Because churches are meant to promote the love and worship of God, they’re historically the grandest structures of any given community. And the best of the best can truly be awe-inspiring.
Here are Newsmax’s top 10 most beautiful churches in the world. Each is beautiful in its own way, from medieval to contemporary, and each features different architectural styles, so they can’t fairly be ranked, therefore they’re listed in alphabetical order.
Borgund Stave Church, Norway: Dedicated to the Apostle Andrew, this is one of the finest and most well-preserved examples of stave church architecture, common in medieval northwest Europe. Stave is a type of timber construction using posts and lintels. This example was built around 1180, and is comprised of three naves.
Protected by the steep slopes of a narrow valley in the villagee of Borgund, it looks as though it stood there since the beginning of time. Carved dragon heads decorate the many gables and stand guard over the church and give it an appropriate Viking-like appearance.
When you take in the structure of Norway’s Borgund Stave Church, you’ll immediately be taken back to a time long ago — a magical era of elves and gnomes, of Viking warriors and princesses.
Church of the Assumption, Lake Bled, Slovenia: This one is stunning not just for its architecture, but also for its setting. It’s situated on a tiny tear-shaped island set in the middle of a freshwater lake. There’s no road to take you there — you can only arrive by boat.
Located in the Julian Alps, the church has what is called the bell of wishes, made in 1534 by Francesco Patavino of Padova as a gift from the pope. It’s said that if you ring the bell and make a wish, it will come true. However, the offer is limited to one ring and a single wish per customer.
When you think of “once upon a time in a magical kingdom,” you’ll think of something akin to the Church of the Assumption.
Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík, Iceland: The distinctive design of Hallgrímskirkja is based on the basalt columns found dotted around Iceland’s landscapes. Towering to 74.5 meters (244 feet), it is one of the tallest structures in the country and looks out over Reykjavik from the hilltop it rests upon.
It’s a modern design, built between 1945 and 1986, and named after the Icelandic poet Hallgrimur Petursson. A statue of the explorer Leif Erikson, who set foot in North America nearly five centuries before Christopher Columbus, stands guard in front of the church.
Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, Normandy, France: Like Slovenia’s Church of the Assumption, Mont Saint-Michel sits on an island — but only at high tide. It’s a medieval Benedictine abbey that’s stunning from any angle and no matter what the state of the tide.
It’s located on the border separating Normandy from Brittany and is the most visited site in Normandy and the tenth most visited in all of France, attracting more than 2.5 million visitors each year. It's also dedicated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
A community of Benedictine monks first settled on the sire in 966, and dedicated it to St. Michael the Archangel. They immediately began construction, which continued for centuries, and was finally completed in 1523.
Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart), Paris, France: One of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in Paris, Sacré-Coeur is located at the city’s highest point. Construction on the gleaming white basilica began in 1875 and was completed in 1914. Features include elegant Byzantine architecture and a mammoth onion dome flanked by two cupolas.
Sacré-Coeur was second only to the Notre-Dame Cathedral as being the most visited Parisian monument in 2017. However, a fire in 2019 destroyed Notre-Dame’s spire and oak roof beams that support its lead roof, putting an end to tourism there until restoration is complete.
Two statues, one of Joan of Arc and the second of Louis IX, each on horseback, are positioned above its arched entrance. Both are beloved French saints. The interior is just as breathtaking, and features one of the world’s largest mosaic coats within its dome.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain: This one can be considered a magnificent work in progress. Although construction began nearly 140 years ago, it continues to this day.
It was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, who dedicated his life to his creation and lived as a recluse in the building until his death in 1926. His body now rests in the crypt of the basilica.
The exterior looks like a huge, elaborate sand castle with numerous towering, sand-colored spires. Upon entering the church your senses are flooded in color and light, emanating from the beautiful stained-glass windows.
Construction is expected to be completed in 2026 — the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia: Noted for its brightly-colored onion domes, looking like hot-air balloons clustered in the sky, St. Basil’s was built in the mid-16th century at the direction of Ivan the Terrible. It consisted of eight chapels arranged around a ninth, larger central chapel. In 1588 a 10th chapel was added, commemorating St. Basil.
The interior is every bit as distinctive as the exterior, with towering ceilings and murals and icons covering every surface. The cathedral had some close calls in its nearly 500-year history. It was nearly blown up by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812 and was almost demolished by Joseph Stalin in 1935.
St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City: St. Patrick’s serves as both a local parish church where Mass is celebrated daily, as well as the home of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, currently Timothy Cardinal Dolan. It’s located on Fifth Avenue directly facing Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan, and is the largest gothic-style Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States.
St. Patrick’s construction was financed by the contributions of thousands of poor immigrants, plus 103 local prominent families that each pledged $1,000. Construction began in 1858 and was completed 20 years later.
A $177 million restoration of the cathedral took place between 2012 and 2015. In May of 2020, Black Lives Matter supporters vandalized the structure, spray-painting obscenities on walls and steps as they marched down Fifth Avenue, according to the New York Post.
St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican: Located in a separate country situated within the city of Rome, work on St. Peter’s began in 1506 under the direction of Pope Julius II, and was completed in 1615 under Pope Paul V. The result was the world’s largest church, as well as one of the most beautiful. Legendary artists Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo contributed to its beauty and grandeur.
The basilica also serves as the final resting place of Sr. Peter, Christ’s favored apostle, who said of Peter, “upon this Rock I will build My church, and the gates of the grave shall not prevail against it.”
Its awe-inspiring size and beautiful works of art make it the prime pilgrimage for Roman Catholics the world over.
Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.: This is a neo-Gothic, inter-denominational church, officially dedicated as the "Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington.”
Like many other churches, Washington National was built on the city’s highest point, and the beauty of its facade is matched only by its interior, with soaring vaulted ceilings and hundreds of stained-glass windows.
One of the windows is decorated with seven grams of lunar rock, brought back by the crew of Apollo 11, and described as “the very horizon of eternity,” by Rev. Francis Sayre Jr.
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