5. St. Basil’s Cathedral
Red Square, Moscow, Russia
The official name is the “Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat,” but we simply call it St. Basil’s Cathedral. Built in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible, the cathedral was a symbol of the country’s capture of Kazan. The nine ornate “onion domes” are the lids to underlying chapels, the ninth and lastly built of which houses the tomb of St. Basil, a loved Russian Orthodox saint, or yurodivy, a “holy fool for Christ.” Legend has it that aptly named Ivan the Terrible insisted that the architect responsible for the creation had his eyes removed to ensure he never out-built the cathedral’s beauty on another structure. The cathedral is usually open to visitors every day except Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
4. Las Lajas Sanctuary
Ipiales, Nariño, Colombia
Located in a canyon of the Guáitara River, the building of Las Lajas Sanctuary began in 1916, not completed until 33 years later. Legend has it that an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on a steep cliff-side wall above the river below, which prompted its construction as a way to commemorate. The image is still visible today. Walking down the arduous path toward the gateway, you’ll notice thousands of shrines and plaques placed there as a thanks by believers on holy pilgrimages. The easiest way to get there is by taxi from the nearby town of Ipiales.
In 1937, the designer of this Lutheran church had Iceland's iconic basalt lava columns in mind when he set about creating the one-of-a-kind place of worship. It is the tallest building in Iceland, standing nearly 245 feet, and took 40 years to complete. Perhaps the most famous aspect of the structure is the massive organ it houses. Weighing in at 25 tons, the instrument has 5,275 pipes and rises 49 feet high. Overlooking the city of Reykjavik, the view from the bell tower is one of the best you can get in the city. The three bells in the tower represent the architect, his wife, and their young daughter.
2. Thorncrown Chapel
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The result of a retired school teacher's dream, Thorncrown Chapel is a 48-foot wooden structure buried deep in the Ozark Mountains. A curving trail leads to the church that won the American Institute of Architecture's Design of the Decade Award for the 1980s. Since its opening, more than five million people have walked through the structure. The design is simple, letting the surrounding natural beauty do most of the talking through 425 glass windows. Visiting hours go year-round, except for the winter months of January and February when the chapel is closed to everybody except planned special events, like weddings. Services are held twice a day every Sunday, April through October, with only one daily service in November and December.
1. Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe
Le Puy-en-Velay, France
In the year 951, Bishop Godescalc of the French village Le Puy-en-Velay safely returned from a 1,000-mile pilgrimage. To celebrate his arrival, the bishop had the Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe constructed in his honor. Built upon a volcanic plug (formed when magma hardens in a volcano vent), the chapel is only reachable via 268 stone steps carved into the side of the volcanic rock. Rumor has it that in 1429 the mother of Joan of Arc, Isabelle Romée, came there to say her own prayers.
Vertical Photo Credits: Las Lajas Sanctuary (Martin St-Amant/Wikipedia), Hallgrímskirkja (Molechaser/Flickr)
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