Houses of The Holy: 15 of The Most Beautiful Places of Worship Around The World
Whether you have a belief in the divine, a severe distrust in it or just don't know where you stand on the whole issue of faith, it is hard to deny that religion has inspired some of the most incredible architecture the world has seen.
Here we take a look at some of the most stunning places of worship in the world from its many different religions.
1. Borobudur, Java - Indonesia
The largest Buddhist temple on Earth is a multi-tiered structure with apex views of surrounding volcanoes on the island of Java.
The 95-foot high climb may seem like a lot of hard work, but the stunning 3,000 bas-reliefs deserve a closer look.
2. Hallgrimskirkja - Reykjavik, Iceland
A towering, white monolith that sits atop a hill which peers out over the whole of the capital city of Iceland, this cathedral looks more like a futuristic space rocket from a 50s sci-fi movie rather than a house of god but it is a unique building that took over 40 years to complete and was named after poet Reverend Hallgrimur Petersson, who wrote Iceland's most popular hymn book Passion Hymns.
What is strange is that Iceland is a predominantly atheist country and yet this cathedral is a much-loved icon of the country. You can go right to the top of the clock tower and look out over the bay as well, for a small fee.
3. Sagrada Familia - Barcelona, Spain
Not technically a cathedral but rather a very large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, it is still worthy of a mention. The sheer size and scope of this project mean that it is still under construction despite work commencing in 1882. In 1883, the famed Catalan architect took over the project and imbuing it with his own unique design and aesthetic.
Interrupted by the Spanish civil war and relying on private donations to work towards its completion, it reached a halfway stage sometime in 2010 and has an estimated completion date of 2026. Despite not being finished it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and when work on the spires is completed, it will make Sagrada Família the tallest church building in the world.
4. Sultan Ahmed Mosque - Istanbul, Turkey
Due to its various iterations and reincarnations as a city, Istanbul is filled with temples and churches of all religions and sects and was an important stop on the Silk Road trade route. As such, arts and trade have shaped the way the city grew and flowered, and its rich history remains sewn into its very fabric.
One of the most stunning places of worship in the city, however, is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue mosque. Constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed's tomb, a madrasah, and a hospice and it still functions as a mosque today.
5. Paro Taktsang - Bhutan
Sitting at an elevation of 10,240 feet in the Paro Valley of the Himalayan mountains, this sacred Buddhist temple is also known as 'The Tiger's Nest' (do tigers live in nests?) and was built in 1692 and has maintained its position on the mountain cliff ever since.
Built around a cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century, he is credited with bringing Buddhism to Bhutan.
6. The Hurva Synagogue, Jerusalem - Israel
Located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Hurva Synagogue is also known as Hurvat Rabbi Yehudah he-Hasid and was first founded in the 17th century but was later destroyed and left in ruin for around 150 years.
Rebuilt in 1864, it again suffered destruction during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The new synagogue was dedicated in March 2010.
7. Karnak Temple Complex, El, Karnak - Egypt
A complex of ruined temples, chapels, and other buildings it was built during the reign of Senusret I in the Middle Kingdom and continued into the Ptolemaic period with parts dating back as far as 2000 B.C.
Now the largest ancient religious site in the world, it was the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head.
8. Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai- India
A sprawling Tamil Hindu temple on the southern bank of the Vaigai river, the city of Madurai is 2,500 years old itself, and the temple has been a mainstay of that with its estimated 33,000 sculptures in bright and vibrant colors.
A significant symbol for the Tamil people mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, most of the present structure was built between 1623 and 1655 CE.
9. The New Synagogue, Berlin - Germany
One of the few synagogues to survive the horrific Kristallnacht, it built in Berlin between 1859-1866 and was inspired by Moorish design which is why it has similar characteristics to La Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
Badly damaged during WWII, it was reconstructed post-war.
10. Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar - India
Colloquially known as the Golden Temple, it is the holiest Gurdwara of Sikhism, with the city of Amritsar (literally, the tank of nectar of immortality) being founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das and the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan, designed the Harmandir Sahib to be built in the centre of this holy tank.
Completed in 1604, the four entrances (representing the four directions) to get into the Harmandir Sahib also symbolize the openness of the Sikhs towards all people and religions.
11. Temple of Heaven, Beijing - China
A Taoist (and heaven worship) temple in the center of Beijing, it was constructed early in the 15th century, during the reign of the Yongle Emperor.
The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.
12. Quirkcancha, Cusco - Peru
The holiest site in the Incan empire, it was devoted to the Sun God Inti. The walls and floors of the temple were once covered in gold, but the Incan people were forced to turn it over to the Spanish colonists, who'd required a ransom to save the life of the Incan leader Atahualpa.
As such, the gold was stripped from the temple, and its ruins were used as foundations for the Church of Santo Domingo that now stands on the site.
13. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi - UAE
The eighth largest mosque in the world, it has the space to be visited by 40,000 people and often is during the Islamic festivals of Eid.
The carpet in the main prayer hall is considered to be the largest carpet in the entire world at 60,570 feet.
14. St. Basil's Cathedral - Moscow, Russia
Widely recognized as an icon of Russia, many don't actually know its full title which is The Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat. Its design sees it shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky and although its unique design is associated with the nation it resides in, there is no precedent of this style being used in Russia before this construction.
Residing in the famous Kremlin complex in Russia's capital, it was built in Red Square between 1555 and 1561.
15. The Lotus Temple, Delhi, India
Notable for its flower-like structure that opens out in petals, The Lotus Temple, is a Bahá'í House of Worship completed in 1986.
The Bahá'í Faith teaches that a Bahá'í House of Worship should be a space for people of all religions to gather, reflect, and worship.Anyone may enter the Lotus Temple irrespective of religious background, sex, or other distinctions, as is the case with all Bahá'í Houses of Worship.