10 Most Famous Cathedrals in the World

The Catholic faith has long been associated with majestic and beautiful buildings in which its members worship and praise God.

These buildings are built in such a way as to honor and glorify God through the exceptional handiwork of the stonemasons and builders responsible for their erection.

The Catholic faith is one that’s been in practice for more than 1500 years, which means that it has left a trail of incredible buildings of worship, or cathedrals, all over much of the world.

In this article, we will examine some of the most famous cathedrals in the world and take a closer look at the circumstances in which they were created and the individuals who were connected to their establishment.

Famous Cathedrals

1. Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

The Notre Dame de Paris is a cathedral that has long been known among people in Europe as the “Jewel of France,” among other nicknames.

The structure was built during Medieval Times on Île de la Cité, which is an island situated along the Seine River. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and sits as the most impressive example of French Gothic architecture in Europe.

According to historians the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral was initially designed by Maurice de Sully, who served as Bishop of Paris during the 12th century. It is a structure that experienced numerous additions over the years and was not fully completed until 1345.

Since that time, there have been various minor remodeling efforts and other projects intended to maintain Notre Dame de Paris as much as possible.

The cathedral was damaged during the French Revolution and required some repairs in the years that followed, but it was the devastating fire of 2019 that destroyed significant portions of the building’s roof and other sections.

Work is currently underway to fully restore Notre Dame to its former glory, but officials have noted that this will be a lengthy process and it may never be restored to the grandeur that it once had.

2. Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Historians, scholars and those within the Catholic faith mostly agree that the Cologne Cathedral is among the most famous structures in Europe.

It is located in Germany along the Rhine River and presents a breathtaking view to visitors who make the climb up more than 500 stone steps that make up the large spiral staircase leading to a viewing platform on the exterior.

The Cologne Cathedral was first dedicated to Saint Peter and was built on top of an existing foundation that many historians believe to be a Roman temple that may have been built under the rule of Mercurius Augustus at some point during the 3rd century.

After the Roman legion soldiers left, the structure was used as a site where Christian churches worshiped until construction on the Cologne Cathedral finally began in 1248.

It would take more than 300 years before the cathedral was finally finished, but over the years, there were other additions, renovations and projects that were done to it.

The Cologne Cathedral is filled with various artworks that are widely considered to be treasures of the Catholic faith.

3. Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral

Formally known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Florence Cathedral is one of the largest Christian churches in Italy.

For many years, the Florence Cathedral was noted as being the largest domed structure in the world and is still designated as the largest brick-made dome in existence.

Designed during the early years of the Italian Renaissance, the Florence Cathedral was originally planned under the leadership of such notable architects as Arnolfo di Cambio, Emilio De Fabris and Filippo Brunelleschi—who many historians and scholars consider to be the father of Italian Renaissance-style architecture.

Work began on the cathedral in 1296 as Italy was finally emerging from the medieval era and the Catholic church was regaining its position as the most powerful entity in many parts of Europe.

It was finally completed in 1436 and many efforts have been made throughout the centuries since to maintain and restore the Florence Cathedral to its former glory.

4. Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral

One of the most awe-inspiring structures in all of Europe is also a building that many would consider to be one of the most famous cathedrals in the world today.

The Milan Cathedral, which is formally known as the Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary, is a miraculous structure that took more than 500 years to complete.

Located in the former city-state of Milan, the cathedral is actually the largest cathedral in the Italian Republic and is second only to Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Basilica in size and scope as it remains one of the biggest religious structures in Italy.

The Milan Cathedral began to be constructed in 1386 under the direction of Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo.

Work on the project experienced many obstacles which included wars and other struggles within Italy and the city of Milan, but the cathedral was at last finished in 1965. It is a massive worship center that was built according to the Gothic style and is capable of holding up to 40,000 people at one time.

5. Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

Another one of France’s most visited sites for Christians and other tourists is the Chartres Cathedral. It is one of the most iconic structures in the city of Paris and the surrounding area and was actually designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

It’s also one of the earliest Catholic churches that was constructed according to the Gothic style that is still standing to this day.

Construction began on the Chartres Cathedral in 1126 and it initially took on a very Romanesque appearance in architecture and design. However, this would not last and other architects that later worked on the project would seek to make the building appear more along the Gothic style of architecture.

It was finished in 1252, but the Chartres Cathedral is one of the most historic in the world. It was constructed on a structure’s foundation which was built some time in the 7th or 8th century and what is now the Chartres Cathedral was first constructed by much earlier members of the Catholic faith dating back three centuries before work began on the church.

6. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

St. Stephen's Cathedral Vienna

Vienna, Austria is known as one of the most historically-rich cities in the entire continent of Europe. It is a location that is overflowing with landmarks, historic structures and various famous forms of artistic expression. One of the most visited parts of the city of Vienna is St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Located in the heart of the city of Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is filled with various sculptures, paintings and other artwork, but below and around the church are ancient catacombs, tombs and crypts that are so old, many historians are unsure of their origin.

Also Read: Famous Churches

Construction on the cathedral began in 1137 and the main portion of the church would be completed just a few decades later in 1160.

The interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna is said to be among the most majestic of any church in the Christian religion, featuring a number of incredible stone relief sculptures while mosaic roof tiles line the exterior.

Members of the Catholic church have worked tirelessly to maintain the structure in its original state over the last few centuries.

7. Catedral de Sevilla

Catedral de Sevilla

Spain is filled with its own distinct architecture and cultural flair compared to much of the rest of Europe. This sense of uniqueness extends to its cathedrals as the Catedral de Sevilla is widely recognized as one of the most famous and unparalleled Catholic worship centers in the entire world.

Like many other sections of Spain, Andalusia has been the site of different kingdoms and nations over the course of the last several centuries. The Catedral de Sevilla currently exists as a Christian church, but the structure actually originated in the late 12th century as an Islamic mosque under the Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf.

The mosque was taken by Christian forces under Ferdinand III’s conquest throughout western Europe and it was converted into a church despite still having much of its Islamic symbolism and design.

In 1401, the structure was extensively remodeled and redesigned to resemble the other Christian structures that existed in Europe at this time, which all mostly adhered to the Gothic architectural style.

8. St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

One of London’s most strikingly beautiful and elegant buildings is St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is located on Ludgate Hill, which is the highest point in the capital of England.

The church was built in the late 17th century, but the current structure sits on a site that was home to many different Christian churches over the years, dating back to the early 7th century.

The building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who was a highly respected and famous architect during the late 17th century.

Wren would create the structure in the popular Baroque style of architecture, which was very prevalent at this time period throughout England and much of Europe as a whole.

Construction on St. Paul’s Cathedral began in 1675 and it was finished just a short 35 years later in 1710.

The building was done according to a Greek-cross design, but large portions were destroyed in the Great Fire of London, which occurred in 1666. Since then, the cathedral was rebuilt and largely returned to its former appearance.

9. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

New York City’s Midtown Manhattan is teeming with various buildings and structures that demonstrate the city’s reputation for drive and determination.

Among the towering skyscrapers and crowded streets sits one of the most beautiful and famous cathedrals in the entire world, which is known as St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

It is the center of New York City’s St. Patrick Day celebrations and more than 1 million prayer candles are lit each year along with an estimated 5 million visitors passing through it

The church takes up one city block and is situated along Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue, 50th and 51st Streets in the heart of the Big Apple. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was designed by James Renwick, Jr. who many scholars and historians consider to be the most famous American architect during the mid-19th century. Work began on the cathedral in 1858 and it was completed two decades later in 1878.

It’s immaculate exterior is lined with marble while the inside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral features an incredible vaulted ceiling along with interconnected pillars lining the sanctuary.

The massive church is capable of holding up to 2,400 visitors at once and is considered to be one of the most well known Catholic churches in any major city across the United States.

10. Saint Mark’s Basilica

Saint Mark's Basilica

Venice, Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations of any city in Europe with its labyrinth of waterways and canals, as well as the various historic structures and artwork that fill the former Italian city-state.

One of the most famous attractions in Venice is Saint Mark’s Basilica, which is connected to Doge’s Palace and located on the eastern side of Saint Mark’s Square that was once the political center of the Republic of Venice.

It is among the oldest Catholic churches that is still in operation as the original church was first built around 836 A.D. It is said to hold the ancient and holy relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist, who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and author of the Gospel of Mark.

The original structure is sometimes referred to as Participazio as it was built under the guidance of Doge Giustiniano Participazio and his brother Giovanni.

Saint Mark’s Basilica is home to some of the most immaculate works of art of any Catholic church in the world. This includes sculptures, paintings and many other artworks from various parts of antiquity.

Over the years since the cathedral was established, it has undergone many efforts aimed at restoration and rebuilding various sections to maintain the church’s distinguished beauty and splendor.