From the largest church in Europe to the grandest church in the Far East, religious and spiritual buildings are not just places of worship but also testament to a country’s architectural styling, grandeur and creativity
Church of the Savior on Blood
St Petersburg, Russia
The church was constructed between 1883 and 1907, funded by the imperial family. It is dedicated to be a memorial to his father Alexander III.
It is where the political nihilists fatally wounded Emperor Alexander II in March 1881. The church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal with paved roads run along both sides of the canal.
Architecturally, the cathedral differs from Saint Petersburg’s other structures. The city’s architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism.
Location: Griboedov Canal, St Petersburg
Entry cost: 250 rubles
St Paul’s Cathedral
An iconic feature of the London skyline, this world-famous cathedral includes a dome climb, an underground Crypt to the Golden Gallery that is 111 meters above London and the Whispering Gallery, where a whisper against the walls is audible on the opposite side.
Photography is permitted throughout the Cathedral floor, crypt and external galleries. After taking in the architecture, why not have Afternoon Tea in the restaurant.
Location: St Paul’s Churchyard, London
Entry cost: £20 (£17 advanced online)
St Peter’s Basilica
Vatican City, Italy
The largest church in Europe, it is considered as one of the holiest temples for Christendom. The construction of the new basilica began in 1506, when the old basilica had been ripped down, and finished in 1626.
Several renowned architects designed the temple, highlighting the works of Bramante, Michelangelo and Carlo Maderno.
One of the most impressive parts of the Basilica is the dome. Started by Michelangelo and continued by Giacomo Della Porta, Carlo Maderno finished the dome in 1614.
Location: Piazza San Pietro. Vatican City.
Entry cost: Free, but if you want to climb to the dome is costs €8.00 to take the lift to the terrace (plus 320 steps) and €6.00 to climb 551 steps.
Visible from the Tromsø Sound and the Tromsø Bridge, Ishavskatedralen was dedicated in November 1965.
The 11 aluminium-coated concrete panels on each side of the roof provide the cathedral’s form and the main entrance on the western side is surrounded by a large glass façade with a pronounced cross.
Much of the woodwork is in solid pine and the bellows are made of reindeer hide.
Location: Hans Nilsens vei 41, 9020 Tromsdalen, Norway.
Entry cost: NOK 50
Christchurch, New Zealand
The Cathedral sits in Cathedral Square and is a beautiful centre piece for the city. Earthquakes have repeatedly damaged the building, most recently 2011 but also 2010, 1922, 1901, 1888 and 1881.
Since 2011 the cathedral has been deconsecrated and partially demolished. In 2012 the windows and tower were removed but with strong opposition from locals and UNESCO.
Hope rained down on this nature-torn place of worship and in 2018 an agreement was signed to reinstate the cathedral. Repair, restoration and strengthening were to be carried out with concrete and steel to withstand the next time nature called.
Location: City Centre, Christchurch
Entry cost: Closed
Holy Virgin Cathedral
San Francisco, USA
You’ll find this Russian Orthodox cathedral in the Richmond District of San Francisco near Golden Gate Park. The first Russian settlement in San Francisco was at Fort Ross in 1812. The current building started construction in 1961 and was complete in 1965.
The cathedral was consecrated in 1977. The cathedral was designed by Oleg N. Ivanitsky, and features five onion domes.
These are covered in 24 carat gold leaf and look spectacular. The beautiful interior is lined by icons, religious paintings and mosaics. The interior can only be seen by those who attend religious services.
Location: Richmond, San Francisco
Entry cost: Free
St Vitus Cathedral
Prague, Czech Republic
Acting as the seat of the Archbishop of Prague, the cathedral is a place of burial of several patron saints, sovereigns, noblemen and archbishops.
Take note of the bronze door, which is decorated with reliefs with scenes from the history of the cathedral and from the legends about St Wenceslas and St Adalbert.
You can also take the chance to visit the Royal Garden, Stag Moat and vineyard.
Location: III nádvoří 48/2, 119 01 Praha 1-Hradčany
Entry cost: Click here for different prices
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque
The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is a 16th-century Ottoman mosque located in the Edirnekapı neighborhood near the Byzantine land walls of Istanbul.
Construction started on the mosque in 1563 and was completed in 1570. There is no foundation inscription on the mosque but the evidence from manuscripts suggest this.
The building has been damaged by earthquakes many times. In 1719 some of the stairs was destroyed, and in 1766 a earthquake caused the minaret and dome collapsed. The dome was further damaged by the 1999 Izmit earthquake.
The mosque was built on a terrace overlooking the main street and a large courtyard with a madrasah surrounds the mosque. It’s dome is 20 metres in diameter and 37 metres high.
Location: Edirnekapı, Istanbul
Entry cost: Free
Notre Dame De Paris
Considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, its two Gothic towers crown the western facade, which is divided into three stories. Its doors are adorned with fine early Gothic carvings and surmounted by a row of figures of Old Testament kings.
During a restoration campaign in 2019, a fire broke out in the cathedral’s attic, and the massive blaze destroyed most of the roof, Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th-century spire and some of the rib vaulting.
Location: Place du parvis de Notre Dame, Île de la Cité 4e arrondissement.
Entry: Free, but visitors will need tickets to enter the tower (€8.50) and the crypt (€6).
Since 1960 Xujiahui has been the seat for the Bishop of Shanghai, with the first-ever Chinese language Mass commencing in St. Ignatius in 1989.
A medium sized Greek church was constructed in 1851, but demolished in 1980s. With the growth of Xujiahui as a centre of Catholicism, a larger church was commissioned. Designed by English architect William Doyle, and built by French Jesuits between 1906 and 1910,
Able to accommodate 2,500 worshippers, it is said to have once been known as “the grandest church in the Far East.” The cathedral is located in Xujiahui and is near the Xujiahui Metro station exit 3.
Location: Xujiahui, Shanghai
Entry cost: Free
Checking out C & J.