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11 of The World's Most Beautiful Cathedrals!

Wanderlust September 21, 2017 By Vincent
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Places of worship are often grand and auspicious venues in a tribute to the god, gods or deities they stand as a testament to. Sometimes they have a historical or national relevance and thus have had the treatment from some of the best architects of their time with money from global church organizations or wealthy royals poured into them.

As such, they are often amongst the most beautiful and stunning structures in the world and so here we look at some of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.

1.  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.

2. Nidaros Cathedral - Trondheim, Norway

It took nearly three centuries for this cathedral in Norway to be built as work on it began in 1070AD and was finished sometime around 1300AD. Employing aspects of both Romanesque and Gothic style design and architecture, the cathedral is the largest in Norway and is regarded both as a national shrine and a coronation church.

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One of the most popular tourist attractions in the country it draws many visitors each year.

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.

Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock.com

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. Notre Dame - Paris, France

One of the most famous cathedrals in the world due to its immortalization in the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the building itself is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in existence and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture often found around Europe.

 

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With several periods of construction on the building starting in 1163, it was essentially completed in 1345.

5. Santa Maria del Fiore - Florence, Italy

An absolutely massive basilica, the plans of this cathedral actually make a Latin cross from up above.  502 feet long, 124 feet wide, and 295 feet at the crossing. The height of the arches in the aisles is an amazing 75 feet and the architect in charge of the project, Filippo Brunelleschi, never produced full documents of his designs so that he could maintain control over the project.

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A glorious example of Italian Renaissance architecture it incorporates many great engineering feats in order to keep a dome of its size held up.

6. Chartres Cathedral - Chartres, France

With two contrasting spires, a 349-foot pyramid dating from the 1140s, and a 377-foot tall early 16th-century spire on top of an older tower, this cathedral has seen only minor changes since the early 13th century and remains surprisingly intact since then with unusually large stained glass windows made possible by the heavy flying buttresses.

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A high gothic cathedral, it has hundreds of figures on its three facades that illustrate key theological themes and narratives.

7. Hagia Sophia Cathedral - Istanbul, Turkey

A  former Orthodox patriarchal basilica that later became a mosque and is now a museum, the Hagia Sophia one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture with a massive central dome surrounded by 40 arched windows that partially support its weight. With a complex and convoluted history, this was once the world's largest cathedral.

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Although it looks circular, repairs to the dome have actually left it slightly elliptical, although this is not really visible without great inspection.

8. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral - Galicia, Spain

A mixture of Romanesque, Baroque, and Gothic architecture, this cathedral was built between 1075 and 1211 and is the reputed burial-place of Saint James the Greater, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. Because of this, it has been part of a major pilgrimage route since the middle ages drawing visitors from around the world.

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The largest Romanesque church in Spain and even one of the largest in Europe, the interior seems rather sparse compared to its grand exterior but its magnificent organ makes up for that.

9. Winchester Cathedral - Winchester England

One of the largest cathedrals in England, with the longest nave and overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe, Winchester cathedral is where the author Jane Austen is buried and is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture. Work began on the Cathedral in 1079 as limestone was brought from the Isle of Wight for its construction.

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With a vastly impressive and ornate interior and rose gardens surrounding it, it is an impressive sight to behold.

10 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.

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Residing in the famous Kremlin complex in Russia's capital, it was built in Red Square between 1555 and 1561.

11. The Washington National Cathedral - Washington D.C, USA

Officially titled the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, this building is a prime example of neogothic design and was actually built with many asymmetrical features and flaws deliberately so as to illustrate that only god can be perfect. It is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the United States.

Shu-Hung Liu/Shutterstock.com

In the North West tower of the cathedral is a sculpture of the Star Wars character Darth Vader, as a result of a competition for children to design decorative sculptures.

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