Church architecture has evolved in some amazing, strange, beautiful, and captivating ways over the last two thousand years.
The most beautiful churches in the world include the great churches of Byzantium, Romanesque abbey churches, Gothic cathedrals, and Renaissance basilicas. In recent years a modern touch had been added to newly created “super churches” to allow them to stand out and attract parishioners in a more materialistic period in time.
An examination of the world’s most beautiful churches can tell us a lot about how people worshiped over the centuries and how they viewed the world from the outside.
From the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, to the entrancing Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe – Puy-en-Velay in Paris, France, these churches offer beautiful architecture, stunning views, and their own take on modern and classical design.
Here is our picks for the 51 most beautiful churches in the world.
Las Laras Sanctuary – Colombia
The Las Laras Sanctuary in Colombia is a neo-Gothic church perched on a bridge that spans a deep river gorge. The church is surrounded by stunning views that are hard to match anywhere in the world.
Notre-Dame Basilica – Montreal
If you are familiar with the most inspiring and breathtaking churches in the world, you will immediately recognize the inspiration behind this masterpiece. The Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal was inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. This masterpiece of Gothic-revival architectural styling is a must see if you are ever visiting the city.
La Sagrada Família – Barcelona
The La Sagrada Família is the masterpiece of architect Antoni Gaudi. This church takes a surrealist spin on classic cathedral architecture. There’s just one catch. The church has been under constant construction for the last 130 years.
San Francisco de Asis Mission Church – New Mexico
Beauty can be found in the most simplistic of designs. Take for example the in New Mexico. This masterpiece features traditional adobe architecture that both dates the church and gives it a rustic feeling only a building in New Mexico could pull off.
Cadet Chapel – Air Force Base – Colorado
The Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is a bold modern building that pays homage to the famous steeples of older churches, while offering a clean, crisp, and refreshing take on modern architecture. It’s stunning in its own right.
Chapel of the Holy Cross – Arizona
The Chapel of the Holy Cross was built directly into the red rock buttes of Sedona, Arizona. The unique design of the church and its placement make it look as though it blends in with the natural areas natural surroundings.
Borgund Stave Church – Norway
The triple nave Borgund Stave Church is the best preserved of 28 such churches in Norway. This beautiful all-wood church dates back to 1180 when it was built in honor of the Apostle Andrew.
The Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Washington Island, Wisconsin was fashioned directly from the Borgund Stave Church. We have included a photo that shows how beautiful the church looks as the seasons change to Autumn. Architect George “Pat” Mangan did a great job with his own take on a traditional church.
Duomo – Milan
The Gothic cathedral known as the Duomo in Milan took more than five centuries to complete. It’s the fourth largest church in the world. This beautiful church features 135 marble spires and well over 3000 statues lining its exterior.
Blue Domed Churches – Greek Island
The Greek island of Santorini is dotted with white-washed, blue-domed churches. Since they all feature very similar architecture, we have listed them together as a beautiful example of the islands holiest buildings.
St. Vinzenz Church – Austria
St. Vinzenz Church in Heiligenblut sits at the foot of Austria’s tallest peak. The church is beautiful on its own but the peaks and valleys of the Alps really turn this church into an idealistic place for worship.
Sainte-Chapelle – Paris, France
As you walk into the main chamber of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris your jaw will drop to the floor. The stained glass in this building are some of the most beautiful in the world. Besides being home to the oldest stained glass window in the city, this Gothic building features 6,458 square feet of stained glass.
Saint Peter’s Basilica
It makes sense that the Vatican would play host to one of the most beautiful structures in Rome. After all, it’s the home of the Pope and the location for the churches home stay.
St. Michaels Cathedral – Ukraine
The golden domes of St. Michaels Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine sparkle in the sunlight, making them very hard to miss and stop to admire. The church, built in the Ukrainian baroque style, is famous for its interior mosaics and frescoes.
Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France – New Orleans
Overlooking Jackson Square in the French Quarter, the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France is the oldest continuously operating Catholic church in the United States. This church in many ways has come to represent the city of New Orleans and is a favorite among many tourists to the city.
Church of Assumption – Slovenia
The Church of Assumption is perched on an island in the middle of Bled Lake in Slovenia. It’s location gives it an isolated yet open feel. You can only access this church by way of handmade wooden row boats.
