Help me find interesting churches
July 6, 2009 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for significant, interesting, or unusual churches (for architectural, cultural and/or religious reasons) from around the world. More thoughts inside.

My mom is looking to make a list of significant churches from around the world, like the Russian Church of the Savior on Blood, and Spanish missions in California. She'd like to make a list of the "top 100" churches, and has ~50 currently, though I don't have that list.

For full disclosure, she's looking to write a book on this, though it may never leave the stage of "interesting areas for further reading," as she keeps getting side-tracked in details and history. Her interest is in Christian churches, but I'd be interested in knowing more about other religious sites, too.

If this does get to be a proper book, I'll keep people updated and I'll make sure proper credits and thanks are in place. If it falls shy of that, I might make her a website, to share what she (and others) have found and written about.
posted by filthy light thief to Society & Culture (48 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Does the Upside Down Church count?
posted by FatherDagon at 11:56 AM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Or the Cathedral of Don Justo, near Madrid.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:58 AM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The Mezquita of Córdoba, Spain.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:00 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: My cousin's husband, an architecht, wrote this article. Maybe not exactly what you were looking for, but interesting nonetheless.
posted by mealy-mouthed at 12:08 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe has a mysterious staircase.
posted by scody at 12:12 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: San Thome Basilica in Chennai, India.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in Goa, India.
posted by peacheater at 12:13 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Two Unitarian churches by Frank Lloyd Wright; Madison, Wisconsin and Oak Park, IL and
a Greek Orthodox Church and a Jewish temple (with more pics of the Unitarian churches.
posted by readery at 12:14 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: US Air Force Academy Chapel, Colorado Springs, CO
First Presby, Stamford, CT — The Fish Church
posted by netbros at 12:22 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: There are a bunch in Israel/Palestine that are significant for religious/historical reasons, with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity being the most famous.

The Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia is considered to be the oldest church in existence.

The following are famous for architectural reasons: Notre Dame du Haut, Unity Temple, Notre Dame de Paris, Hagia Sophia (though, it's no longer a church), Sagrada Família, Cologne Cathedral.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro is supposed to be the largest church in the world.

Of course, there is also St. Peter's Basilica.
posted by epimorph at 12:30 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Don't know if it's what you're looking for or not but Trinity Church in Boston "is the only church in the United States and the only building in Boston that has been honored as one of the "Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States" by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 1885, architects voted Trinity Church as the most important building in the U.S.; Trinity Church is the only building from the original 1885 list still included in the AIA's current top ten list. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 30, 1970."
posted by bowmaniac at 12:34 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Seconding Notre Dame du Haut. Also San Francisco de Asis Church, Ranchos de Taos, made somewhat famous by Georgia O'Keeffe.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:40 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: A couple more...

The Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola is famous for its frescoes.

Also, the Canterbury Cathedral is a worthy contender.
posted by epimorph at 12:53 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Designed by E. Fay Jones, apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. It's pretty awesome!
posted by flavor at 12:54 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The Basílica de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (Basilica of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen) near Madrid counts in my book for several reasons. For one it is an enormous cavernous tunnel built into the side of mountain. Most of the interior is unadorned and it is dark which adds the starkness. Secondly it was built by Franco as a national monument but he is buried there so it mostly becomes a memorial to himself. That coupled with the fact that it was built largely by slave labor (i.e. political prisoners) and you can see why the place is controversial.
posted by mmascolino at 12:57 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Ba'hai Temple in Wilmette, IL.
posted by DrGail at 1:06 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: St Mary's, Fairford is one of the last in England with a full set of medieval glass.
The Flodden Window in Middleton is thought to be the world's oldest war memorial, which is more than a bit questionable but interesting nonetheless.
posted by Abiezer at 1:08 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome. The crypt is a must-see.
posted by Eumachia L F at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio is famous for its enormous Jesus-emerging-from-the-lake statue.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:26 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow. Fantastic, one and all! I'll be sorting through these for days!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:38 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: There's also the cave churches in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. (I could do this all day)
posted by Eumachia L F at 1:41 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: St. Fidelis, Cathedral of the Plains.
posted by Science! at 1:51 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: As a European medieval art history major in uni (yep it's been so useful), I tend to think selecting just a 100 Christian churches of significance is nigh impossible. Maybe she can focus on one kind of significance? But anyway here's stab at a few:

Ravenna, Italy alone has more significant early churches than you can shake a stick at.

The Hagia Sofia, already mentioned of course.

A fine Romanesque example (and the largest) is the Basilia of Saint Sernin in Toulouse, France.

Aachen Cathedral was started by Charlemagne.

The cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, the most significant pilgrimage site in Christianity. (The second most famous pilgrimage site was Canturbury.)

Chartres Cathedral is considered to be the finest example of Gothic architecture. Other famous Gothic churches include the cathedrals in Rouen (made famous by Monet painting it over and over and over), Amiens, Reims; Notre-Dame de Paris - and that's just in France. Another example from the Gothic period, the jewel-like Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Then you get to the Renaissance and... aah i'm out of breath
posted by thread_makimaki at 2:06 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The Arka Pana church in Nowa Huta, (one of only two pre-planned Socialist Realist cities ever fully constructed), near Kraków, Poland, was built with no help from the communist authorities, and construction had to be halted to remove thousands of land mines from World War II. Details here. It turned out pretty awesome:

"Built to resemble Noah’s Ark, with a 70 metre mast-shaped crucifix rising from the middle, the church houses a mind-boggling array of treasures, including a stone from the tomb of St Peter in the Vatican, a tabernacle containing a fragment of rutile brought back from the moon by the crew of Apollo 11 and a controversial statue of Christ that shows him not on a cross, but about to fly to the heavens."

The Churches of Peace in the Silesia region of Poland were built of timber, straw, and loam, and without steeples or bells, in only a single year, in line with restrictions put onto the Protestant minority there. Now they're a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
posted by mdonley at 2:06 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The First Congregational Church of Litchfield, CT is the most photographed church in New England.

Designed by famous American architect H. H. Richardson, Trinity Church, Copley Sqaure, Boston is "is a masterpiece of American architecture," often cited in architectural top ten lists.
posted by ericb at 2:22 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: I can't believe nobody's mentioned the Rock Church (or "Church in the Rock") in Helsinki, Finland, a modernist church from 1969. The Temppeliaukio Kirkko is underground, as it was blasted out of solid rock, and has a dome made of copper thread. It's pretty amazing.
posted by ilana at 2:24 PM on July 6, 2009

Or what bowmaniac said about Trinity Church.
posted by ericb at 2:24 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Amsterdam’s hidden church (Museum Amstelkring, Our Lord in the Attic).
posted by ericb at 2:25 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: 'Sacred Destinations' website.
posted by ericb at 2:26 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: How about the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa? (Not technically a church, grottoes being sort of their own category of sacred/worship sites in Catholic tradition. There is a church building adjacent to this grotto.)

Oh, I see someone has already said Sagrada Familia (designed by gaudi) in Barcelona but I'll repeat it anyway because it's so cool.

The Painted Church near Honaunau on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Opukahaia Memorial Chapel at Punalu'u, also on the big island. This is a beautiful open-air stone chapel overlooking the black sand beach at Punalu'u. Henry Opukahaia was a Hawaiian man who converted to Christianity and helped usher in the missionary movement in the Hawaiian islands (for better or for worse). (there are lots of examples of historic missionary churches and stone churches in Hawaii your mom might look into.)

The mormon tabernacle in Salt Lake?

When I was in Mcleod Ganj/Dharamsala, India (where the Tibetan Government in Exile is located, the dalai lama lives, etc.) I thought this nearby church was interesting: St. John in the Wilderness You could find more grand and significant examples of gothic architecture, churches in remote areas, the Christian church in India, etc. but its still interesting i think.
posted by dahliachewswell at 2:31 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Oh - how could I forget? The Wieliczka Salt Mine has a chapel dedicated to Saint Kinga of Poland, hundreds of meters below the Earth, carved out of salt, by pretty much a handful of guys, for decades!
posted by mdonley at 2:47 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Apart from this page, see the Wotruba Church and the Donau City Church both in Vienna.
posted by devnull at 3:00 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The little known chapel (built 1256) attached to Hendred House in East Hendred, Oxfordshire, is one of the only chapels in England that has remained an exclusively Catholic place of worship since before the reformation. It features original stained glass not destroyed during the reformation and many important relics such as St. Thomas More's drinking cup and St. John Fisher's walking cane. The house has been privately owned by the same family for over 600 years, one of the oldest houses in the continuous ownership of one family in Britain.
posted by fire&wings at 3:09 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: New Hampshire's Cathedral of the Pines (Rindge, NH).

Frank Lloyd Wright's Chapel of the Holy Cross (Sedona, AZ).
posted by ericb at 3:10 PM on July 6, 2009

The marble church. Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Venice.
posted by Zambrano at 4:10 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Also, there's a Roman Catholic chapel in Moravia made out of 40,000-70,000 human bones.
posted by zoomorphic at 5:41 PM on July 6, 2009

The Live Oak Friends Meeting House was designed by James Turrell (relevant interview here). There is a huge square cut out of the ceiling? It is bizarre and beautiful.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:03 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The catacomb underground church and the serbian orthodox underground church at Coober Pedy, Australia.
posted by dhruva at 6:27 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Nice, France (those are photos I took just last month) is not only gorgeous, but has an interesting history: it was built by the last Tsar, Nicholas II, inaugurated by him in 1912, and was the first outside Russia to be designated a Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Wikipedia entry.
posted by fraula at 1:43 AM on July 7, 2009

Finally found the other interesting part of its story (couldn't remember which Alexandrovich it was...!): Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich, who was the elder brother of Tsar Alexander III, was in fact heir apparent to the throne, but died of tuberculosis in Nice in 1865. At the site of his death, a memorial was raised. The Orthodox cathedral was built just a few feet away, and is also dedicated to his memory.
posted by fraula at 1:55 AM on July 7, 2009

Best answer: Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral was designed by the man who invented the red telephone booth. It's huge and amazing-looking.

Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral looks like a spaceship.

During the European City of Culture year, the two cathedreal were joined at the tips by a green laser that could be seen all over the city.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 4:48 AM on July 7, 2009

Best answer: El Santuario de Chimayo
posted by candyland at 6:15 AM on July 7, 2009

Best answer: Church of the Light by Tadao Ando. In Ibaraki, Osaka-fu, Japan.
posted by emmling at 7:36 AM on July 7, 2009

Best answer: Late to the game, but the most amazing church I have been to is the Convento e Igreja de Sao Francisco, in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
posted by msali at 9:56 AM on July 7, 2009

Best answer: The Church of St George, Lalibela- one of a series of rock-hewn churches in the Amhara area of Northern Ethiopia.
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 11:57 AM on July 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all!

I found another interesting religious site: (some of) the earliest Christian churches in Cappadocia were carved into fairy chimneys, or hoodoos.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:15 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: This is a self-link to a flickr phot. but Grace Church, Mt. Meigs is a one of the most perfect examples of the Carpenter Gothic style the flourish in the American South prior to the Civil War.
posted by jefficator at 9:21 PM on October 29, 2009

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