1. Borgund Stavechurch (1180–1250) — Lærdal, Norway
Is it a church or a Weasley Family dwelling? Built between 1180 and 1250 A.D., the church was constructed using long, vertical wooden slats called staves. There are 28 other “stavechurches” in Norway, of which the Borgund is the most well preserved. Perhaps the church is magical after all.
2. Las Lajas Cathedral (1949)— Colombia
Las Lajas was completed in 1949 and towers over 300 feet from the bottom of the canyon. Legend has it that in 1754 a mother and her daughter, a deaf-mute, were caught in the canyon during a terrible thunderstorm when an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared on the walls of the canyon, causing the deaf-mute daughter to exclaim “The mestiza [Virgin Mary] is calling me!” Since then there have been numerous healings reported in the canyon, thus the building of the cathedral as a place of pilgrimage for the faithful.
3. Hallgrímskirkja (1986) — Reykjavík, Iceland
Hallgrímskirkja stands at 244 feet, making it the tallest building in Iceland. Built to resemble the flowing lava of a volcano, Hallgrímskirkja has become one of Iceland’s most notable destinations. The church’s pipe organ is over 45 feet tall and weighs over 25 tons.
4. Thorncrown Chapel (1980) — Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Built in 1980 in the midst of the Ozarks, Thorncrown Chapel stands 48 feet high and features 625 windows and over 6,000 square feet of glass. Despite its relatively young age, it was recently named No. 4 on the American Institute of Architect’s top designs of the 20th century.
5. Temppeliaukio Church (1969) — Helsinki, Finland
Known as “The Church of the Rock” due it its being built into solid rock, Temppeliaukio Church receives over half a million visitors annually, making it one of Helsinki’s most popular tourists destinations. The church is covered in a massive glazed, copper dome which lets in natural light through its metal support slats.
6. San Miguel Del Fai (10th century) — Cataluña, Spain
Built in 10th century, about 25 miles outside of Barcelona, the monastery of San Miguel Del Fai was built directly into the mountain caves of the cliffside. However, before housing a small hermitage of monks, the site was said to be used as a place of pagan worship in the ninth century.
7. Trinity Church (2004) — King George Island, Antarctica
Commissioned in the 1990s by Patriarch Alexis II, Trinity Church is the southernmost Orthodox church in the world. The church is permanently staffed by at least one volunteer monk from the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra monastery in Russia. The church stands over 45 feet tall, and was first built in Russia before being transported to its permanent home in Antarctica.
8. Meteora (14th century) — Thessaly, Greece
Built high in the mountains by Greek Orthodox monks to escape the Turkish raiders of the Ottoman empire, Meteora translates to mean “above the heavens” or “suspended in the sky.” Originally for security reasons, the monasteries of Meteora were only accessible by a series of rope ladders and nets thrown down from above to those who needed to gain access. They have since carved steps into the mountains for visiting tourists.
9. Church of St. Jean (12th Century) — Aubeterre sur Dronne, France
The church of St. Jean is the largest subterranean church in all of Europe with the main room vaulting almost 60 feet into the air. Carved directly into the limestone mountains and covered by ancient rock fall, the church laid undisturbed until it was rediscovered the 1950s. Inside the church lie a series of pits and crypts meant to hold relics of the church, including over 80 stone sarcophagi (tombs).
10. Basilica of St. Pius X (1958) — Lourdes, France
Spanning over 600 feet in length (over two football fields), the underground, concrete Basilica of St. Pius X can house over 24,000 worshippers and was built in Lourdes, France, where the Virgin Mary appeared to a local peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, who would later become a saint herself.
11. Sagrada Família (1882–Present) — Barcelona, Spain
Designed by renowned Catalan modernist architect Antoni Gaudí in 1883, La Sagrada Família (Sacred Family) has been in construction for over 130 years, and even with modern technology is not scheduled to be completed until 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
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