The Most Beautiful (and Unexpected) Houses of Worship Around the World

Whether your form of prayer is singing to the heavens or quiet contemplation, these stunning houses of worship will leave you in awe.

Basílica de la Sagrada Família

A labor of love for famed Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, Basílica de la Sagrada Família is one of the most famous examples of Catalan Modernism. While it is technically unfinished, Gaudí worked on the basilica for forty-three years right up until his death in 1926. Today a UNESCO World Heritage site, the basilica dominates the skyline of Barcelona, standing out thanks to its massive size and the constant presence of construction cranes. In every corner of the church, you can see Gaudí’s passion for religion, nature, and architecture. Intricate sculptures, towering spires, and beautiful stained glass leave visitors in awe when standing inside of this impressive feat of architecture.

Cathedral of Hope

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Flickr User Jason John Paul Haskins

What happens when a world-renowned architect famous for Modernist style designs a church? You get the Cathedral of Hope, an interfaith peace chapel in Dallas, Texas. The creation of Philip Johnson, the Cathedral of Hope is more sculptural art piece than building. Gently sweeping forms that resemble the classic Gothic arch are cut into the sides of the building acting as the openings for windows and doors. The stairway features glass railings, allowing light to easily flow unobstructed throughout the interior levels. The interior of the chapel is simplistic, a serene and intimate space for quiet prayer.

Lotus Temple

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Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi, India’s Lotus Temple is one of the most visited places of worship in the world. Each day, nearly 10,000 people visit this Bahá’í House of Worship, a non-denominational temple open to all. The beautiful, sculpture-like structure draws in worshipers and lovers of architecture alike. The creation of Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba, the Lotus Temple was named for its shape, which resembles the lotus flower. Consisting of twenty-seven, marble-clad “petals,” and surrounded by nine ponds and nine gardens, the Lotus Temple stands out for its stunning architectural symmetry. Inside, the central space can hold 2,500. Pews are arranged in a circle under the 131-foot high dome. Built according to Bahá’í House of Worship rules, there is no altar, pictures, or statues inside of the temple, allowing worshipers to sit in quiet contemplation.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Commissioned by sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic chapel in Sedona, Arizona. Striking for its location, the chapel is built into the buttes of Coconino National Forest. To truly appreciate this work of art, the chapel should be seen from below. Looking up the hill, the sand-colored structure rises prominently from the surrounding rock with a simple cross in the center. This central cross acts as both structural support and a sign of the faith practiced within. The cross is surrounded by glass, allowing light to flood into the space. It towers over the altar, appearing to glow in the afternoon sun. Completed in 1957, Chapel of the Holy Cross has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Notre Dame du Haut

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Wikimedia Commons

Located in Ronchamp, France, Notre Dame du Haut is the creation of one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, Le Corbusier. Famously an atheist, Le Corbusier still devoted a portion of his career to religious structures, believing architecture was able to create a feeling of spirituality. Notre Dame du Haut does just that. Outside, the Modernist structure features concrete walls with small cutouts for stained glass windows. On one end of the building, the walls come to a point under a sweeping roofline called “the sails.” This overhanging roof shelters a small spot outside with a lone pew and simple cross. Inside the chapel are beautifully sculpted wooden pews, a minimalist altar made of concrete, and unpolished concrete walls. The simple space is illuminated from candles and light that come through the stained glass windows. The concrete walls are up to ten feet thick in some places, causing these windows to cast beautiful colored shafts of light onto different spots within the chapel. Despite the lack of ornamentation, the architecture of Notre Dame du Haut speaks to the sacredness of the site, leaving visitors in awe.

For an entirely different look at houses of worship, check out this former church-turned office space.

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