The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood – St. Petersburg
The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg gets its name from its location on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated. This Russian-style cathedral has a surprisingly whimsical façade given the history of its location.
Chapel on the Rock – Colorado
Chapel on the Rock near Estes Park, Colorado isn’t the most intricate of the most beautiful churches in the world. However, it was built with understated features so it could blend in with the harmony of its natural surroundings.
Heddal Stave Church – Norway
There are only 28 remaining stave churches in Norway and the Heddal Stave Church is the largest. It dates back to the 13th century.
St. Bartholomä – Germany
Lake Königssee in Germany is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful places on the planet. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that St. Bartholomä also makes the list of most beautiful churches. This is a Catholic pilgrimage church that was founded in 1134.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady Aparecida – Brazil
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady Aparecida in Brazil’s capital city was designed to look like a hyperboloid with its 16 concrete columns. The inside of this church is even more breathtaking than its exterior.
St. Basil – Moscow, Russia
Located in Moscow’s Red Square, St. Basil, with its bright colored spires and onion domes have become an icon of the city and a highly-recognizable international landmark.
Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame – Belgium
The riverside Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame in Dinant, Belgium, was destroyed in World War I. It was then destroyed again in World War II. Citizens in the town were determined to rebuild and its bulbous spire is now postcard perfect.
Lutheran Church of Hallgrimur – Iceland
The Lutheran Church of Hallgrimur, also known as Hallgrimskirkia, is a 244 feet tall building, making it the tallest structure in Iceland. This masterpiece of expressionist architecture is made from poured concrete. It also houses a 5,275-pipe organ.
Chapel of Thanksgiving
The spiral tower Chapel of Thanksgiving in Dallas doesn’t look like much from the outside. Walk into the building however and you are treated to the spiral Glory Window. It’s one of the largest horizontally-installed works of stained glass in the world.
Our Lady of Covadonga Cathedral – Spain
Our Lady of Covadonga Cathedral in northwest Spain is best known for its slight pink coloration which comes from the pink marble excavated from the surrounding mountains
Salisbury Cathedral – Britain
Salisbury Cathedral is home to Britain’s tallest spire and to the original copy of the Magna Carta. It’s also one of the most beautiful building’s in the entire country.
Yosemite Valley Chapel – California
A church in Yosemite National Park? While the Yosemite Valley Chapel might not look stunning, it is the oldest public use structure in the park and has been holding services since 1879. It’s also a testament to fitting in with its environment in a non-obtrusive manner.
Nuestra Señora de Gracia – Spain
The Nuestra Señora de Gracia in Cuenca, Spain, has a Gothic interior, dating back to when construction began in 1196 on the former site of the city’s main mosque before its reconquest. This is as much a place of worship as it is a testament to the country’s own resilience.
Stowe Community Church – Vermont
The Stowe Community Church is thought to be the most photographed churches in the state thanks to its towering white spire. It has served as a multi-denominational church since it was built in 1818.
Santuario Dom Bosco – Brazil
Brazil’s Santuario Dom Bosco looks boxy from the outside, but once you step through the doors, it’s simply breathtaking. The walls were created with the help of 7,500 pieces of Murano glass that when illuminated by the outside sun, cast the interior in a blue glow.
Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – San Diego, California
The six spires of the San Diego California Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appear to glow in the sun, that’s because they were designed using marble set in stucco. Check out the church at night when it’s illuminated on all sides.
Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene – Jerusalem
The Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene resides at the base of Mount of Olives near Gethsemane in Jerusalem. It is famous and immediately recognizable thanks to its sparkling golden onion domes.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes – Brazil
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes isocated in the Brazilian city of Canela. This masterpiece of the English gothic style features a 213-foot-tall tower. It was built with a dozen bronze bells imported from a foundry in Italy.
Karlskirche (also known as St. Charles Cathedral) – Vienna
One of the greatest buildings in Vienna is Karlskirche, or St. Charles Cathedral. The 18th-century Baroque church offers 13,454 square feet of stunning frescoes by the artist, Johannes Michael Rottmayr.
