Churches are serene and calming places where people seek comfort and tranquility. In addition to their spiritual significance, their unique architecture and characteristics make them prominent landmarks in both political and religious history. Of the 37 million churches constructed, some have gained notoriety for their cultural, historical, and architectural importance.
Check out the world’s top 10 most famous churches, renowned for their divine beauty, expert craftsmanship, and brilliant architectural styles.
10Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy
Milan Cathedral in Italy is one of the largest cathedrals after St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It boasts a stunning Gothic architecture style with many figures and statues, including the famous gold-colored Madonnina statue perched atop the highest spire.
A sundial at the main entrance, placed by ancient astronomers from the Accademia di Brera, is incredibly accurate, even regulating clocks throughout the city. A red lightbulb above the apse also marks where one of Jesus’ crucifixion nails was kept. During the Rite of the Nivola celebration every year, the Archbishop of Milan retrieves and exposes the Holy Nail to the public.
9St Paul’s Cathedral, London, UK
St. Paul’s church, designed in the English Baroque style, is the main church of the Diocese of London. Its distinguishable dome and surrounding spires of Wren’s City churches make it a prominent landmark in the skyline.
St. Paul’s has witnessed many significant events throughout history, including celebrations for Queen Victoria’s jubilee, peace services marking the end of World War I and II, the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, thanksgiving services for various jubilees and the birthdays of Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the funerals of Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher.
8Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain
Antoni Gaudí, a world-renowned architect, designed Sagrada Família, which remains unfinished but is the most stunning and largest church in Barcelona, Spain. The church’s most significant challenge is constructing ten more spires, each representing a Biblical figure from the New Testament.
It has been 150 years since the project started, which is longer than the Egyptian Pyramids. On the underground level of Sagrada Familia, you can find Gaudí’s tomb. The church’s design draws inspiration from nature, with every interior aspect evoking its beauty. To honor the hardworking artisans to build the Sagrada Familia, the church has embedded their faces within the stone of the building.
7Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia
The Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow, Russia, is breathtaking with its swirling onion domes and unique architectural design. It holds great significance to the Russians, representing their past, present, and future like the Eiffel Tower does for the French. Its vibrant colors make it stand out among the surrounding buildings.
The symmetrical floor plan with eight side churches around the core is well thought-out and logical. A narrow pathway leading from one altar to another was discovered only during restoration efforts. Exploring the medieval cultural aspects and mystical spirituality of St. Basil’s is undoubtedly an intriguing experience.
6Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico
This Catholic church is among the world’s most respected and sacred churches. It attracts many visitors yearly, with over 20 million pilgrims, particularly during the Feast of Saint Mary of Guadalupe on December 12th.
The New Basilica, constructed in the 1970s, is a traditional revival style with seven entrances representing the seven gates of the Celestial Jerusalem mentioned in the Bible. The basilica is significant in Mexico’s history and integral to daily life for locals and pilgrims. Devout pilgrims often crawl on their knees from the entrance to the altar during special occasions while reciting prayers.
5Westminster Abbey, London, UK
Westminster Abbey is a significant landmark in London, boasting impressive medieval Gothic church architecture. It is home to an extensive collection of statues, tombs, and memorials integral to British history. Visitors can enter the abbey through the Great North Door and witness intricately detailed carvings from the medieval age.
Pointed arches, stained glass windows and doors, flying buttresses, and circular rose windows highlight the church’s delicate appearance. The North Transept and Nave feature monuments dedicated to British politicians and Statesmen, as well as having hosted many Royal weddings and funerals.
4Church of Nativity, Bethlehem, Palestine
The Church of Nativity holds great religious and historical importance for Christians all over the world. The church marks the birthplace of Jesus Christ. It is a famous pilgrimage site for Christians and Muslims, showcasing early church designs that have withstood the test of time.
The pilgrimage route begins in Jerusalem and follows Mary and Joseph’s path to Bethlehem, passing by King David’s Wells and Star Street towards the Damascus gate before reaching the Church of the Nativity. In 2012, UNESCO inscribed this sacred site on the World Heritage list for its historical significance to humanity.
3Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
The Church of Holy Sepulchre in the old city of Jerusalem holds great significance for Christianity. It is famous for two sites essential to the faith: Calvary or Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he was buried and resurrected.
The Stone of Anointing, located inside the church’s entrance, is where Jesus’s body was prepared for burial. A modern mosaic along the wall depicts the anointing of Jesus’s body. The Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, and Eastern Orthodox churches have access to the tomb’s interior, where all three hold Holy Mass daily.
2Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
The Notre Dame is a treasure of French Gothic architecture, celebrated for its fascinating history, unique architectural style, and age. A visit to Notre Dame is a must when in Paris, as it features magnificent towers, intricate statues, and beautiful stained glass windows.
The use of flying buttresses was a notable innovation and provided the necessary structural support for the large stone building to accommodate more worshippers. The construction of the church took a total of 182 years to complete. Located in the city’s heart, the church attracts over 12 million visitors annually.
1St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica is a prime example of Renaissance architecture and art. It boasts impressive features like the Baldacchino, St. Peter’s Tomb, and the tallest dome in the world, which the Pantheon inspired. The church also houses notable works, such as Michelangelo’s Pieta and statues of St. Longinus and St. Peter.
It took almost 120 years to complete its construction. The modern mosaics and stained glass windows are stunning to see. As the most famous church in the world, it attracts visitors from all over who come to see the Holy See.