A Brief History
On July 12, 1561, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was consecrated. It would go on to become one of the most famous religious structures in the world and remains so to this day. Here we list 10 of the most famous religious structures, not in a scientific order but the order as we think of them. (Apologies to St. Basil’s, St. Patrick’s, Westminster Abbey, and your local parish.)
10. Lotus Temple, India.
Not the primary temple of the Baha’I faith, but what a beautiful building! As this faith is the youngest listed here, this building likewise cannot as yet have achieved the level of fame to rank higher, although someday maybe it will.
9. Notre Dame, Paris.
One of the best known churches in the world (and one of the largest), Notre Dame was completed in 1345. As part of the French Revolution, the church was rededicated to the “Cult of Reason.” At times over the years damage has occurred from vandals and restorations have been made. (No, there is no Hunchback that lives there ringing the bells!)
8. Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Originally built as a Hindu temple complex, it became a Buddhist temple instead. It is the largest religious monument in the world.
7. Taj Mahal, India.
Completed in 1653 by a Mughal Emperor to honor his 3rd wife, the complex is mainly a mausoleum, although it also contains a mosque. Arguably the most beautiful building in the world, it does not rank higher because it is not a purely religious structure.
6. Mahabodhi Temple, India.
Said to be built on the site where Buddha achieved enlightenment, this is the holiest of holies in Buddhism. Just because you may not have heard of it, be assured hundreds of millions of Buddhists have.
5. Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.
Believed by Christians to be built on the site of Calvary Hill, the location of the cross on which Christ was crucified and also containing the crypt (sepulchre) where they believe Christ’s body was entombed. It is perhaps the most sought after destination of Christian pilgrims, and is also located at the end of the Via Dolorosa, the path that Christ walked to the cross.
4. Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem.
This Mosque is located right on the site of the original holiest Jewish temple, making it double holy. Built in 691 CE, The Dome houses the “Foundation Stone” which is the holiest spot in Judaism and was once the holiest spot in Islam (changed to the Kaaba in a vision by Muhammad.) it is said that when the Dome of the Rock is destroyed and replaced by a Jewish Temple, Armageddon will be triggered.
3. Grand Mosque, Mecca.
Masid al-Haram as it is properly known is the holiest place in Islam, where the Kaaba resides (holy rock) that Muslims pray toward daily. It also contains a rock with the footprint of Abraham (whom Muslims believe is the ancestor of all Muslims, Jews, and Christians).
2. West Wall, Jerusalem.
Also known as the “Wailing Wall” where Jews from around the globe go to make their special prayers. If a Jewish boy is lucky, he may get his Bar Mitzvah there. This is part of the wall that once surrounded the Jewish Temple on Temple Mount, and as such is all that is left of the holiest Jewish temple.
1. St. Peter’s Cathedral, Rome.
Actually in Vatican City, this basilica is an incredibly impressive building, designed by the best artists and designers of its day. It is not, however, the “main” church of Catholicism as many believe. (The Pope’s headquarters church is the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.)
Question for students (and subscribers): What buildings would you add to the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Botta, Mario and Judith Dupre. Churches. HarperCollins, 2001.
Ciagà, Graziella Leyla. Cathedrals of the World. White Star Publishers, 2012.