From Notre Dame in Paris to Saint Basil’s in Moscow, Musement takes a look at some of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe.
The silence that embraces you in a place of worship can evoke a therapeutic peace that is difficult to find anywhere else—especially with the hustle, bustle, and rush of the modern-day world. We would like to propose taking a break while enveloped in architectural beauty to enjoy an express retreat of the spiritual sort. We will now visit ten of the best churches and cathedrals in Europe.
1. Notre Dame, Paris
Located on an island in the Seine River, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a Gothic masterpiece. Construction began at the beginning of the 12th century, making it one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe. This cathedral has witnessed events as important as the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte and the beatification of Joan of Arc among many others. Once you have seen the inside, climb the nearly 400 steps to appreciate its towers from above.
2. The Duomo (Florence Cathedral), Florence
This Gothic architectural complex in Florence is truly spectacular. The Florence Cathedral consists of a basilica with a magnificent dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, Giotto’s Campanile (which is almost 280 feet tall), and the Baptistery of Saint John. To truly enjoy the spectacular views of the Tuscan capital, climb to the top of the dome or the bell tower.
3. The Duomo, Milan
North of Florence, the Lombard capital is home to the iconic Duomo of Milan, a magnificent cathedral that sits in the most famous plaza of the stylish city. The 125,900-square-foot structure holds no fewer than 40,000 people! Considering that construction began in the fourteenth century, the achievement in terms of its sheer size alone is beyond admirable.
4. León Cathedral, León
The León Cathedral is a Gothic work inspired by the French style. In fact, it is very similar to the Reims Cathedral, which also has three naves that extend into five as well as a similar vault system. Here you can admire various Gothic sculptures like that of the Virgin of Dado. The most impressive part of the temple, however, is the light that seeps in through the magnificent stained glass windows.
5. Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
A symbol of Red Square, Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow stands out as an emblem of Russia. With its colorful, bulb-shaped domes, this Orthodox temple built by order of Ivan the Terrible in 1554 consists of nine independent churches, each dedicated to different saints. Since the year 1928, the cathedral has been affiliated with the State Historical Museum of Moscow.
6. Cologne Cathedral, Cologne
Declared a World Heritage Site in 1996, the Kölner Dom cathedral in Cologne is the most visited monument in all of Germany. It took 632 years to construct this 515-foot tall Gothic temple! Luckily, it survived the devastation of the Second World War and continues to overlook the shores of the Rhine River today.
7. Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
We couldn’t forget Saint Peter’s Basilica, a symbol of Catholicism par excellence as it is the temple of the popes, hence its great importance in the West. The Renaissance facades and Baroque interior will leave you awestruck as will Saint Peter’s crypt and Michelangelo’s dome. And don’t forget to discover the wonders of the Vatican Museums while you’re at it.
8. Saint Mary’s Basilica, Krakow
Another Gothic gem is Saint Mary’s Basilica, which is located in the Main Market Square of Krakow, the old capital of Poland. The basilica, which started construction in 1355, has three naves and two square towers. From the top of the tallest tower, a trumpeter plays a traditional Polish melody called Hejnal Mariacki—the tunes are even transmitted on the radio.
9. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Apart from its extraordinarily beautiful architecture, the Sagrada Familia is known worldwide for being unfinished. They say that it will be completed in 2026—one century after the death of its architect, Antoni Gaudí. Even in its unfinished state, the entire world has been fascinated by the modern style of this Catholic cathedral, which should undoubtedly be on your Barcelona list.
10. Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Assisi
The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is the headquarters of the Franciscan Order and is also the place where the basilica’s namesake saint died. Formed by the Upper Church and the Lower Church which represent the earth and the sky respectively, the temple embraces the spectacular sequential narrative of Saint Francis’ life as painted by Giotto de Bondone. The narrative is located in the Upper Church.