Some of the world’s most sacred religious places of worship are also among the most beautiful when compared to other types of structures.
Many churches across Europe, North America, South America and other parts of the world are extravagantly decorated on both the interior and exterior.
These churches and cathedrals may be from various denominations of Christianity, but those who built them were obviously devoted to glorifying their sacred deity through the construction and design of their churches.
This article will explore 10 of the most famous churches found across every continent of the world. As we cover each one, we will also examine the builders behind each work and some of the history related to these churches.
1. St. Peter’s Basilica
Rome’s Vatican City is the worldwide capital of the Catholic faith and the various buildings inside its walls are among the most beautifully designed of any city in Italy, or Europe.
This Catholic holy city is also home to what many consider to be the world’s most famous church, St. Peter’s Basilica. The stunning structure towers above the open portion in front of the church, which is known as Pinecone Courtyard, or the Cortile della Pigna.
St. Peter’s Basilica was designed by some of the most skilled architects from the Italian Renaissance era, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Donato Bramante.
The structure of the building is crafted according to the very popular style that was common during the Renaissance period, but later architects added more Baroque style to certain portions of the church.
Construction began on this church in 1506 and workers would labor for more than a century before it was fully completed.
St. Peter’s Basilica was finished and opened in 1626 and was officially dedicated to Saint Peter, who is considered to be the first pope among those in the Catholic faith. The church is brimming with priceless relics and artworks that are among the most valuable in the world today.
2. Sagrada Familia
Barcelona, Spain is widely known for its unique flair and cultural significance, which sets it apart from the rest of European societies, as well as the other communities and cities of Spain itself.
The building that most people consider to be the crown jewel of the city of Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia. This immense, masterfully-designed church is arguably the most iconic church in the world, according to many religious scholars, historians and others.
The Sagrada Familia is actually one of the few cathedrals in the world from the 19th century that is still under construction.
The incredible design of the Sagrada Familia is credited to Antoni Gaudí, who was a master architect that is known to have designed a number of other structures throughout Spain and Europe. Construction on the church began in 1882 and work has steadily continued since that time.
The structure is slated to be finished in 2026, barring any setbacks that are natural or human-made. The Sagrada Familia is the most-visited site in Barcelona, Spain and is believed to draw at least 4 million visitors each year.
The distinctly-tall towers in front of the church are the reason why many consider it to be one of the most iconic cathedrals in the world.
3. Westminster Abbey
London is filled with ancient buildings of varying significance. These include a range of political structures, as well as traditional churches and other buildings related to the Catholic religion. Among these buildings, Westminster Abbey is probably the most well known of any other in the capital city of England.
Westminster Abbey was built on a site that historians and archaeologists know to be an ancient church or worship center for early Christians. The earliest records available that point to the church’s structural origins come from the 11th century around the time of Edward the Confessor.
Edward, who was the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, began the process of rebuilding the church in 1042 in order to serve as his own royal burial church.
It is believed to have been finished around 1065, just a year before the king’s death. Since then, Westminster Abbey has been remodeled and added on to, which has resulted in it being one of the most extravagant churches in the world.
Paris, France is well known for the many different artworks and sculptures that fill its museums and halls, but the city is also home to one of the most incredibly-designed churches in the world. The Sacré-Coeur is a Roman Catholic church and is just one of many in and around the city of Paris.
The church is located on the hill of Montmartre and features three large domes, the center dome being the largest. The Sacré-Coeur sits on the hill overlooking the river Seine and is one of the most popular destinations for Catholic visitors to the French capital.
Construction began on this church in 1875 and it was finally completed in 1914 before it was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Those visiting the church will be able to take in a full view of the city of Paris as the Montmartre sits above much of the rest of the city. The church is filled with historic relics from the Catholic faith, as well as various artworks and other historic treasures.
Outside of Rome’s Vatican City, there are numerous buildings and other structures that visitors from all over the world travel to see each year.
Among the churches outside of the city’s Catholic center, the Pantheon is arguably one of the greatest in all the world.
It stands today as one of the most historically-rich structures in Europe and has changed hands between the Roman Empire, Greek rulers and others in the thousands of years it has stood.
According to archaeologists and historical records, the Pantheon is believed to have been built at some point during the 2nd century.
Many historians put the construction at 110 to 125 A.D., but others argue that it could have been established before this time by earlier civilizations and the church as it exists today was merely built upon a more ancient foundation.
