il duomo, firenze

10 Amazing Churches I Visited

In terms of travelling, churches are not only places of worship for Christians, but also popular tourist attractions and landmarks, representing history and cultural richness of the city. Since beauty is eventually in the eye of the beholder, I think the “most beautiful” churches don’t really exist. But definitely, there are many beautiful churches spreading in many cities in this planet earth.

Here is my list of 10 amazing churches I managed to capture for the last 12 years of my travels. Anyways, the numbers on the list is nothing more than just numbers and define neither best nor the most beautiful.

1. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore or so called Il Duomo is a Gothic church constructed in 1296 based on the designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and completed with the dome in 1436 by Filippo Brunelleschi. The pink and green polychrome marble on the façade, lavish details of the statues never fail to mesmerize me. Nonetheless, on the contrary, Il Duomo’s interior seems simple and feel empty compared to the exterior. So it would be enough to enjoy the church merely from the outside.

il duomo, firenze

2. Valencia Cathedral, Valencia, Spain

Valencia Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church built in the 13th century on the site of a Roman temple, that was once a mosque before it was changed into a church. Due to its development and changes through the centuries until the 18th century, it shows a combination of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-Classical style in its architecture. The cathedral is located in the heart of the city at Plaza de la Virgen and no one could and should miss the most iconic and beautiful site in Valencia.

Further post about my visit in Valencia can be found here.

3. Rock Church / Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki, Finland

Rock Church was created by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen opened in 1969. Unlike any other churches, the unconventional Lutheran Church was built inside a massive block of natural granite that makes it have an incredible acoustics quality and a popular place for music concerts. I truly enjoyed a beautiful piece of classical music played by a Japanese pianist on that day. The silence and serenity atmosphere could be maintained pretty well inside, despite the fast traffic of crowds visiting the church, showing their respect in the house of God.
rock church helsinki

4. Cave Churches in Göreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia, Turkey

Listed on UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, Göreme Open Air Museum is situated in Nevşehir Province in Cappadocia. It attracts millions of visitors worldwide, thanks to the churches built by the Christians inside the carved rocks as shelters from the Arab troops when they pressurized Byzantine borders.

Over the centuries, the act of worshiping statues and drawings of religious characters provoked a reaction. In 726 AD, Iconoclastic period began under the law promulgated by Leon III to forbid religious drawings, closed churches, monasteries and destroyed numerous icons until Empress Theodora ended the period in 843 AD. The churches in Göreme were created from 10th until 13th century. The frescoes inside were from post-iconoclastic period with typical Byzantine style.

The remaining churches people can see are St. Basil Church, Apple Church, St. Barbara Chapel, Snake Church, Dark Church, St. Catherine Chapel, Sandal Church, and Buckle Church, that never fail to mesmerize me until now.

Further post about my visit in Cappadocia and how I got cheated by the local tour package is here.

cappadocia
St. Barbara Chapel
cappadocia
Apple Church
Façade of a rock church
Façade of a rock church

5. Church on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood or Church on Spilled Blood was built in 1883 by Alexander III as a memorial of his father, Alexander II. Its location is right on the site where Alexander II was assassinated by a group of revolutionaries. A stonework canopy inside the church symbolizes the holiness of the memorial, as pictured on the second image on the right side.

Unlike other churches with full of sculptures, Church on Spilled Blood is famous for  thousands of pieces of extremely detailed mosaic depicting biblical stories covering the entire part of the wall. I was way too stunned to witness its magnificent beauty that I couldn’t decide the best angles and spots to capture with my camera. They all are just incredible!

Further post about my visit in St. Petersburg can be found here.

6. The Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

Peter and Paul Cathedral is the oldest and the first landmark in St. Petersburg built inside the Peter and Paul Fortress during the reign of Peter the Great. The Russian Orthodox church situated along the Neva River was designed between 1712 and 1733 by Domenico Trezzini.

Apart from holding religious services, Peter and Paul Cathedral has become the final resting place of nearly all members of Russian royal families, including Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Tsar Nicholas II and his family members who were brutally assassinated during the Bolshevik revolution. Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II who was often rumored that she escaped the massacre, was buried here as well after her remaining body was found in 2007.

Further post about my visit in St. Petersburg can be found here.

7. St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

Built between 1818 and 1858, St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Russia designed by a French-born architect August Montferrand, dedicated to St. Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great. The church is very lavish with red granite façade and gold-plated statues and engravings, amazing details of mosaic paintings and icons, as well as pillars made of malachite.

I completely lost my words to describe this wonderful masterpiece right before my eyes when I visited the site.

Further post about my visit in St. Petersburg can be found here.

