Our 10 Favourite Religious Buildings in Photos

By alison - December 16, 2011 (Updated: January 5, 2016)

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series 10 Favourite Photos.
Notre-Dame Collegiate Church in Dinant, Belgium.

Notre-Dame Collegiate Church in Dinant, Belgium.

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.

10. Notre-Dame Collegiate Church, Dinant, Belgium.

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.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of 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+
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  1. Comment by Stephen

    Stephen December 16, 2011 at 19:26

    My top five churches are St Stephens in Vienna, the Minster in Freiburg, Germany, the Mariacki Church in Krakow, St Peters in Rome and Gaudi’s unfinished La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona…and so many more unsaid, including all the fantastic ones in Belgium. I like this style of post, but also like your location specific posts…keep em all coming. I always say that Belgium needs a new marketing department because those outside the country have little desire to venture here, yet those that have settled here find it difficult to leave. So, I’m glad to have found your sight which shares much of which the locals should be shouting from the rooftops at every opportunity. Thanks for sharing.

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison December 16, 2011 at 20:04

      Thank you so much for your kind comment and feedback Stephen. It’s very appreciated! I could easily do 10 more of my favourite religious buildings (and I may just do that).The Sagrada Familia really should have been on this list! I have been there 3 times and it never loses its magic. I’ve also seen the Minster and Mariacki, but only from the outside and I agree, St. Peter’s is pretty spectacular. I guess I’ll have to make my way to Vienna now to visit the final church on your list!

    • Comment by Shweta

      Shweta December 18, 2011 at 20:03

      You are absolutely right when you stated, “I’m glad to have found your sight which shares much of which the locals should be shouting from the rooftops at every opportunity.” After being in Belgium for four months and taking my time to soak in its beauty, I realize now why none of our Belgian friends were wowed by the architechtural monuments in New York as I attemped so desperately to show off The Rockefeller Center, The St. Patrick’s Cathedral…

      On a side note… Cheeseweb is a one-stop shop for all the wonders of Belgium and beyond!! Keep up the good work Alison!

      • Comment by Alison


        Alison December 19, 2011 at 13:39

        Aw thanks Shweta! We’re looking forward to adding lots more of Belgium’s hidden gems to CW in 2012!

  2. Pingback: Our 10 Favourite Ruins and Ancient Sites in Photos | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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