You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the massive amounts of art and imposing architecture that have resulted from a deep faith in a supreme being. Some of the world’s greatest paintings, many of which can be seen in Europe’s art museums, and grandest buildings were created for religious purposes. Religious art and architecture are present the world over, but nowhere are they as prominent as in Europe. In this post, we’ll discuss the most beautiful churches in Europe.
Top 16 Most Beautiful Churches in Europe
There’s no shortage of beautiful churches in Europe. To the contrary, rather, it is quite a challenging task to pick the sixteen greatest ones. As with every selection, the following list of Europe’s most spectacular churches and cathedrals is totally subjective. It includes the most famous religious buildings, such as the Sagrada Familia and Notre-Dame Cathedral, but also several surprises.
16. Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway
The absolutely massive Nidaros Cathedral is one of Norway’s most important buildings. Built over the grave of the 11th-century King Olav II of Norway, also known as St. Olav and the country’s patron saint, it is where new Norwegian kings are still consecrated.
15. St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, Bulgaria
Built in a Neo-Byzantine style, the colorful St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Bulgaria’s capital is one of the world’s largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals. A major tourist attraction in Sofia, it can hold an impressive 10,000 people inside.
14. St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy
Located on Venice’s famous St. Mark’s Square, the Basilica di San Marco lies adjacent to the imposing Doge’s Palace on the banks of the Grand Canal. It is one of Venice’s major attractions and hands down one of the most striking churches in Europe. As is common with many old churches in Italy, the bell tower, in this case St. Mark’s Campanile, stands separate from the main building.
13. Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland
Few churches in Europe boast such an exceptional architectural style than Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja. In fact, it is the most famous building in all of Iceland. Its design resembles the glaciers, mountains and trap rocks that so characterize the Icelandic landscape.
12. St. Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium
Less known that most other European churches in this list, but no less spectacular is the St. Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. With its commanding tower, dominating the Ghent cityscape, this gorgeous church houses the famous Ghent Altarpiece. Additionally, its extraordinary surroundings of other medieval buildings and towers make it even more visit-worthy.
11. Heddal Stave Church, Notodden, Norway
Stave churches dot the Scandinavian countryside, a popular type of medieval wooden churches. There are several well-known examples, such as the Borgund and Hopperdal stave churches, but the greatest of them all is the Heddal Stave Church. Built in the early-1200s, this triple nave stave church is the largest one in Norway.
10. Westminster Abbey, London, England
A mostly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, Westminster Abbey is arguably the most important religious building in the United Kingdom. Since William the Conqueror’s coronation in 1066, this landmark building has been the coronation site of all English, and later British, kings and queens. Additionally, more than sixteen royal weddings have also taken place at Westminster Abbey.
9. Kölner Dom, Cologne, Germany
With its height of 157 meters (515 feet), the enormous Cologne Cathedral is currently the world’s tallest Roman Catholic cathedral. It’s one of the best examples of “the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe.” More than 20,000 people visit the cathedral each day, making it the most visited landmark in Germany.
8. Duomo di Milano, Milan, Italy
Another monumental cathedral is found in Milan. The Milan Cathedral is so huge that it took almost 600 years to finish it. It is the largest church in Italy and, in terms of surface area, the third-largest church in the world.
7. Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Arguably the most famous of the churches in Europe in this list, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the greatest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its construction began as early as 1160. The cathedral is now world-famous for its flying buttresses, huge rose windows and numerous sculptures.
6. The Church on the Island, Bled, Slovenia
Almost impossibly picturesque, the Church on the Island in Lake Bled is one of the prettiest churches in Europe. Human history on Bled Island goes back thousands of years. The present-day church, however, dates from the 17th century. Tourists can visit it on boat trips, while it remains a popular wedding venue as well.
5. Duomo di Firenze, Florence, Italy
The Florence Cathedral stands out from most other religious buildings in Europe because of its glorious artwork. Several architects worked on the cathedral, but the most famous are arguably Ghiberti and Brunelleschi who together worked on the building for eighteen years. This breathtaking architectural masterpiece in Florence consists of three separate buildings—the main cathedral building, the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile.
4. Mont-Saint-Michel, France
A fortified island off the coast of Normandy, the medieval Mont-Saint-Michel is one of France’s most famous architectural landmarks. On a rocky hill in the middle of the island stand an abbey and monastery, dominated by the striking church. Below the religious complex are the great halls and just above the waterline are housing and storage buildings. During high tide, the island used to be cut off from the mainland, while low tide allowed you to walk there. Now, a boardwalk offers visitors access no matter how high the water is.
3. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
Designed by world-famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia is an unfinished Roman Catholic church. It’s unique because of its whimsical design, which is mainly in a curvilinear Art Nouveau style and includes a remarkable eighteen spires, eight of which have been built. The eighteen spires represent the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.
2. St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia
By far the most colorful church in Europe and probably also in the world, Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral is easily recognizable by its several onion-shaped domes and various color patterns. It is located on Red Square, the main square in the city and a huge tourist attraction.
1. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
The largest church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is considered to be the very heart of Roman Catholicism and one of the most important places in Christianity. Boasting wonderful Renaissance architecture, it is home to countless art works, reliefs, marble sculptures and gilded decorations. Its magnitude and magnificence is unparalleled in the world.