8. Aarhus Cathedral, Aarhus, Denmark

Aarhus Cathedral was built after year 1190 and finished in 1350, dedicated to St. Clements, the patron saint of sailors. It is one of the few preserved Romanesque churches in history and the longest church in Denmark with 93 meters length. The frescoes, created between 1470 and 1520, once covered most parts of the wall. Nonetheless, they are only a few remains nowadays. I can imagine how beautiful the interior supposed to be, and it still is despite the fading colours of the frescoes. I guess the sculptures are just complementary of the design, otherwise it looks too chaotic.

Besides, it also stores a model war ship, hanged on the ceiling and failed to ship to Peter the Great in Russia because of the shipwreck in Skagen. Local fishermen bought the model and donated to the church. Don’t forget to listen the beautiful sound of religious music from the largest organ pipe in the country inside the cathedral!

Further post about my visit in Aarhus can be found here.

9. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Vatican

St. Peter’s Basilica is the biggest Roman Catholic church in the world built in 1506 and finished in 1626 to replace the old one dated from the 4th century AD. Being famous as a place for Catholic pilgrimage, it is a burial site of St. Peter, the first Pope and one of Jesus’ apostles, now located at the Grottos along with kings, queens and other popes including Pope John Paul II. It is also the place where the pope leads liturgies in front of 15,000 to 80,000 audiences.

My first visit to the basilica is when I was only 7 years old. I couldn’t remember much of the details, indeed, until I returned to the same place in 2006 (time flies, huh?). I was glad that I did because apart from adoring the Renaissance style architecture and interior, I could also appreciate more Michaelagelo’s  Pietá inside the basilica and his famous fresco ceiling at the Sistine Chapel when I grow up. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t own a good quality camera back then, except borrowing one from a friend.

10. Church of the Redeemer, Toronto, Canada

Church of the Redeemer is not as lavish and grand as other churches I previously mentioned, but I noticed a particular thing about the photographed I captured while looking at it in my laptop the year after. When it’s seen as a whole, there’s an impression of “old and new” here. Church of the Redeemer, an Anglican Church founded in 1871, has a modern office building background that looks like a mountain. Seems like a man-made version of natural landscape.

P1120855 copy

In case I don’t include some other beautiful churches in this post, there possible reasons behind it: either I failed to capture them, I lost the file, I haven’t had a passion in photography back then or I just haven’t got a chance to visit them.

Of course, I still have a pile of bucket lists and hopefully I’ll be able to fulfill all of them in the future.

Merry (belated) Christmas for those who celebrate it and have a great new year!

 

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town hall tallinn old town

Interesting Fact about Christmas Tree Display in Tallinn Old Town Square

First of all, Merry Christmas for those who celebrate it!

Seeing and speaking about beautifully decorated Christmas trees in shopping malls, main squares and the rest of public places, it reminds me of a visit to Tallinn in 2012. During the trip, my family and I took a day tour highlighting one of the most preserved medieval old town in Europe, the Old Town of Tallinn, which is listed in UNESCO Heritage Site.

Starting from Toompea Loss, we walked down the cobblestone street through Pikk Jalg Street, literally meaning “long boot”, to the lower side of the old town until we arrived at the main Town Hall Square, or Raekoja Plats.

tallinn town hall estonia
DKLo disguises as a Christmas tree, standing on the exact spot of a Christmas tree display in Tallinn main square

What brought me attention the most then (and now) about the town hall is not really about the iconic Tallinn Town Hall nor the restaurants and cafes nearby (although I admit that the meat pastry at the underground cafe in front of the square was super lovely).

The tour guide showed us a circle spot on the cobbled surface street in the middle of the square, which is believed that it was where the first decorated Christmas tree to be erected and displayed in public, before other European countries do and perhaps the rest of the world.

It started in 1441 by the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a group of unmarried merchants, ship owners and foreigners founded in the mid 14th century. Since then, the ritual lives on after almost 600 years later. The main giant Christmas tree in Estonia’s capital is placed in the same spot every year, along with Christmas Market in the town square.

I came in July and there was no Christmas tree and Christmas Market yet. To recall myself what the circle spot stands for, my cousin DKLo posed as a Christmas tree instead.

Until now, some still argue about the truth behind the fact. Nonetheless, until it’s proven otherwise, I think we should thank the Brotherhood who initiated the brilliant idea, that has become one of the most preferred activities for both young and old generation during the festive season, no matter if the tree is displayed in public or just stays in a living room.

Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi!

town hall tallinn old town
Another view of Old Town Square. The guy on the left somehow reminds me of a Santa Claus disguises as a normal person when he escapes North Pole 🙂