25 Magnificently Epic Examples Of Church Architecture

Posted by , Updated on May 11, 2014

Ever since man discovered the act of self expression art has played a huge role in human history. Undeniably one of the most pivotal forces driving human inspiration has always been faith whether it manifests in the creation of timeless hymns, beautiful sculptures, or awe inspiring chapel ceilings. Today, however, we’re going to focus in on the latter as we travel around the world to visit 25 magnificently epic examples of church architecture.


Jubilee Church – Rome, Italy

Jubilee Church

The Jubilee Church, formally known as Chiesa di Dio Padre Misericordioso (Italian for Church of God the Merciful Father), is a church and community center in Tor Tre Teste in Rome. According to Richard Meier, its architect, it is “the crown jewel of the Vicariato di Roma’s (Archdiocese of Rome) Millennium project”. The Church serves eight thousand residents of the Tor Tre Teste area and was meant to socially “revive” Tor Tre Teste. It is paid homage to in the video game Hitman: Blood Money, with a very similar church as the setting of the game’s final mission.


Stykkisholmur Church – Snæfellsnes, Iceland

Stykkisholmur Church

This alien-looking structure was built in 1980 and it stands on a cape overlooking the city of Stykkisholmur on the northern edge of the Snæfellsnes peninsula Iceland. Originally built in 1879, it also became a monastery for the nuns and a school before it became a church. The modern structure, which has an entrance that lies between two sweeping arms that lead to the bell tower now also serves as a concert venue.


Cathedral of Brasilia – Brasilia, Brazil

Cathedral of Brasilia

A Roman Catholic cathedral in Brasilia, Brazil, its first cornerstone was laid on September 12, 1958. Designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, it was dedicated on May 31, 1970 to serve as the seat for the Archdiocese of Brasilia. The cathedral is well-known for its hyperbolic sections, as each of the 16 concrete columns weighs 90 tons each.


US Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel – Colorado, USA

US Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel

Designed by renowned architect Walter Netsch, the US Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel is known for its classic design and is a great example of modernist architecture. Completed in 1962, it was named a US National Historic landmark in 2004 though its design was highly controversial. The chapel is made of 17 spires with a tubular steel frame of 100 identical tetrahedrons, each weighing 5 tons and 75 meters long.


Harajuku Protestant Church – Tokyo, Japan

Harajuku Protestant Church

Located in Tokyo, Japan, it was first unveiled in 2005 by the design firm, Ciel Rouge Creation with an adjacent kindergarten. It has six arches and a bell tower, which symbolized the seven elements, the seven churches in Asia, and the seven days of creation. The ceiling is made for good acoustic performances as it was made to reverberate natural sounds for 2 seconds to the delight of worshippers and tourists alike. It also creates the impression of the biblical open sky image where the light typifies the Holy Spirit as it descends onto the worshippers.


Grundtvig’s Church – Copenhagen, Denmark

Grundtvig's Church

A great example of ‘expressionist church architecture,’ it was built from 1921 to 1940 in honor of N.F.S. Grundtvig, who was a reformer and one of the most influential people in Danish history. Located in the Bispebjerg district in Copenhagen, Denmark, the yellow-brick church’s architecture was influenced by the national-romantic movement. Its cathedral proportions were of special historical and cultural combination, as it was divided between a cathedral and an ancient Danish church with crow-stepped gables.


Cathedral of Maringa – Parana, Brazil

Cathedral of Maringa

Also known as the Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora da Glória, this Roman cathedral located in Parana, Brazil was considered the tallest church in South America and the 16th tallest in the world. Designed by architect Jose Augusto Bellucci, it was intended to replicate the Soviet sputnik satellites under Archbishop Dom Jaime Luiz Coelho. Its cornerstone was a piece of marble from St. Peter’s Basilica and blessed by Pope Pius XII. It was constructed from July 1959 to May 10, 1972 in time for the city’s 25th founding anniversary.


Sanctuary of Madonna delle Lacrime – Sicily, Italy

Sanctuary of Madonna delle Lacrime

Located in Syracuse, Sicily, this is also known as the “Sanctuary of the Mary of Tears,” a statue that supposedly wept human tears for 5 days in the 1950s. Its concrete coned roof was designed to replicate the shape of a teardrop. Created by Michael Arnault and Pierre Parat in 1994, it has a conical structure that rise 74 meters from the ground and has vertical windows that stretch towards the apex of the roof.


