Don’t ask me why I have a fascination for Churches. It’s one of the first things I look for whenever I find myself in a new place somewhere in this globe. Perhaps a visit to my past life may reveal the root of this.
Luckily, my travels have taken me to places where the “Houses of God” are categorized as the best in the world. I have a few on my list now and I don’t mind adding more soon.
I have always wondered why the places where the followers of Christ assemble are built so magnificently. The higher it is, the closer to God? It’s quite unbelievable how much devotion can cost (no pun intended).
Way back when cathedrals began rising in Europe, a staggering percentage of the economy was allotted to build places of worship. In France, sometime after the new millennium, there were more than 500 large churches and 1,000 parish churches. That, mon ami, equates to one church for every 200 people. Compared to what it took to build all the buildings of ancient Egypt, there were more stones quarried in France to erect these churches during that period.
Was there competition? What do you expect? It’s human nature. Back then, cathedral building was a community affair and a matter of civic pride where wealthy patrons shell out the moolah and the ordinary citizens contributed their harvest or labor to realize the cathedral of dreams. Where pride is at stake, church heights aim for the heavens. In Paris, Notre Dame built to 114 feet, Chartres built theirs higher at 123 feet, then Amiens aimed for 138 feet, but Beauvois wanted to have the tallest at 157 feet. However, the vault collapsed and ceased construction when the people’s money ran out. The higher you fly, the harder you fall.
|Sagrada de Familia’s detail of the roof in the nave. Gaudi designed the columns to mirror trees and branches; St. Peter’s Basilica’s altar with Bernini’s baldacchino; Notre-Dame de Paris’ altar; & Sacré-Cœur Basilica’s dome over the altar area.|
Magnificence the Universe or God wants me to see. From the small churches to monumental cathedrals, from the simple to the ornate, I have been blessed with the chance to visit these places of worship, a few of which are listed as the world’s most fascinating. Here are four of the most amazing churches I have visited by far.
The Sagrada de Familia in Barcelona Spain. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Construction started in 1882 and although incomplete to date, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and recently in November 2010, was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in France and in Europe, and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Designed by Paul Abadie, its construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter, officially known in Italian as Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano and commonly known as Saint Peter’s Basilica. This Late Renaissance church within the Vatican City has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on1506 and was completed 1626.