Worship in Wonder: 12 Divinely Inspired Churches
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Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
El Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia, named for the Holy Family, is the crown jewel of Barcelona and the masterwork of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Work began in 1882, but Gaudí was killed in 1926, while the plans were, unfortunately, still in his head. Construction is ongoing, and the church is currently expected to be completed in 2026.
Golden Temple, Amritsar, India
Called the Harmandar Sahib, aka the Abode of God, this temple is the holiest site in the Sikh faith. Located in the state of Punjab, the temple complex and the city surround a pool excavated by the founder of Sikhism himself in the sixteenth century, called Amritsar (“the nectar of immortality”).
Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California
The 10,000 panes of glass on this Protestant church aren’t actually bolted to the frame; they were installed using a silicone-based glue. The structure, designed by architect Philip Johnson and completed in 1980, was built to withstand an earthquake of 8.0 magnitude.
The Great Synagogue, Budapest, Hungary
Also known as the Dohány Street Synagogue, the temple is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world. It was built in the 19th century in a Moorish style similar to Spain’s Alhambra. During World War II, the temple was a part of the ghetto for Budapest’s Jews; on the premises is a memorial to those who perished in the Holocaust.
Jain Temple of Adinath, Ranakpur, India
This marble temple is known for the exquisitely detailed marble carvings throughout the structure, including an elephant dating to 1687 and 1,400 pillars, of which no two are the same. The temple itself was completed in the 15th century and is an important site in the Jain faith.
The ruins of this Buddhist temple and UNESCO World Heritage Site were discovered by Dutch explorers in Indonesia in the 19th century. It contains 2 million cubic feet of stone, 2,700 panels of bas relief sculpture, and 504 statues of the Buddha. Although no one knows for sure when or why the site was built, some believe that the two miles of relief panels tell the story of Buddhism for those who walk around all nine levels of the temple.
Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia
This cathedral is built inside a canyon in the Andes, at a site where an Amerindian woman claimed to see a vision of the Virgin Mary during a storm in 1754. On the limestone tiles of the canyon, the “miraculous” image is still visible today.
Swaminarayan Akshardham, Delhi, India
Completed and opened to the public in 2005, Ashkardham (as the site is known) is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. Its grounds include not just a temple but also stone monuments, a musical fountain, a sunken lotus garden, and a museum exhibition. An estimated 70 percent of tourists to Delhi visit the attraction.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul
This mosque, otherwise known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles found in its interior, was built in 1609. The site, a popular tourist attraction, also houses a madrassa (school), a hospice, and the tomb of Sultan Ahmed.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya, India
According to Buddhist legend, the temple is built on the very site where Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha, achieved enlightenment in the sixth century B.C. It's the holiest shrine in all of Buddhism.
Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence
Construction on the Duomo began in 1296 and lasted for 170 years. The basilica, also the seat of the Florentine diocese, is known for its sparse Gothic interior, the priceless works of art located inside, and its massive dome, which is still the largest masonry dome in the world.
Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
This nondenominational Christian chapel, located in the Ozark Mountains, features 6,000 square feet of glass and 425 windows, which let nature in and help worshippers feel closer to God. The chapel, built according to the Prairie School, was designed by architect E. Fay Jones, who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright.