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11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

TripBlog
May 8, 20211,9666

On April 15, 2019, the world was stunned to learn that fire had ravaged Notre-Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris. In a matter of hours, centuries of history that had survived natural disasters, revolution, and two world wars, was suddenly swept from existence. Today, French authorities are struggling to rebuild the structure and Notre-Dame's charred remains are a poignant reminder that the world’s cultural treasures can vanish without warning. So too can unforeseen events like a global pandemic make such wonders impossible to visit. As we look forward to the coming return of international travel, here is a profile of 11 of the world’s most majestic cathedrals and why you shouldn’t wait to go see them.

Contents

Notre-Dame de Paris (Paris, France)
Saint Peter's Basilica (Vatican City)
Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Jerusalem)
Cologne Cathedral (Cologne, Germany)
Basilica of the Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey)
St. Patrick's Cathedral (New York City, USA)
Sagrada Família (Barcelona, Spain)
St. Joseph's Cathedral (Hanoi, Vietnam)
Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire)
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral (Mexico City, Mexico)
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (Florence, Italy)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Notre-Dame de Paris (Paris, France)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Notre-Dame was more than a church, it was the heart of Paris and its spiritual home. The monuments to our humanity we hold as permanent fixtures in cities and towns built through blood, sweat, and tears, are but fleeting examples of our ingenuity and our capacity to meaningfully express this human condition. Known the world over simply as Notre-Dame, the cathedral was constructed over a century beginning in 1160. It was an architectural and ascetic achievement even then. Its enormous vault was covered by a marvelous wooden ceiling that used so much wood it had come to be known as "the forest." In order to support the roof and prevent the vault’s walls from collapsing outward, Notre-Dame made innovative use of so-called flying buttresses.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Magnificent stained glass rose windows sat above the western entrance as well as at the northern and southern transepts. Elaborate stone sculptural decorations adorned the cathedral’s exterior and interior, with visitors drawn to the realism of Notre-Dame’s many gargoyles. Reconstructions, expansions, and other repairs occurred over many centuries. French authorities have committed to rebuilding the structure, making it all but certain Notre-Dame will eventually arise Phoenix-like from the ashes.

Saint Peter's Basilica (Vatican City)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Saint Peter’s stands as the world’s largest church and the center of Latin Christendom. Consecrated in 1626, it is the finest example of Renaissance architecture in the world. Its baroque alter and ornate interior reflect the artistic sense of its designers, foremost among them the great Michelangelo. While not the actual seat of the Bishop of Rome, Saint Peter’s is widely considered the most significant Catholic Church in the world. Walking here is nothing short of awe-inspiring, not least because visitors can also venture through the nearby Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Jerusalem)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Christianity’s holiest sites lay within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The church was built upon the spot commonly taken to be the location of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. As the spiritual heart of all Christendom, an uneasy arrangement governs the possession and responsibilities assigned to the world’s major Christian denominations. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher dates back to 335 CE though it was destroyed and rebuilt in 1048. Given its meaning to the faithful, the importance of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher cannot be overstated.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Cologne Cathedral (Cologne, Germany)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Recognized as a masterwork of gothic architecture and a monument to Catholicism in Germany, Cologne Cathedral is a towering landmark. The cathedral’s twin spires stand 157 meters tall and create the largest facade of any church in the world. Though designed and begun in the Middle Ages, the cathedral was not completed until the 19th century. Today it towers above the Cologne skyline as a magnificent monument and stunning example of the dedication people have to their faith.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Basilica of the Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

An engineering marvel in its time, Hagia Sophia was the former seat of Greek Orthodox Christianity when Istanbul was Constantinople. It is regarded at the epitome of Byzantine architecture. Following the rise of the Ottoman Empire, Hagia Sophia was first converted to a mosque and, in 1935, to a museum. Historically significant to two of the world’s major religions, there have long been tensions surrounding Hagia Sophia. In early July, 2020, the Turkish government revoked Hagia Sophia’s status as a cultural monument and soon thereafter Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the reclassification of Hagia Sophia as a mosque. The decision remains deeply controversial internationally.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

St. Patrick's Cathedral (New York City, USA)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Set along Fifth Avenue on some of the most expensive real estate in the world, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic-style masterpiece and the most important location for Catholics in New York City. Completed in 1910, it is the largest Neo-Gothic Catholic cathedral in North America. Occupying an entire city block in midtown Manhattan, Saint Patrick’s is enormous and stunningly beautiful. The towering vault and peacefulness inside provide welcome respite from the chaotic city outside.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Sagrada Família (Barcelona, Spain)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Sagrada Familia is perhaps best known for its attachment to famed Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. His visionary designs are simply breathtaking and, some argue, unique in the history of church construction. Gaudi's interpretation of Gothic style combines accentuated curves and elements from Art Nouveau. Sagrada Familia was Gaudi's masterwork and following his untimely death in 1926, he was laid to rest in the cathedral crypt. Sagrada Familia remains a work in progress with construction progression in fits and starts during the tumultuous years in Spain’s 20th century history. Efforts are underway to bring the project to completion in time for the centenary of Gaudi’s death in 2026.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

St. Joseph's Cathedral (Hanoi, Vietnam)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

St. Joseph's is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi, which pastors to the nearly 4 million Catholics in Vietnam. Its complex legacy is tied to France’s colonial history in Indochina. The resemblance to Notre-Dame is unmistakable. The use of Gothic Revival was meant to closely emulate the original in Paris. In order to make way for St. Joseph’s, French colonial authorities demolished a sacred Buddhist temple, which had stood on the site. St. Joseph’s is emblematic of the complex role religion has played throughout history and in the European colonial empires. For these reasons and many others it is well worth visiting.

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

The African continent is home to a large and fast-growing Catholic community. Completed in 1989, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire ranks among the world’s largest churches and is highly representative of the importance of faith in this region. Its beautiful dome and plaza were inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The interior is spacious with long streams of light filtering through the many stained glass windows. Understanding the deep connection communities of faith inspire in people helps one understand the outpourings of grief for the tragedy having befallen Notre-Dame. Visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace is a moving experience.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral (Mexico City, Mexico)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral sits at one end of the city’s vast central square, known as the Zocalo. Construction occurred in sections between 1573 and the 1813. The original church was built by Spanish Conquistadors when they subdued Tenochtitlan, and it was eventually consumed and replaced by the present cathedral. Its design reflects three architectural styles, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neo-classic. The interior features a massive choir screen and a massive golden alter known as the Alter of the Kings that stands 25 meters tall. The Cathedral suffered its own devastating fire in 1967, but was eventually restored and renovated.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (Florence, Italy)

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower is a magnificent Gothic cathedral completed in 1436. During the 19th-century, a stunning Gothic Revival facade was added and for which the cathedral is now famous. The exterior walls use horizontal marble bands alternating between white, green, and red. Large ornamental windows adorn the high walls. The decorative construction elements make Florence Cathedral a marvel to behold and have contributed to its inclusion on many must-see lists, and for good reason.

11 of the World's Most Majestic Cathedrals

In a time when the world seems beset by tragedy, it is more important than ever to recognize our shared humanity. The 11 magnificent cathedrals we've highlighted in this blog post represent some of the finest architecture ever produced. Though many of these locations have fraught histories, it does not lessen their significance as examples of intangible cultural heritage. We are quickly approaching a time when we can imagine a return to international travel. It is to be hoped these 11 magnificent cathedrals inspire use all to strive to better ourselves and our communities. The world is a mighty and complex place. Let us venture forth together to celebrate its beauty.

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