There’s nothing that says ‘I love and respect the wonder of all god’s creations’ like raising a stupendous, imposing structure.
Chitchen Itza, the Great Pyramid of Giza, Hagia Sophia and Angkor Wat are all world-famous attractions that were built for spiritual purposes. Their spectacle draws us like pilgrims to the face of the Madonna in a piece of toast.
There’s endless information about these fantastically popular erections, and we’re all familiar with their proportions. However, sometimes religious devotion spawns some rather more intriguing products.
Let’s take a look at some of the world’s more curious religious structures – the weird, the wacky and the wonderful. Have you snapped any of these constructions on your travels?
1. Saint Basil’s Cathedral
This colourful cathedral is an Orthodox church located on Moscow’s Red Square. Following orders from Ivan the Terrible, construction of the cathedral was completed in 1561 to commemorate the capture of the Khanate of Kazan.
The flame of a bonfire, a tasty ice cream cone, a 1980s haircut – the design is certainly unique, as it resembles nothing else in the entire back catalogue of Byzantine architecture.
This divine shuttle is a Lutheran parish church located in Reykjavik in Iceland. At 74.5 metres it is the fourth tallest architectural structure in the country. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson designed the church upon commission in 1937. It took another 38 years to complete its construction.
3. The Divine Mercy Hills
The Divine Mercy Shrine is located in Divine Mercy Hills, near El Salvador City, in the Philippines. The construction project started in 2000 when a group of Divine Mercy devotees received visions and instructions from Jesus to build a testament to his mercy.
The cost of construction was covered by donations and was finished in 2008. It serves as a pilgrimage destination for Divine Mercy devotees.
4. Auroville Matrimandir
The Matrimandir (Sanskrit for ‘Temple of The Mother’) is the most prominent symbol of Auroville and is an important venue for followers of Integral yoga. That said, Matrimandir is not exclusive to any particular religion or sect.
Located just outside of Pondicherry in southern India, Auroville is “a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.”
5. Temppeliaukio Kirkko Church
This stunning Lutheran church was built entirely underground and has a ceiling made of copper wire. Temppeliaukio Kirkko Church is one of the main attractions in Helsinki and it’s often full of visitors. The church is also used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics.
6. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as Golden Rock, is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma. On top of the rock is a 6-metre high pagoda, and the entire thing is covered in gold leaf. According to legend, Buddha gave his hair to the rock on one of his trips to Earth. The rock therefore resembles the skull of Buddha. This is why the Kyaiktiyo stays in place and defies gravity.
7. Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
The story goes a little something like this: in 1858 fourteen year old Bernadette Soubirous insisted on having witnessed several apparitions of the Virgin Mary at this site. Word travelled quickly, and Our Lady of Lourdes soon became the Russian doll of churches. That is to say, as the site’s popularity grew, successive churches had to be built as extensions to the original. Did someone say Inception Church??
Never one to overlook a great marketing opportunity, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes multiple instances of miraculous healings in Lourdes. In 2005 the 67th official miracle was declared by the Pope.
8. Harajuku Church
This is a Protestant church in Tokyo that was built in 2006. The architecture symbolizes the ‘holy number’ seven. The church features a central wide nave arranged with six arches and a bell tower that symbolically lay importance on the seven elements, the seven days of creation, and the seven churches of the Orient.
9. Cathedral of Brasília
Brazilian capital Brasilia is known for its unique architecture. This stunning cathedral is part of the reason why. World famous architect Oscar Niemeyer designed this piece of art in the late sixties. The 16 identical assembled concrete columns, weighing 90 tonnes, represent two hands moving upwards to heaven: the Brazilian god is well known to be a huge fan of beach volleyball.
10. Borgund Church
The Borgund Stave Church in Lærdal is the best preserved of Norway’s 28 extant stave churches. This wooden church was probably built in the end of the 12th century, and has not changed structure or had any major reconstruction since it was built.
The church is also featured as a Wonder for the Viking civilization in the video game Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.
Having seen all this, are you a newly-devout convert? Do you have a favourite religious building?
So we know what these places look like from the outside, but has anyone managed to get a sneaky peeky at what’s inside?? Let us know in the comments field below.