Some one recently brought to my attention that my love of churches (and cathedrals) is a some what unusual one considering I am NOT religious whatsoever. Not that there is anything wrong with being religious it’s just not who I am. But I do love going into churches. I think they are an amazing source of inspiration. I genuinely think that everyone should stop in at least one church when visiting a new city.
I know there will people reading this being like ugh I’m not going to spend my vacation time walking around to churches. I totally understand that, but hear me out. Churches were the hub of communities for centuries so they can reveal a great deal about the city they are in. Then there is the masterpieces of architecture that most churches are. Plus they often house the most spectacular works of art: in the form of paintings, stained glass and much more. Churches were often showcases of the masters and architects of their time. I love that about churches. I mean granted the art work focuses on one subject matter, but the variance in approach and skill is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I mean hey everyone remembers the botched retouch of the fresco. So why not go see the amazing craft presented in these churches before someone else’s grandmother gets a hold of some paint brushes.
Ok so somehow I’ve convinced you to go to church (haha, it is probably best if it’s not a Sunday!), but where do you start? Glad that you ask! I’ve compiled my top 5 favourite churches for you to check out for yourself. So these are in chronological order for me, not most favourite, because that would be too difficult. Also I didn’t want to spend weeks going through photo albums, hard drives and photo folders to find my photographs of these places, so I am using other people’s.
Cathedral Basilica, St. Louis, MO
This little gem of the Central West End is one that I remember from being a little kid. Like I said I’m not really religious, nor was I raised particularly religiously. This was a beautiful place for a person of any age or religious background. Once you walk through the doors the inside is a warm, glistening gold. Then once you look closer you see that the ceiling is not just gold but a collection of mosaics. These mosaics were completed in 1988 and collectively contain 41.5 million glass pieces and since is covers 83,000 sq ft it is the largest mosaic collection in the world. Which ain’t too bad for a little ol’ church in the middle of Missouri. If you ever get to St. Louis you should go and spend time looking up at all the amazing detail this ceiling has to offer.
Ok so Notre Dame itself is amazing! BUT my love for this church definitely comes from a little Disney movie that I doubt anyone besides me has actually seen.The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out when I was 6 and I was obsessed to say the least. For my 7th birthday, my dad made me not one but two Notre Dame themed cakes. One was the shape of the outside, while the second was a stained glass window made of cake and sprinkles. Now that I’m an adult I think way to go Dad that was no easy feat, also come on 2 cakes, sort of adorable overkill. When I finally did get to Paris I made sure to get to get to the Cathedral as soon as I could. Any place with gargoyles and flying buttresses is cool to me. What is a flying buttress? Well it’s the weird arches sticking out of the back of the building that essentially hold up vaulted ceilings. Plus gargoyles, did I mention gargoyles?! This Cathedral is beautiful inside and out.
Gedächtniskirche, Berlin, Germany
The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche is a church in Berlin located in a big shopping area of Berlin on the Kurfürstendamm. The church was built in the 1890s and was partially destroyed in a bombing raid. A portion of the church still remains, but there is a new church that was built alongside the former portion. The new freestanding tower is a hexagon and built with a bunch of blue glass bricks. The tower is often lit from the inside and shines through out the night. The inside envelopes you in the blue. My favourite bit is the balance between the old and the new that is so evident from the outside.
Sacré-Cœur, Paris, France
Ok for this one you don’t necessarily need to go in side. Of course you can, it is stunning on the inside. But I think the beauty of this church lies on the outside. It sits on the top of the hill of Montmartre which is the highest point of the city. From a distance you can see this beautiful white building sitting above the city. Then once you get to the top of the hill and see all of the intricacies and details of the building it is mesmerising. Then you turn around and you get one of the best views of Paris that you will ever see.
Sagrada Família, Barcelona Spain
This is probably an obvious one. Inside, outside, Gaudí’s creation is a masterpiece. Each facade is a completely different work of art and one that needs to be marveled at. Seriously words can not describe the beauty that is this church. Then you go inside and just wow. The stained glass, the columns, the vaulted ceilings, every millimeter has been painstakingly thought out and created. It is definitely worth the hefty price-tag. Make sure you spring to go up the tower. Here’s my post about Paris and Barcelona.
Ok so after this long post I do need to say it’s not all about the churches. I just find them to be the most easily accessible to the public. While I was in Paris I had the opportunity to the Grand Mosque of Paris. It was equally as inspiring and moving as any of the churches that I listed above. The amazing tile/ mosaic work was like nothing I’d seen before.
I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is that even if you aren’t religious whatsoever (like me) take a minute and look toward a nearby religious centre (especially the old ones). They were the center of communities and have very inspirational architecture and art. Plus it’s a chance for all of us to step away from our computers for a little bit.