Churches are places of refuge and respite for the faithful. They are the often- preferred buildings in which marriage vows are exchanged and sorrowful farewells take place. Some modern churches host lively praise and worship sessions before rousing sermons are given, while others prefer solemn hymns. During religious holidays, these structures are the sacred places where longstanding traditions are proudly upheld.
In the spirit of Easter, here are ten images of some of the most beautiful churches to be found around the world.
10 Las Lajas Sanctuary
In 2015, The Telegraph named the Las Lajas Sanctuary or Santuario de Las Lajas in Colombia as the most beautiful church in the world. This Gothic Revival style church is located inside a canyon and boasts fantastic architecture as well as a mysterious mural which origin is shrouded in mystery.
Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to a woman and her deaf-mute daughter on the spot where Las Lajas now stands. The year was 1754 and mother and daughter were passing the Guaitara River when a huge storm broke loose. They desperately sought shelter and soon felt an invisible force guiding them towards a cave. Once inside, the woman’s young daughter pointed to an image of the Virgin Mary that had appeared on a cave wall. Suddenly the girl could hear and speak. The story of this miraculous event was spread far and wide and a few years later the first shrine was built on the site.
Las Lajas was constructed between 1916 and 1949 and since then, many more cases of miraculous healing have been reported.
9 Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor
The Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor is an iconic part of the skyline in Barcelona and is large enough to be seen from most parts of the city. The Temple, also called The Church of the Sacred Heart, was built using different types of stone and its origins date back to 1886.
The church includes five towers with a seven-meter statue of Jesus towering over the city from the main central tower. It sits on the highest point of Mount Tibidabo and is rumored to have been built because a Protestant church alongside a hotel and casino was allegedly going to be built on the hill.
8 First Church of Otago
In 1868, the first stone of the First Church of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand was laid by the city’s founder, Thomas Burns. In order to accommodate the beautiful structure, the ground was lowered by 40 feet. It took hundreds of workers to accomplish this feat, which resulted in the laws and trees surrounding the church being a ‘raised platform’ that comprises cliff faces on three sides of it.
Inside, visitors will find two old streetlights that hail from Edinburgh, Scotland as well as a colorful war memorial window dedicated to brave local soldiers.
The bell in the church grounds was also a gift from Scotland and remained in use for many years.
7 Karuizawa’s Stone Church
The Stone Church in Karuizawa is anything but conventional. It was built in honor of Uchimura Kanzo who was a Japanese author and Christian evangelist. Kanzo was also the leader of the Non-church movement. The building’s architect, Kendrick Kellogg, wanted the stone and glass arches to symbolize bride and groom as well as integrate with the surrounding landscape.
Kellogg furthermore wanted to incorporate five natural elements into the surroundings of the church as well as make it a very special place for couples to pledge their vows to one another. The natural elements are stone, sunlight, water, green, and wood. In his ‘pitch’ for the church design, he stated that stone would represent the strength of men and glass the ‘softness’ of women while rays of sunshine streaming through the church’s windows and falling upon bridal couples would mean only the most wonderful of blessings for them. Greenery can be found inside the church right next to a row of stunning wooden pews.
It was built in 1988 and is primarily a very popular wedding venue as well as tourist attraction.
The stunning Hallgrímskirkja church in Iceland took 41 years to build and is named after famed Icelandic poet and clergyman, Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson. Inspiration for the church design came from nature elements found in Iceland such as glaciers, volcanoes, and basalt columns. Those who visit the church will see a statue of Viking explorer Leifur Eiríksson in front of it which was a gift from the US in 1930 to commemorate Iceland’s 1000th Parliament anniversary. The statue stood in its spot long before the church was even built.
Even though many criticized the look of the church as being too old-fashioned, it is not completely bereft of modern technology. Its church bells were repaired and modernized in 2019 and have been controlled by an app ever since.
5 Tan Dinh Church
You would be forgiven if at first glance you mistook the Tan Dinh Church in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) for a Disney-style castle. The church incorporates Gothic and Renaissance elements and is pastel pink in color.
The church was established by the Tan Dinh Parish, which was one of the first Catholic communities to settle in the Southwest of Vietnam in 1861. The church opened to the public in 1876 and in the years to follow, an orphanage and boarding school were built next to it.
The inside of the Tan Dinh Church is as colorful as the exterior with pink hues everywhere as well as Virgin Mary, Christ Jesus, and angel statues.
4 Church of Our Lady The Immaculate Conception
The Church of Our Lady The Immaculate Conception houses the ancient bell that was removed from the ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Grace. The church incorporates a beautiful and distinctive staircase as well as two towers.
The 8th of December each year sees the church celebrating the Immaculate Conception after a nine-day novena. The celebrations include a brass band procession, a firework display and stalls that sell miniature statues, clothes and more.
The church is the oldest in Goa, built in 1541, and was first used by Portuguese sailors. It possesses a blend of Portuguese, Baroque and Goan style and shines brightly in deep blue and white colors.
3 The Temppeliaukio Church
The Temppeliaukio Church or Church of the Rock is both a church and concert venue and is built into natural granite rock in Helsinki, Finland.
Around 500,000 people visit the structure every year and take the opportunity to listen to a recording of bells played via loudspeakers in lieu of real bells. J.S. Siren won a competition for the design of the church but construction was interrupted when WWII broke out. In 1961 another competition was held and won by Timo Suomalainen and Tuomo Suomalainen. The church was completed in 1969.
The exposed rock walls in the church hall makes for excellent acoustics, hence the building’s popularity as a concert venue.
2 The Old Church of Dunlewey
In 1825 James Russell and Jane Smith married and settled in London. The couple had 5 children and eventually decided to move to Donegal after purchasing the Dunlewey estate there.
When James died in 1848, Jane was devastated and vowed to build a church to honor her husband’s memory. The Dunlewey church or Church of the Sacred Heart, was built from white marble and blue quartzite with red brick in the window arches. James’ remains were interred in a vault underneath the floor of the church.
The church was consecrated in 1853 but by 1955 the building had deteriorated to the extent that the roof was a safety hazard and had to be removed. Fittings and fixtures were removed and installed in other churches.
In 2005 extensive restoration took place to preserve this magnificent building for future generations.
1 Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary
Grooms in Slovenia who want a ‘guarantee’ of marital bliss, should just carry their bride-to-be up the 99 stairs to the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary on Bled Island, ring the bell and get married there. The bell is known as the ‘bell of wishes’ and legend has it that those who ring it and make a wish will see their wish come true. The bell tower dates back to 1465 and the stairs to 1655.
The small island on which the church stands is reachable by gondola which makes for a beautiful and romantic journey for those with impending nuptials. During winter, the lake often freezes over, allowing visitors to walk to the church.