The building features a large circular domed cella, as well as a temple portico front, which was the same style of architecture used by Greeks and Romans during the first few centuries.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the church has been known as the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres or Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs.
6. Notre-Dame Cathedral
France is usually considered the heart of the world’s artistic expression and various art movements have sprang up out of the city over the course of the last several hundred years.
One of the main structures in the city of Paris has long been known as the Jewel of Paris, among many other honorable titles. This building is the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral and is one of the most historically-rich churches in the world.
It’s immaculate design is much of the reason why so many consider it to be the most iconic landmark in the city of Paris.
Notre-Dame Cathedral was originally designed and construction began on the building in the medieval era around the year 1163. It wasn’t completed until 1345 after many people worked painstakingly to finish the structure.
Built according to the Gothic style, it is extravagantly decorated both inside and out with facades and murals along its walls, as well as many other works of art inside.
The church experienced a devastating fire in 2019 which destroyed much of the elaborately-designed roof and other sections. However, an effort is already underway to repair and rebuild the famous chatedral back to its former glory.
7. St. Basil’s Cathedral
Russian architecture is often a distinct style that is unlike any other in the world. The notable St. Basil’s Cathedral is widely viewed as one of the crowning achievements of architects during the 14th and 15th centuries when the church was built.
The crimson-red coloration and swirling, colorful towers that line the exterior portions are part of what makes this church stand out among many others on our list.
It was designed by famous Russian architects Ivan Barma and Postnik Yakovlev with construction beginning in the year 1555. St. Basil’s Cathedral was initially named after the venerated Saint Vasily after it was completed in 1561, just a few years after work began. The church is officially known as the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed.
The church was confiscated by state forces in the late 1920’s who took control from the confiscated from the Russian Orthodox community and transformed it into a museum.
Today, it serves mostly as a museum that draws millions of tourists each year and is considered an iconic symbol of the city of Moscow, as well as Russia as a whole.
8. Cologne Cathedral
Germany’s most famous church is the Cologne Cathedral, which sits along the edge of the Rhine River.
The historic church is also a symbol of the city of Cologne and is a prime example of Gothic-style architecture as it was built during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries when Gothic architecture was the most popular in Europe.
The Cologne Cathedral was built on top of an already existing structure that is believed to have been built by Roman forces when their legions occupied the lands during the 3rd and 4th century when Mercurius Augustus ruled. Work began on the church in 1248 and continued until 1473 when it ceased.
Work once again started on the long-unfinished church in the 19th century and the Cologne Cathedral was finally completed in 1880.
However, construction still continues to this day on parts of the church and it is slated to be finished in the coming years. The Cologne Cathedral holds some of the most holy shrines and religious relics of any other church in Germany.
9. Duomo di Milano
Milan, Italy is a city that long stood as its own state within the country and it features many distinct artworks and architecture compared to the rest of Italy’s cities. The most famous church in this historic city is the extravagantly decorated Duomo di Milano.
This church was built during the latter end of the medieval period and features Gothic and Italian Renaissance influences in its design.
Work began on the site in 1386 and it would take nearly 600 years before the Duomo di Milano was finally finished in 1965.
Compared to much of the rest of the surrounding structures, the towering, massive church is by far the largest of any other worship center in Milan and it’s also capable of holding up to 40,000 visitors at one time for worship services.
The Duomo di Milano is filled with incredible works of art that include paintings, murals and statues, as well as various religious relics that are among the holiest in the Catholic faith. Today, it is known as the Milan Cathedral, or the Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary.
10. Hagia Sophia
Istanbul, Turkey sits on a region that was once fought over by many thousands of soldiers from Islamic and Christian forces during the Crusades.
The Hagia Sophia is the most famous church associated with this historic city, which was formerly known throughout the Christain world as Constantinople.
It is believed that the church was constructed on the foundation of an earlier temple or religious worship site, but the evidence to prove that has long been buried and covered up by builders and laborers throughout the last several centuries. Work started on the Hagia Sophia in around 360 and it was finished in 537.
Control over the Hagia Sophia changed hands between the Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire and Islamic forces since it was constructed.
The Hagia Sophia currently appears more like an Islamic mosque than a Christian church and features a large dome in the center that’s surrounded by four towers on each corner.