World Records, this is the largest church in the world based on the largest exterior area at 30,000 Square Meters. However, it sits at number 10 on our list due to its interior structure and the fact that rectory and villa are not strictly part of the church.
It can hold up to 18,000 people, although most liturgies host only a few hundred. Construction completed in 1989 and was accepted as a gift to the Catholic Church from the first president of the Ivory Coast, Félix Houphouët-Boigny.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey - 7,960 Square Meters
So, some of you might take issue with this one being on this list as it’s no longer currently a church, but rather a mosque. However, it was originally constructed as a Greek Orthodox church and was so from 360 AD to 1453 when the Ottoman Empire concurred Constantinople.
It continued as a mosque until 1935 and then was a museum until 2020 when it became a mosque once again.
San Petronio Basilica, Bologna, Italy - 7,920 Square Meters
This Catholic basilica is located in Bologna’s main square, the Piazza Maggiore. It’s been used throughout history for both public and religious purposes and is dedicated to the city’s patron saint from the 5th century, Petronius. Despite being a key building in the area and one of the largest churches in the world, San Petronio Basilica is unfinished. Construction was halted in 1952 when the Catholic Church diverted focus to the Archiginnasio, the first official seat of the University of Bologna.
Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany - 7,914 Square Meters
This Catholic cathedral is home to the Archbishop and the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. It attracts an average of 20,000 people a day! It hosts the Shrine of the Three Kings and has an observation platform 330 ft (100m) above the ground, which gives viewers a gorgeous view of the Rhine. It’s the tallest twin-spired church in the world.
St. Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom - 7,300 Square Meters
This Anglican cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London and is located on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the city. The original church at this site was largely destroyed in the Great Fire of London, but in the late 17th century, it was redesigned in the English Baroque style. It was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1963.
Many important services have been held there, such as the funerals of Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.
The church still holds daily services.
Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC, United States - 7,712 Square Meters
This Episcopal church is the 6th largest Gothic cathedral in the world. This church still functions as a church and holds several public services and programs throughout the week. Not interested in the religious services but want to submerse yourself in the beauty? There are sightseeing tours and concerts available to enjoy. While construction started in 1907, the final stone wasn’t set in place until 1990.
Abbey of Santa Giustina, Padua, Italy - 7,700 Square Meters
This church was originally constructed in the 6th century, but the current form is thanks to a 17th century reconstruction. It was dedicated to 4th century Christian martyrs such as St. Justina of Padua. Remains of this patron saint are here as well as the remains of St. Luke the Evangelist.
There have been raids and earthquakes over its history, but the buildings were returned to the Catholic Church in 1917. The abbey and basilica now have the government status of a national monument.
Cathedral of the Nativity, Cairo, Egypt - 7,500 Square Meters
This Coptic Orthodox cathedral was inaugurated in 2019 and was commissioned by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, president of Egypt after terrorist attacks killed 27 Coptic Egyptians. At the same time, Fattah el-Sisi commissioned the largest mosque in the country, too. Both the church and the mosque are in the administrative capital and symbolize national unity and coexistence. It’s the largest church in the Middle East.
Yoido Full Gospel, Seoul, South Korea - 7,450 Square Meters (estimated)
This Pentecostal church is part of the Assemblies of God and hosts around 200,000 members each week (out of 800,000 total members) in the city of Seoul. The church was founded in 1958 by David Yonggi Cho and Choi Ja-shil and started in Ja-shil’s home.
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic - 7,440 Square Meters
This Roman Catholic church is also called the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints, Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert and is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. It sits entirely within the Prague Castle and is an excellent example of Gothic architecture. It also holds the tombs of several Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors.
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Have you visited any of these grand churches? Were you surprised by number 1?