13 Unique Churches Around the World That You Will Love to See
There’s something exceptional about each visit to church. These historical structures have witnessed centuries of establishment, withstood various revolutions, and with each passing event, they’ve gained an unmatched level of significance. Let’s see unique churches around the world.
- 1. Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki, Finland
- 2. Church Of St. Giovanni Bono, Milano, Italy
- 3. Invisible Church of Borgloon, Limburg, Belgium
- 4. Church of St. George, Lalibela, Ethiopia
- 5. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Narino, Colombia
- 6. Monasteries of Meteora, Greece
- 7. Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi Island, Russia
- 8. Chapel of St. Gildas, Brittany, France
- 9. Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France
- 10. St Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church, Chicago, IL, USA
- 11. Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- 12. Paraportiani Church, Mykonos, Greece
- 13. Stykkisholmskirkja Church, Iceland
Churches are much more than religious spots. These form the architectural marvels with their exquisite art and architecture. If you’re designing a space for God, you’d want to offer the best. And that explains the beautiful and inspiring designs of churches. Apart from offering a sense of community, churches from around the world draw attention with their intricate details and design.
Let’s look at a list of the 13 unique churches around the world and admire their stunning architecture.
1. Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki, Finland
The Lutheran church, Temppeliaukio is nestled in Helsinki’s Töölö district. The architects Timo and Tuomo designed the church which was completed in 1969. The church is famously known as Rock Church or the Church of Rock as it is constructed out of solid rock.
The concept is the result of a 1961 design competition that was commissioned by the Suomalainen brothers. The design was conceived as a totally innovative thought and keeping up with the competition’s main aim to propose a masterplan plan for the entire Temppeliaukio Square with its park neighborhood and parking spots. The main consideration was to keep in view that as much of the square’s rocky area as feasible be conserved.
Owing to its unique style and architecture, this church is among Helsinki’s major attractions. A copper-lined dome covers the main church hall, which is anchored on the rock faces by reinforced concrete members. Rough rock and debris make up the inside walls. The daylight from the series of windows that ring the roof perimeter reaches the chapel wall, where an ice-age fissure function as the altarpiece. The building is a famous musical spot due to its superb acoustic quality.
The core of Helsinki homes this stone-hewn church. The structure’s basic aim is to preserve the square’s inherent charm. The church has no bells; instead, speakers on the outer wall broadcast a soundtrack of bells recorded by Taneli Kuusisto. The interiors and overall design of the church speak for its deep concept to blend in the natural settings.
2. Church Of St. Giovanni Bono, Milano, Italy
The church of St. Giovanni Bono in Milan, Italy is a reinforced concrete structure dedicated to John the Good. Arrigo Arrighetti developed this modern Brutalist structure, which was finished in 1968.
The rising line standing above the long curving housing developments combines the religious aspect with the modern urbanist and social key. A large extended triangle of exposed concrete forms the facade, which is punctuated by various colorful openings. The interior design is asymmetrical, with a diamond-shaped room in the core, a daily chapel with an uncovered core area partitioned by a sole central pillar, and an enclosed rectangle nave with a hexagonal baptistery well-illuminated with the help of a skylight.
Church architecture has always been defined by the principles of grandeur and extravagant ornamentation of the interior spaces. The architect in this design has maximized the usage of form and function and offered a space for the community to form a connection with religion. The construction technology, rigid geometry, roughness to the facade, and earnestness have guided the design of the church being the basic elements of Brutalist architecture.
A crisscrossed pattern formed by the composition of tiny triangles brings the triangular form from exterior to interior. The large interior hall accommodates a large audience within the raw ornamented interiors. The core concrete surface highlights the magnificence of the design and marks this church as one of the most unique churches from around the world.
3. Invisible Church of Borgloon, Limburg, Belgium
How do you feel about entering an invisible structure? A collaborative work of Architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh resulted in the stunning and extraordinary piece of architecture- Invisible Church of Borgloon. Set amidst a rural landscape, the design of this local church was completed in 2011. The structure, also famously known as ’Reading between the lines is a composition of 2000 columns and 30 tonnes of steel. The concrete foundation forms a sturdy base for the structure.
The see-through design of the church makes it extremely unique and one-of-its-kind architecture. The typical church architecture has been transformed into a translucent work of art by composing it with horizontal plates. Based on the angle of looking, the church appears as a towering structure that fades into the surrounding landscaping.
