The world is full of legendary, majestic and awe-inspiring cathedrals that represent some of the most elegant, intricate and imaginative architectural designs ever conceived by man. These sacred sites are not only places of worship that bring people from all over the world, but they also tell long-forgotten stories of faith and devotion. From colossal churches to cathedrals with ancient religious significance, we've rounded up 8 of the most gorgeous cathedrals in the world.
The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg, Russia, is the home of the Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, also known to locals as the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. The cathedral marks the spot where Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881. After his father's death, Alexander III declared his intention to erect a church on the site in his father's memory. It was built in traditional Russian style in response to what he saw as the contaminating Western influence of St. Petersburg.
Duomo di Milano, Milan, Italy
The Duomo di Milano is the most impressive building in all of Milan, if not in all of Italy. The 600-year-old cathedral is home to 3,400 statues and 55 stained glass windows. It’s a classic example of Gothic architecture and the fifth largest Christian church in the world. Duomo di Milano stands tall in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo and if you take a trip to the rooftop, the view of Milan is breathtaking.
La Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain
La Sagrada Família is a giant basilica in Barcelona that has been under construction since the late 1800s and is not expected to be complete for many years to come. The large, unfinished Roman Catholic church was designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. This stunning sacred site caught the eye of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and he consecrated it, proclaiming it a minor basilica. This amazing cathedral was designed by Gaudi to mimic nature.
The Kölner Dom, Cologne, Germany
The Kölner Dom of Cologne is a Gothic masterpiece built to honor the faithful of Germany. Construction began almost 700 years ago and took more than 600 years to complete. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is laid out in a Latin cross, a trademark of Gothic cathedrals. The interior is just as impressive. Its 104-seat medieval choir section is one of the largest in existence. As a testament of faith, the Kölner Dom still stands after being struck by 14 bombs during WWII.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Notre Dame de Paris is making news today not for its grandeur, but for the tragic fire that wreaked havoc on the iconic cathedral in April of this year. This tragedy may be the biggest and saddest art story in recent times. Pope Alexander III laid the cathedral’s foundation stone in 1163 and the church has been a focus of attention through the ages. Napoleon saved it from destruction and crowned himself emperor in the cathedral in 1804.
Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (Washington National Cathedral), Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
To get a glimpse of the sixth largest cathedral in the world, head to Washington, D.C., and explore this elegant, Neo-Gothic cathedral. Adorned with 112 gargoyles and 215 stained glass windows, the National Cathedral is taller than the Washington Monument, standing 676 feet above sea level. President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller are among the more than 200 people interred in the cathedral.
Hagia Sophia, İstanbul, Turkey
The Hagia Sophia has had a diverse religious history that dates back to its inception. From 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople. During the 13th century, it was briefly turned into a Roman Catholic cathedral as part of the Fourth Crusades. Then, from 1453 until 1931, it was an Ottoman mosque until it was secularized and opened as a museum in 1935. It is said that its massive dome, typical of Byzantine design, changed the history of architecture. The Hagia Sophia held the record as the world’s largest cathedral for 1000 years.
Westminster Abbey, London, England
If you follow the British Royals and their weddings, then Westminster Abbey looks very familiar. There have been at least 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100, beginning with Henry I. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was disbanded in 1539. Technically, the Abbey is not a cathedral, but has the status of a Church of England “Royal Peculiar.” This means that the church is responsible directly to the crown.