Like most explorers of Europe, we always end up marching into a million different cathedrals and churches. Unfortunately for us, call us unwashed heathens, they start to all blend together. Every once in a while you enter a house of worship that is different in some dramatic way. Something within sparks our interest. We decided to offer you some of our favorites. Favorites in a sense that their beauty, uniqueness and history make them worth the visit. Enjoy our countdown to the most intriguing church in Europe:
5) Salisbury Cathedral, (Salisbury, England)
Located about an hour and a half from London, the Salisbury Cathedral offers an interesting day trip. Its well worth the jaunt. The church landed on on list for a whole list of reasons. Lets start with its sheer size. The Cathedral has the tallest spire of all the churches in England. The spire towers at 404 feet. You can take a tower tour that will take you up to an amazing vista. The entire church covers a foot print of over 80 acres! It is massive. The church has a number of claims to fame, it has the world’s oldest working clock circa 1386. It houses one of the four original Magna Cartas. Take a side trip out of Londontown and see one of the most intriguing churches in Europe.
4) The Church of Santa Maria Assunta (Venice, Italy)
We happened upon this church by accident. We were lost in Venice. (We love getting lost in Venice! Highly recommended.) To take a break we entered the church, and found one of the most exquisite displays of stonework we have ever laid eyes on. The pillars of the church are made of inlaid marble unlike we have ever seen. The delicacy and precision that must have been requisite to make such a masterpiece is mind blowing. The craftsmen that created this structure, with limited tools was masters in the highest degree. Every inch of this house of worship is a masterpiece. Don’t miss this one next time you get “lost” in Venice.
3) IL Duomo (Siena, Italy)
Nestled in the hills of Tuscany is the sleepy little town of Siena. What once was a hilltop fortress housing the township, has now turned into a haven for smart tourists that break away from their gelato in Florence. Getting to the town is half the adventure, rent a car, make the journey. What is remarkable about this church is the colors inside and out. We nicknamed it the zebra church. Builders used alternating black and white marble. The inside of the church is equally as dramatic as the outside. Once you enter, you are struck with sensory overload. On the floor is the mosaic depicting the “Slaughter of the Innocents.” Then direct your eyes above and take in the painted dome that creates an optical illusion of three dimensional heavens. It is remarkable. Don’t miss Bernini’s St. Jerome holding the cross like a cradled violin. I remember after we had walked out, saying to each other, that was amazing. It was. Go see it.
2) Sistine Chapel (Vatican City) –
Making a list like this, how can we not include the Vatican? What makes the Sistine Chapel intriguing is its creator, we couldn’t help asking ourselves…How did he do it? The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most amazing “canvases”. What a remarkable example of human creativity. —Warning: we are going to vent a little: We were really disappointed in the patrons of the chapel. In order to preserve the delicate works of art, photo’s are prohibited. During the entire time we were viewing the art, we heard the guards incessantly chide tourists: “NO PHOTOS!” It truly ruins the setting. Shame on the tourists for not buying the post card, and shame on the guards for not finding another way to stop the villains.—-Back to the review. See the Sistine Chapel once in your life. Walk slowly. Imagine the painstaking efforts of the artists. Commune with a higher power. Then go get a massage, your neck will thank you for it.
1) Our fave church in Europe is one you likely have never heard of. It is not a masterpiece of architectural genius. Millions of pilgrims do not make an annual trek to touch its walls. It is one of the oldest and best preserved shrines to Christendom. In its storied history, it served as a defense against invading forces and later serviced as a Muslim Mosque. Chora Church in Istanbul, Turkey is our most intriguing church in Europe.
Chora is a powerful place. What makes Chora so special is its mosaic pageantry. The walls of the church once plastered over to cover it’s “blasphemous” subject according to Islamic tradition, the church has been converted to a museum and the coverings have all been painstakingly removed. What was left behind is nothing short of breathtaking. Depictions of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the birth of the virgin Mary, and the Journey of the Magi.
Far and away our favorite depiction is of the second coming of Christ. It is one of the most compelling pieces of artwork we have come across. Christ the redeemer is grasping the hands of both Adam and Eve pulling them from their earthly graves. Satan is bound with cords and chains in the distance. Keys litter the ground, symbolic of the keys to the grave. What draws us in on this picture are the faces of both Adam and Eve. They have a look of joy and wonder. You simply must see it in person.
Turkey is an extraordinary place to visit. It continues to be one of the Fighting Couple’s favorite.
I think if intriguing is the criteria, you should have included the cathedral in Otranto, Italy – it’s the site where the Ottoman Empire massacred 800 Christians in a single day – and most of their remains are in naves of the church. Plus it has the largest mosaic floor in all of Europe.
We will put it on our list. Had to look at the map to find Otranto. We have yet to make it that far south in Italy. Looks “intriguing”.
I loved the churches in Turkey but didn’t make it to Chora! Have you been to Goreme? I bet you’d love it!
Very cool list! I’ve only see 1 out of 5 though – the Sistine Chapel. But the others sound great, too!
We didn’t make it there. Pictures look amazing!
Great list! I’ve only ever been to Salisbury Cathedral but I would love to visit the Sistine Chapel:)
Wow this is a very comprehensive post. I must visit these renowned churches at some point. Thanks for sharing!