This sculpturous design is a member of the Z-OUT project of the Museum Z33. The project is a collection of artworks that urge visitors to come and admire the natural Borgloon scenery with a new light. The artwork is part of the Z-OUT project at Museum Z33. This is a collection of art installations that urge visitors to view the scenery of Limburg’s Borgloon-Heers area in a new light. The architects believed that everyone identifies churches as the heart of society and prominent monuments in the landscape.
The team tried out a few different concepts before settling on transparency and openness by combining their church and landscape experiences. It doesn’t make any spiritual declarations rather the gaps leave the room open for interpretations. One can perceive the design based on their perspective and thoughts. Such architectural marvels leave a very bold message of not relating single thoughts with religious structures. Rather each structure is unique in its own kind and the feeling or essence is a product of your own thoughts,
4. Church of St. George, Lalibela, Ethiopia
The little village of Lalibela in northern Ethiopia is notable for its 11 medieval churches fashioned out of solid rocks. The structures, that date back centuries, include catacombs and sacred tunnels, and some even have excavation lines connecting them to the other structures. The buildings, despite their age, nevertheless welcome pilgrims today. The Church of St. George is among the most popular Lalibela’s churches. The cross-shaped structure is fully carved out of a monolithic rock.
A form of volcanic tuff aided in carving the structure and it was the only type of material employed in the whole construction. The church of St. George is one of the most well-known and most recently constructed of the 11 structures in the Lalibela region. It has also been regarded as the 8th Wonder of the World. Emperor Lalibela of Ethiopia wanted to rebuild Jerusalem, and he designed the churches’ environment and sacred locations in a way that he could accomplish this goal.
The church buildings are categorized into two parts, one symbolizing earth Jerusalem and the other signifying heavenly Jerusalem. A trench depicting the Jordan River runs exactly between them.
The route looks to be completely inaccessible at first glance, with precipitous drops on all sides and no connecting bridge. To further disguise its presence, it is approached by an extremely small man-made canyon swirling down, which converts to a tunnel when approached near the church.
The unique form and structure mark this church as a site of great religious and cultural significance. Apart from the culture, it’s considered one of the ancient architectural marvels.
5. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Narino, Colombia
Las Lajas Sanctuary nestled in Colombia is a basilica church constructed within the canyon of Guáitara River. Las Lajas translates to the ‘Shrine of Stone Slabs’. The Columbian holy structure is located at Ipiales, in the region of Nario, Ecuadorian border. The Catholic Church crowned Las Lajas Sanctuary in 1952 and was classified as a small basilica in 1994. A reported divine experience, a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1754, served as the motivation for the church’s design. Widespread pilgrimage to the place was sparked by this apparition.
The very first shrine, made of wood and straw, was established here in the mid-18th century. It was followed by a replacement with a larger shrine in 1802. It was enlarged and extended to the opposite end of the canyon by a bridge. The period between 1916 to 1949 experienced the renovation of the current Gothic Revival Style Church. Funded by local contributions, Lucindo Espinosa designed the current structure which was executed by Engineer Gualberto Perez.
Buttresses, spires, and vaulted ceilings are the main Gothic features that can be observed in the structure. The interiors are a combination of gold and white welcoming light with stained glass windows. The bridge extension is ornamented by statues of angels performing on musical instruments. A picture of the Holy Virgin has been painted on the stone wall. It’s a depiction of Madonna holding child Jesus with Saint Francis and Saint Dominic standing on either side.
What makes this church unique is its positioning above 150 feet river gorge. This example of Gothic architecture speaks for the beauty of the church. Although significant as per religious beliefs, the fascinating site draws many visitors.
6. Monasteries of Meteora, Greece
The Meteora is a famous central Greek rock formation that houses one of the biggest and most dramatically erected clusters of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, with Mount Athos being the most prominent structure. With a total of 24 monasteries, six are erected on massive natural columns and hill-like curved rocks that overshadow the surrounding landscape.
The rock formations have long been a place of prayer for the locals, but twenty-four monasteries were built upon them throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Meteora is a Greek word that means ‘suspended in the air’, and this is the most fitting description of these magnificent Monasteries of Meteora.
Bridges and staircases carved into the rocks provide access to the monasteries; nevertheless, prior to the 1920s, scaling the granite columns required the risky task of ascending staircases or being dragged up by cables and meshes. Since 1972, conservation measures have been underway to combat general degradation and the devastation caused by bombing during World War II. Waves from low-flying planes and destruction from the region’s periodic aftershocks and tremors are persistent dangers to the buildings.
It offers a breathtaking environment as well as byzantine monasteries located atop high cliffs that store precious treasures and wall murals. These were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988, and the region houses several endangered birds and floral species.
7. Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi Island, Russia
Kizhi Pogost is a historical landmark on Kizhi Island that dates back to the 17th century. The pogost is a fence-enclosed area with two big wooden churches and one bell tower. Although entirely made of wood, the pogost is known for its natural beauty and resilience. It was named under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1990.
The most notable component of the pogost is the Church of the Transfiguration. It is referred to as a summertime church since it is not equipped with heating systems and does not perform wintertime services. This church was erected in the place of an earlier structure that had been destroyed by lightning. The chief builder only used a single ax for the entire project, which he then hurled into the lake. This activity was performed with a belief that there won’t be another structure to match the authenticity of this one.
The church features 22 domes and is one of the highest wooden structures in the entire North of Europe, standing at 37 meters. Excluding the dome and top coverings, the Church of the Transfiguration was made entirely of wood, as per old Russian carpenter traditions. The 60,000 rooftop shingles are held in place by about 180,000 nails. All of the buildings were fashioned out of scribe-fitted horizontally placed logs with tax-cut interlocked corner joinery. The foundation is composed of an octahedral frame with four double staged side attachments.
Excluding the west aisle, which had a foundation completed in 1870, the structure is constructed on a stone base with no deep foundation. The flat roofs are made of spruce boards and the majority of the timber is pine. Aspen is used to adorn the domes. The whole form with unique domes attracts a lot of visitors to this church annually.
8. Chapel of St. Gildas, Brittany, France
The chapel of St. Gildas is situated upon the bank of Canal du Blavet. This chapel, constructed into the steep cliff, looks like a stone barn. It was originally a holy location for the Druids. As per the writings, Gildas traveled extensively around Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, and Scotland.
In 540 AD, he came to Brittany, France, and is claimed to have preached Christianity to the locals from a makeshift pulpit, which is currently housed within the church. It is nestled in one of the most appealing settings of Blavet Valley. Apart from the religious visit, it serves as a great spot for picnics. It is believed that Gildas and other monks stayed in the cave under the rock and attained healing powers.
The visual image of the Chapel of St. Gildas appears to be melding in the solid rock. The design appears to be mimicking the monk’s activities during his period of pilgrimage. The sturdy structure and the beautiful rustic walls have proved their strength by standing the test of time. The homogeneous design of the church offers sober aesthetics. The whole setting looks extremely natural and the appearance of rock offers it uniqueness.
The chapel is set in the perfect backdrop and offers a chance for visitors to admire the art and architecture through the means of this beautiful historic structure.
9. Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France
The finest example of Modern church architecture- Notre Dame du Haut situated in Ronchamp was built in 1954. Designed by renowned architect Le Corbusier, the chapel follows a simple design. The subtle structure, however, is complex and powerful. The design was proposed to replace the former destroyed church that had become a victim of World War II.
The location of Ronchamp has been a sacred pilgrim place steeped in Catholic history for a long time, but unlike its forebears, the church desired a clean area devoid of ostentatious ornamentation and decorative religious images following World War II. The design is delightfully modern. It doesn’t follow the typical Le Corbusier’s design language or even the International Style look; rather, it rests in the landscape as an artistic piece. Notre Dame du Haut is now one of the most significant religious structures of the 20th century due to its complexity to be labeled.
By not overdoing the program and omitting the traditional contemporary style from the concept, Corbusier was able to achieve spatial simplicity. Instead, Corbusier envisioned the environment as quiet and introspective. The pure white walls contribute to this pure ethos, creating a washed-out, otherworldly impression when light penetrates the church. The light’s influence generates expressive and emotional aspects, resulting in heightened experiences that are in sync with Christian beliefs.
The architectural style is more of an anomalous sculptural shape where the walls, rooftop, and base slope, unlike most of Corbusier’s previous works, are more of boxed, practical, and sterile forms. It is aesthetically and physically complicated, yet functionally it is straightforward with dual entrances, three chapels, and an altar.
10. St Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church, Chicago, IL, USA
The massive volume and gray tint of the St. Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church resemble an ideal Soviet Brutalist architecture. However, to most people’s surprise, it’s homed in the United States, not the Soviet Union. The church is popular around the world for its 13 golden domes. The domes are a representation of Jesus Christ with twelve apostles with the biggest dome symbolizing Christ.
This Greek-catholic structure was erected in 1956. The interiors of the church are ornamented in Byzantine frescoes. The walls on the second level of the structure are engraved with relief crossed geometric patterns. Initially, the materials used to compose crossers were left exposed which were later painted. The volume, massiveness, extremely modern domes, and color palette make this one of the most unique churches around the world.
