It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not – some churches are simply a visual splendor – and this is what we’re going to discuss here. Not the religious part, but the touristic one.
La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
While the new and the old part of the cathedral seem to belong to different ages and styles, its history gathers a spectacular combination of visions and styles. In 1882, when its construction began, the first architect to be in charge of the project, Joseph Bocabella wanted the project to consist in a small, common building to serve the faithful. One year after this, the famous architect Gaudi took over the project, on which he worked for the rest of his life. While the work completing the church raising continues up until today, his personal marks on the edifice constitutes and undeniable beauty of its time.
After having finished another famous personal project for which his name is highly regarded, Parc Guell, the brilliant creator dedicated his life to this astonishing building. A striking example of unique Art Nouveau style combined with refined personal tastes in religious and symbolist elements, some of the masterpiece’s parts of stunning beauty and exquisite arrangements are visited by hundreds of thousands of people annually.
Of these, the most popular are the three facades expressing the most important virtues, which substantialize three distinct portals on each facade: faith, hope and love are designed with precise symbolism: while the Passion Façade is on the west side of the building, the Naivity Façade is on the eastern side and the Glory Façade is on the south. The leitmotifs of religious aspects such as the virtues, saints, sins as well as more conceptual information on the religious history of Spain are to be found inside the ravishing construction as well.
Sagrada Familia, with its unique style and dazzling architecture is a sight like no other on the face of the Earth – truly something you’ll be sorry you missed.
Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany
Formally named the High Cathedral of St. Peter, the monument is a roman catholic church, Germany’s most visited landmark. The construction of this remarkable monument lasted over 600 years – but this didn’t affect in any way the fidelity of the marvelous monument to the original plans of the building. Imposing, huge, and architecturally brilliant – a true testament to the German ability to build.
The number of valuable artefacts (historically, religiously and culturally) that are hosted inside the monument is enough for every European tourist to stop and visit the place. Among the most popular, we mention the Shrine of the Three Holy Kings (a golden sarcophagus covered with jewels), the Gero Cross – being the oldest crucifix that survived on the north of the Alps, the Milan Madonna (the famous sculpture dating from the thirteenth century) or the Modern Mosaic Glass Window, made of more than eleven thousand identical glass pieces, giving a stained appearance to the monument.
Along with all these reasons for which this architectural marvel should be a top priority there is a series of facts to make it even more interesting for any traveler. The cathedral was the tallest building in the world for a four year period, between 1880 and 1884 and it still is the tallest perfectly gothic architectural construction. After being bombed fourteen times during WWII, the cathedral was restored. Also, one of the most important things about visiting this cathedral is that the hotel accommodation in Cologne is really cheap compared to other places in Germany, let alone Europe.
Urnes Stave Church, Lustrafjord, Norway
While the western European culture of the Middle Ages and Modern Times focused on building astonishing, impressive, magnificent, majestic monuments to remind the descendants of their cultural importance and monopoly, the northern European states focused on local, specific cultural elements and exploited them, leaving behind an entire undeniably valuable cultural heritage. One of these rustic, countrified, yet highly important cultural edifices is this wooden church in Norway. As the country is known for its completely wooden churches dating since the Middle Ages that are still undamaged, perfectly preserved, this one’s the oldest one. The stave churches period is known to have been the magnum opus with which the style has culminated.
On the inside of the church there are highly decorated motifs such as elks and doves, as well as mythological and mystical creatures like centaurs and dragons, the overall style suggesting refinement and subtlety. Both real life based elements as well as fantastic ones, the place is also arranged with beautifully carved stalls and finely shaped sculptures dating since the construction of the edifice, some of them even older. Although there are many stave churches in Norway, the above described one gets to be recommended on behalf of its priceless cultural importance, part of UNESCO World Heritage.
Milan’s Duomo, Milan, Italy
An eccentric example of northern gothic style in Italy, its construction lasted for centuries as well, starting in 1386. Unlike the Sagrada Familia, where the initial plans and design weren’t altered, in this case the prolongation of this construction in time made it look a lot more spectacular than it was first supposed to. While the apse is considered to be the architectural distinct mark of the church.
As the exterior is very imposing and monumental, a moving appearance for any tourist, partly because of all the statues and spines, partly because of the dome’s design, it also hosts the largest number of statues that a building has ever embedded – 3159.
Although the spaciousness and admeasurement are quite large, the darkness tends to soak the sensation of ample, generous spaces. Along with the penumbra that rules the entire monument, on sunny days with clear crystal skies the Italian Alps can be seen as a stunning landscape from the roof of the monument.