Kizhi Pogos – Russia
Kizhi Pogos in the Russian autonomous region of Karelia dates back to the 18th century and includes two wooden churches. The first church features 22 wooden domes. The second structure houses a wooden clock tower.
Crystal Cathedral – California
The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California was built using reflective glass. This building literally sparkles. Sunlight streams through the glass to illuminate one of the world’s largest instruments, a 16,061-pipe Hazel Wright Memorial organ.
Sacre-Coeur Basilica – Paris
The hilltop Sacre-Coeur Basilica on the summit of Montmartre is one of the most iconic churches and building’s in Paris, France. The Romano-Byzantine structure was built from travertine stone that exudes calcite when it rains, which helps keep the church looking pearly white.
Church of Panagia Paraportiani – Island of Mykonos – Greece
Visit the island of Mykonos and you’ll easily stumble upon the Church of Panagia Paraportiani. This structure is made up of multiple whitewashed chapels. The church remains one of the island’s most photographed attractions and once you visit it in person, you will understand why.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour – Moscow
The 338-foot-tall Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow is the tallest Russian Orthodox church in the world. This building of worship was built in 1839 and destroyed by the Soviets in 1931, so they could build a palace that was never constructed. The building was resurrected at a cost of $360 million in 2000.
Basilica of the National Vow – Ecuador
The Basilica of the National Vow in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, can be seen from almost any vantage point in the city. The twin clock towers in this neo-Gothic basilica are also breathtaking. Look closely and you will notice that some of the building’s gargoyles are shaped like Galápagos animals.
Church of Dmitry on Blood – Uglich, Russia
The Church of Dmitry on Blood in Uglich, Russia, stands out with its blood-red walls and sky-blue onion domes. This amazing church is placed at the confluence of the Kamenny stream and the Volga River. The church was built on the site of the death of Prince Tsarevich Dmitry.
Memorial temple of the Birth of Christ – Bulgaria
This red colored building in Shipka, Bulgaria, is a Bulgarian Orthodox church built from 1885 to 1902. It contains a 12-ton bell in its tower.
Notre-Dame-du-Haut – France
Built by French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, Notre-Dame-du-Haut in France is popular with fans of post-modern architecture. If you didn’t see the crucifix on top of the building you would probably never realize it was a church.
Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe – Puy-en-Velay, France
Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe near Puy-en-Velay, France, looks like it’s grown directly from the spire of volcanic rock on which it sits. If you want to attend a service here you have to climb 268 steps carved into the rock.
Jubilee Church – Rome, Italy
The Jubilee by architect Richard Meier was built in 1996. This church is easily recognizable by its curved walls which look like sails and serve the engineering purpose of minimizing thermal peak loads in the interior space. The walls are constructed from a special cement, which contain titanium dioxide — which destroys air pollution. It’s environmentally-friendly and functional.
The Green Church (Garden of Olives) – Argentina
This parish church in Buenos Aires is also known as “Huerto de Olivos” or “Garden of Olives” or “Church of Jesus in the Garden of Olives.” The church was constructed in 1897. It’s hard to tell how spectacular this church is underneath all the vines but this spectacular feature was enough to make our list.
Cathedral of Maringa, Brazil
This cathedral, located in downtown Parana, is a Roman Catholic structure that was completed in 1972 and has a cone shape. The big deal: This church can brag on two points: it is South America’s tallest church, and the world 16th tallest.
Cathedral of Antwerp
This iconic cathedral located in Belgium was finished in 1521. It took 170 years to complete. The right tower was originally supposed to be as tall as the left. It has seen numerous periods of destruction, has been under multiple religious leaders, but ultimately has stood tall in one form or another since completion. The real beauty in this church may very well be its determination to remain a place of worship against all odds.
The Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia is a unique addition to our most beautiful churches list because it has actually been more than a church. This building is a former Christian patriarchal basilica (church) which was later used an as imperial mosque, before eventually being turned into a museum. Whatever it is — it’s beautiful.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna (Austria)
The current Romanesque and Gothic form of the cathedral, seen today in the Stephansplatz, was largely initiated by Duke Rudolf IV (1339–1365) and stands on the ruins of two earlier churches, the first a parish church consecrated in 1147. St. Stephen’s Cathedral has borne witness to many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history and has, with its multi-coloured tile roof, become one of the city’s most recognizable symbols.