The structure is an example of ultra-modern architecture in terms of its material usage and form. The interior design is a blend of the conventional Byzantine and Modern Baroque Styles. It bears traditional iconostasis that was authentically created for chapel on-site. Across the street from the church is a grotto shrine devoted to the Lady of Hoshiv. This altar is often used for outdoor activities. Christine, Fr. Pavlo’s spouse supervised the renovation and landscaping of the grotto in 2006. It is now used as a memorial yard devoted to departed parishioners.
11. Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil can be considered as the most fashionable church. The conical structure 75 meters in height has a base diameter of 96 meters. Constructed between 1964-1979, the structure accommodates 20,000 standing-capacity. The stunning, cone-shaped tower, from afar looks like a part of a space rocket. It is one of Brazil’s most recognizable monuments. Architect Edgar de Oliveira da Fonseca based the form on Mayan pyramids and it has resulted in a spectacular form.
The four stained glass windows of this modern and urban cathedral tower throw light in vibrant hues. The design breaks the typical design and has evolved as a new design language for cathedrals. The external form resembles a stadium rather than making an appearance of a church.
The primary entryway is adorned with 48 bronze plates with bas-reliefs depicting religious themes. The interior decor of the church is breathtaking, with four vibrant colors of rectilinear stained glass that soar 64 meters from tall ceilings over the wall surfaces in the 4 cardinal points, enabling the daylight to be dispersed in magnificent different colors varying with the hour of the day, giving the church a stunningly beautiful illumination and spiritual ambiance.
The Holy Museum in the basement houses a gallery of statues, murals, artworks, and lettering used to baptize the Portuguese aristocratic princes. The conical shape of the cathedral also represents the equal distance and intimacy of mankind with regard to God. And the lighting that flows across the four arms of the cross, which covers most of the ceiling and extends into the stained glass windows, represents God approaching and confronting humanity.
12. Paraportiani Church, Mykonos, Greece
The Paraportiani Church of Mykonos is one of the most popular architectural structures in Greece. The name of the church means side gate. And since the structure was erected on the location of one of the gateways of the Medieval stone walls, it’s named after that. A few parts of this elegant church have stood the test of time since 1425, whereas the rest of it was constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The site comprises four churches on the ground floor which served as the foundation for the fifth church. This has been erected on the top of these churches. This snow-white church faces the sea and serves as one of the examples of Cycladic architecture. It has been recognized as a national monument of Greece.
The irregular shape of the premise is a product of five churches composed together on a single site. Each church serves as an example of a unique architectural style. One can witness vernacular, Byzantine, western, and traditional styles on the site. It’s a unique design that lacks the typical ornamentation and is notable for its simple facade. The plain white exterior has a total absence of exterior decor. The huge dome on the top blends with the roof of the church and offers the structure an air of solidity. The plasticity and irregular form of this whitewashed structure is the main attraction.
With clean white walls, basic styling, a striking design, and even sides, Paraportiani Church is possibly the best representation of Cycladic architecture. It is one of the highly photographed churches from all over the world.
13. Stykkisholmskirkja Church, Iceland
The majestic scenery of Iceland is punctuated with equally impressive religious structures. Stykkishólmskirkja stands strong and tall which makes it visible from afar. The concrete structure, which accommodates 300 people, has a forechurch and a tower. It is built with a forechurch and a tower. The church facilitates one of Stykkishólmur’s attractions, along with two more churches held by the Stykkishólmur community. Built-in 1879, the historic church in Stykkishólmur stands at Aalgata 5 and has served the community for nearly a century.
Jón Haraldsson was the head architect who designed the structure. The artisan Kristn Gunnlaugsdóttir created the altarpiece, which depicts Mary with Child Jesus. The church is thought to have excellent acoustics, and the music scene is vibrant. It is a futuristic design with a sweeping bell tower that resembles a whale vertebra. This spectacular bell tower with two concrete fins is the most noticeable element of the church. The void formed in the concrete fin offers majestic views of spectacular skies. The interior is illuminated with suspended lighting and the painting.
The church seats an audience of 200 with the meeting house accommodating a maximum of 90 people. The spectacular curving white slopes and sharp edges of Stykkishólmskirkja are indicative of a glacier. The structure seems to sprout effortlessly from the frozen ground during the colder months when the neighboring countryside is blanketed in snow. The modern geometric design breaks the typical design notion of a church.
Undefined Church Architecture
Going through these unique styles, one can conclude that there are no principles when it comes to church architecture. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about the design vision and its implementation in the practical world of architecture. Church design can be as simple as plain whitewashed walls to as ornamented as the Gothic creations. The world of architecture and design never fails to amuse with its unique creations and marvels.