Hallgrímskirkja – Reykjavik, Iceland


A Lutheran church in Iceland, it was named after Hallgrimur Petursson, who was a 17th century poet and clergyman. One of the tallest buildings in Iceland, its design was supposed to represent the volcanic columns that are rising between the steeple towers. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson was commissioned to build the church in 1937 though it took 38 years to finish it from 1945 to 1986. Known as the city’s best landmark, the church is visible all throughout the city of Reykjavik and is often used as an observation tower.


Chapel of St. Gildas – Britanny, France

Chapel of St. Gildas

A chapel that was built like a stone barn at the base of the rocky cliff at the bank of the Canal du Blavet in Britanny, France, it marks the site where St. Gildas, an Irish monk, preached Christianity to the locals who were mainly of pagan population. A rough pulpit, where St. Gildas used to preach on, is now contained within the chapel. The cave at the base of the rock where the chapel now stands is believed to have had miraculous healing powers by the locals.


The Felsenkirche – Idar-Oberstein, Germany

The Felsenkirche

The best place to enjoy the views of Oberstein and Felsenkirche in Germany, this is a church that was built into a natural niche in the rocks by Wyrich IV of Daun-Oberstein from 1482 to 1484. The back of the church is made of a wall of rocks that rises steeply forward, while the houses of Oberstein are located on its slope. It can only be entered through a tunnel that was dug into the rocks and due to its high-lying position, it has become a symbol of the city.


Saint Andrew’s Cathedral – Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Andrew’s Cathedral

The last baroque cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia, it was built under the time of Peter the Great as the church of Russia’s first chivalric order by the famous architect, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. Exceeding 430 feet in length and resembling Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it was consecrated on October 8, 1732 as a modest timber church in honor of Saint Andrew. As the timber church was deemed too small, Trezinni also constructed a stone church on July 2, 1740 near the timber cathedral and dedicated it in the name of Three Holy Men. The beautiful light pink church was known for its high silver dome and bell tower and its high turrets, which are crowned by onions of domes.


The Crystal Cathedral – California, USA

The Crystal Cathedral

The Crystal Cathedral in Orange Garden Grove in California is not made of crystal nor is it a cathedral. This Christian megachurch built by evangelist Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller and designed by architect Philip Johnson, was made entirely of glass in a web-like framework of steel. Shaped like a giant four-pointed crystal star, it has a main cathedral that is 12-storeys above the ground. It also features a mirror-like exterior, which is composed of 12,000 panes of glass where you can view the sunlight and the sky. It is also well-known for having the world’s largest pipe organ that has 5 consoles controlling 270 ranks, 31 digital ranks, and with more than 16,000 pipes.


St. Basil’s Cathedral – Moscow, Russia

St. Basil's Cathedral

One of the most famous attractions on Red Square in Moscow, it was designed by architects Barma and Postnik Yakovlev under the reign of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the capture of the Khanate of Kazan. Completed in 1560, it has been the subject of folklore and dubious legends. Modern architects are also baffled by the idea behind its design as either a homage to churches of Jerusalem, or as a representation of the medieval symbol of the eight-pointed star as they built eight churches around a central ninth. Moreover, instead of its multi-colored and patterned look today, the Cathedral was all white before to match the white-stone Kremlin; while its onion domes were all in gold.


Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family – Barcelona, Spain

Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family

A massive Roman Catholic basilica in Barcelona, Spain, it was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi for 40 years since 1882. Though still being constructed up to this day, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was even consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI as a minor basilica in November 2010. Gaudi combined Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms in his design and was considered ‘the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages’ by art critics.


St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery – Kiev, Ukraine

St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery

A functioning monastery in Kiev, Ukraine, it was originally built in the Middle Ages by Sviatopolk II Iziaslavych comprising of the cathedral and the Refectory of Saint John the Divine. The Economic Gates were added later in 1760, while the monastery’s bell tower was circa 1716 to 1719. The exterior of the cathedral was of Ukrainian Baroque style, while its interior remained in its original Byzantine style. It was demolished in the 1930s and was only restored in its baroque style in 1999 after Ukrainian independence, with a new façade and six additional cupolas.


Hagia Sophia – Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia

Also known in Greek as the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, it is no longer functioning as a church but a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. An early Christian church, which was the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople, it also became a mosque during the reign of the Turks in 1453 before it became a museum. Completed by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 537, it was a huge and opulently decorated temple that could have rivaled those of Solomon. Its interior with its large dome was impressively decorated with stone inlays, marbles, and mosaics. This Byzantine architecture has reigned as the largest church for one thousand years after its completion.


St. Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church – Illinois, USA

St. Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church

A Ukrainian church in Chicago, Illinois built by Ukrainian Catholics (which differ from Roman Catholics as their faith is rooted in the Christian Byzantine tradition and they look more to Constantinople than to Rome as their spiritual center) it has an ultra modern roof with thirteen gold domes symbolizing the 12 apostles and Jesus Christ, the largest center dome. Its interior was adorned with Byzantine style icons or frescoes, with relief geometric patterns of crosses on the walls of the second-storey structure. The iconostasis was of the traditional Byzantine iconostasis with two tiers, while a grotto with an altar can also be used for outdoor services.


Saint Anthony Basilica – Padua, Italy

Saint Anthony Basilica

Locally known as ’il Santo,” it is a Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica in Padua, Italy. It was visited by pilgrims from across the world, though it is not the titular cathedral of the city. The basilica was constructed in 1232, a year after the death of Saint Anthony and was not completed until 1303 after undergoing several structural modifications. A gigantic structure without an exact architectural style, it was constructed from a variety of influences as shown by its interior and exterior details.


St. Paul’s Cathedral – London, England

St. Paul’s Cathedral

A Church of England cathedral, it was the seat of the Bishop of London where important occasions for the royal family were held. Founded in 604 AD, it sits at the highest point in the City of London and the mother of all the Diocese of London. The most well-known sight, it has a dome that is framed by the spires of the Wren’s City churches and dominated its skyline for 300 years. It occupies a significant place in the nation’s identity as important services for the royal family such as weddings; funerals, coronations, etc. are held here aside from hourly prayer and daily services.


Chartres Cathedral – Chartres, France

Chartres Cathedral

The only cathedral that retained its original look, this Roman Rite Catholic church in Chartres, 80 km southwest of Paris is considered to be one of the greatest examples of French-Gothic architecture. A major pilgrimage destination since the Middle Ages, it was built between 1194 and 1250, and even became a bishopric in the 4th century and a UNESCO World Heritage site today. It was in an exceptional state of preservation as the stained-glass windows remained intact and have seen only minor changes in the course of history. Even the most nonreligious visitors will be awed by the centuries of fervent devotion and holiness that permeate the place.


Notre Dame – Paris, France

Notre Dame

A magnificent example of Gothic architecture, the Notre Dame was built in 1163 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was completed 200 years after. One of the first European cathedrals to be built on a truly enormous scale, it is famous for its Rose Windows that show stories from the Bible. Though it was ransacked and plundered during the French Revolution, it became famous again in 1831 when Victor Hugo wrote “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a story about a hunchback bell ringer named Quasimodo who fell in love with a Gypsy named Esmeralda.


Milan Cathedral – Milan, Italy

Milan Cathedral

The seat of the Archbishop of Milan, this Gothic cathedral has taken six centuries to be completed. Considered the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the largest in Italy, its original plan was composed of a nave with four side-aisles, crossed by a transept and then the choir and the apse. Its roof is made up of openwork pinnacles and spires set with delicate flying buttresses, which is open to the public for a fee. The cathedral, which was rebuilt in 1075 as a Duomo after a fire, has five broad naves divided by 40 pillars with high brick walls.


Las Lajas Sanctuary – Narino, Colombia

Las Lajas Sanctuary

Also known as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Las Lajas, it was built in 1916 in the canyon of the Guataira River in Colombia; on a site where it was believed that the Virgin Mary had appeared. Las Lajas, which means the “The Rocks,” is the site of the cave where a painting of the Virgin Mary carrying a baby was discovered, whose colors are impregnated deeply into the rock at the depth of several feet. The result was a Gothic church, a picture perfect structure that could rival the castles in fairy tales.


St. Peter’s Basilica – Rome, Italy

St. Peter's Basilica

Considered the largest religious structure in the world, the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City was built over the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle with an area of 5.7 acres and can be occupied by over 60,000 people. The site was also the former home of a smaller church built by Emperor Constantine in 324 CE, which lasted for 1,200 years before the basilica was erected. The design of this modern-day basilica can be attributed to famous individuals such as Michaelangelo for the dome, Gian Lorenzo Bernini for the main square, and Donato Bramante as its first architect.

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