10 Beautiful Churches

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Lists! > Ten Beautiful Churches

10 Beautiful Churches

For the Catholics among you, March 5th is a very important day -- Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lent season, the forty days before Easter Sunday.  It is a time of self-sacrifice and spiritual renewal, when one is required to give up a pleasure or need for forty days.

In honor of this season, I decided to select ten beautiful churches that you might consider visiting next time you are in Europe.  This not a "top ten" list per se, as I selected these churches as a representation of the types you might see, though my top three are definitely my Top Three.  Enjoy the list, and God Bless you this Easter Season!

#10.  Bright Yellow Churches (like the St. Stephen's Basilica in Eger, Hungary)

One of the things that struck me about churches in central Europe was the predominance of bright yellow. (Some of my contemporaries might use a different adjective relating to the excretory system.)  Indeed, bright yellow churches were very common in places I've visited in Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

#9.  The "Signature" Church (like the Frauenkirche in Nuremberg, Germany)

Most churches follow a particular style, but some are absolutely unique.  Nuremberg's Frauenkirche is one of them.  It's shape is truly unusual, but it is beautiful.  And Nuremberg's not half-bad, either.

#8.  The Town Church Perched on the Highest Ground (such as in Fumay, France)

The typical town church is the most recognizable structure around, perched on the highest ground and built taller than any other structure.  And the bells still ring every fifteen minutes or half-hour, then sing a lengthy tune when Mass is set to begun.  Few things remind one of small town life than the town church.  

Pick any small town in France, Germany, or Switzerland and you'll like see scenes like this one.

#7.  Really Old, Old Churches (like the Johannesritskapelle, Rheinfelden, Switzerland)

Some churches you will look at and be amazed that they are 300, 400, 500 years old.  Then you run into the real old ones, and they aren't always the biggest or most elaborate.  Some of them, like this one, are more like 1200 years old and still in use. 

#6.  Churches on Every Corner (Like this street in Warsaw, Poland)

Many cities and towns in western Europe have that one big church in the center with a market square around it, and then maybe two or three small ones scattered about for good measure.  In Central Europe, however, the churches are numerous and built on the street, almost like another storefront.  I saw similar arrangements in Linz, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia.

#5.  Monasteries (like Orval, Belgium)

The Ardennes region of northern France and southern Belgium has a number of old Cistercian monasteries, many of which are still active and double as museums.

They also specialize in cheeses and beers.  In fact, six of Belgium's abbeys are active breweries, manufacturing unique, traditional Trappist ales that are totally unlike your standard lager.  But to appreciate the ales, you have to appreciate the places they were made and the lifestyles of the monks.

#4.  Russian Orthodox Cathedrals (like this one from Tallinn)

Russian Orthodox Cathedrals rank among the most colorful and intensely decorated churches you will see.  But you don't have to go all the way to Estonia to see one.  I found marvelous examples in Nice, France and Darmstadt, Germany.

#3.  Cologne Dom, Germany

The Cologne Dom is the most massive Cathedral in Europe, and the highlight of northwest Germany.  Those in good shape can spend a couple Euro and make the 510-step climb to the top and get great views of the Rhein River.  I've done it three times, and I never tire of the view!  With the Dom being right next door to the train station, I often visit it if I have a long connection.

#2. Duomo, Milano, Italy

This is not the sort of church you see every day.  Clearly the most ornate and imposing structure you will ever see.  But it looks perfectly in place with the Galleria to its right and the beautiful piazza before it.

The interior was just as wild.  Admittedly, it was so wild, that while I was attending Mass there, I found the elaborate decor quite a distraction!  

#1.  Ulm Cathedral, Germany

The tallest Cathedral spire in the world gets the top nod!

The interior of the Ulm Cathedral is grand, but the view from the top is what draws the crowds.  For three Euro, you can try your luck and climb the 786 steps to the top and see Ulm (and practically all of Baden-Württemberg) like you've never seen it before.  I've climbed it four times myself, and each time my knees tell me I should never do it again!  (Maybe I'll give up climbing church spires for Lent?)

Have a happy and spiritually rewarding Lenten season!

(c) 2003 Tom Galvin


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