Andrew and I aren’t particularly religious but in our travels we’ve visited many beautiful religious buildings of various faiths. We can’t help but admire the devotion and attention to detail that has gone into these various structures. Despite your religious affiliation (or lack thereof) it’s hard to not find these places both awe-inspiring and peaceful.
Despite your religious affiliation (or lack thereof) it’s hard to not find these places both awe-inspiring and peaceful.
Today I’d like to share with you a photo post of our favourite religious buildings we’ve visited in the past few years.
1. Good Shepherd Church, Istebna, Poland.
We visited this beautiful little church when our friends married in Poland, last year. It is, by far, the most colourful church I’ve ever visited. The church is painted from the floor, to rainbow-decorated ceiling. It’s hard not to feel joyful here, even though there are indications of Poland’s troubled history inside.
2. Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp, Belgium
The Cathedral of Our Lady, or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, towers over the Grote Markt of Antwerp, Belgium. I’ve been inside this cathedral several times, and no matter how many tourist groups are trekking through, it still maintains an atmosphere of reverence. The striking Gothic tower is a masterpiece and it is no wonder this church has been listed by UNESCO.
3. Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi, India
India is an incredibly spiritual place and you can hardly turn around without stumbling over a temple. One of the most incredible religious buildings I have visited to date, was the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi. The carvings and paintings in the main temple were breath-taking and it was hard to remember to put my camera down for a moment to soak up the atmosphere.
4. Orval Abbey, Florenville, Belgium
For most of us in Belgium, the first thing that springs to mind at the mention of Orval is beer. However, it’s important to remember where that beer comes from. As one of the few, true, Trappist beers, Orval is made by Cistercian monks at their monastery. While it isn’t possible to visit the interior of the beautiful modern monastery (pictured), you can visit the ruins of the old Orval abbey.
5. Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion, Greece
Throughout time, people have built magnificent buildings to honour their gods. One of the oldest we’ve visited is the Temple of Poseidon. This temple was built in one of the most beautiful locations we’ve seen, perched on the tip of Greece’s Attica coast. Although only 15 of the original 34 columns remain, it is possible to imagine how imposing and inspiring this temple would have been for its worshippers.
6. Saint George’s Memorial Church, Ypres, Belgium
It’s easy to pass this little church by as you wander through Ypres, but peek inside and you’ll see a beautiful tribute to over 500,000 British and Commonwealth troops who died in Ypres during WWI. Almost every surface of the church is covered with bronze plaques from Commonwealth countries around the world. The chairs are a rainbow of colourful hand-stitched cushions depicting the coats-of-arms of the various battalions. It’s truly a moving memorial.
7. Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Ireland
Looking more like a fairy-tale castle than a place of worship, Kylemore Abbey, in Galway, is home to an order of Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium in World War I. Although it was once a private home, the nuns who live there now have opened Kylemore to the public and are working to restore the extensive Victorian gardens. Kylemore is set in the stunningly beautiful Connemara district of Ireland and it is easy to see why the nuns chose this setting to be close to God and nature.
8. Villers Abbey, Villers-la-Ville, Belgium
Although the monks who once worshipped here are no longer, and the buildings stand in ruin, Villers Abbey is still an inspiring place to visit. Standing inside the roofless cathedral, you get a sense of how majestic it once was and the grounds still remain tranquil and sacred.
9. Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland
The Hallgrímskirkja, or church of Hallgrímur, is a striking Lutheran church perched on a hilltop in Reykjavik, Iceland. Its architecture is stark, both inside and out, but this starkness makes it all the more dramatic. The view from the bell-tower is incredible, on a clear day and, when the sun is shining, warm light floods through the cathedral windows making the interior seem to glow.
Notre-Dame Collegiate Church, with its distinctive onion-dome tower, sits blow the Dinant Citadel. It looks a tad run-down when you get up close, but this quiet cathedral is worth a visit. The interior is is dark, emphasising the beautiful stained-glass windows. The high, arched ceilings are dramatic and striking.
What are your favourite religious buildings? Let us know in the comments below. We’re also curious what you think of this style of photo post. Should we make this a regular feature or do you prefer our posts on a single location? We’d love to hear your feedback.
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+