Wherever we travel, we tend to seek out and photograph the world’s most beautiful cathedrals. Whether you’re religious or not, these buildings are a display of stunning architecture and history that tell a story, both of the city itself and the culture that surrounds it.
There are hundreds of beautiful cathedrals to see around the world and we’ve never found one that didn’t inspire us. Here are a few of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia
The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, commonly known as Saint Basil’s Cathedral, is a church in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. The building, now a museum, was built from 1555–61 on orders from Ivan the Terrible and commemorates the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan.
A world famous landmark, it was the city’s tallest building until the completion of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in 1600.
Cathedral of Maringa in Brazil
Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora da Glória is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in downtown Maringá, Paraná, Brazil, reaching 124 m in height. It was completed in 1972 and is the tallest church in South America and the 25th tallest in the world.
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sophia is a former Christian patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as a Greek Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire.
The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.
» Read about the top things to do in Istanbul, Turkey.
Basilica of the National Vow, Ecuador
The Basilica of the National Vow is a Roman Catholic church located in the historic center of Quito, Ecuador. It is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. The basilica remains technically “unfinished.” Local legend says that when the Basílica is completed, the end of the world will come.
Helsinki Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki Cathedral is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki, located in the neighbourhood of Kruununhaka in the centre of Helsinki, Finland.
The church was originally built from 1830-1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It was also known as St Nicholas’ Church until the independence of Finland in 1917.
Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia, Dominican Republic
The Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and cathedral in Dominican Republic dedicated to Our Lady of Altagracia, patroness of the nation.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Ouagadougou Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Ouagadougou is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.
It was built in the 1930s and is one of the largest cathedrals in the western African countries. The building material is mudbrick, traditional in the region. The architecture is reminiscent of a European Romanesque basilica.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, France
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.
» Read about the top things to see in Paris, France.
The Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade, Serbia
The Church of Saint Sava is a Serbian Orthodox church located on the Vračar plateau in Belgrade. It is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world and ranks among the largest church buildings in the world.
The Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor in Barcelona, Spain
The Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica located on the summit of Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The building is the work of the Spanish Catalan architect Enric Sagnier and was completed by his son Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal.
The construction of the church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, lasted from 1902 to 1961.
» Read about the top things to do in Barcelona, Spain.
Uspensky Orthodox Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland
Uspenski Cathedral is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki, Finland, dedicated to the Dormition of theTheotokos (the Virgin Mary). Its name comes from the Old Church Slavonic word uspenie, which denotes the Dormition. Designed by the Russian architect Aleksey Gornostayev (1808–1862). The cathedral was built after his death in 1862–1868.
Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, Georgia
The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi commonly known as Sameba is the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church located in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
Constructed between 1995 and 2004, it is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world and considered to be one of the largest religious buildings in the South Caucasus along with the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan (known as the Cathedral of Yerevan).
Palma Cathedral in Mallorca, Spain
The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, more commonly referred to as La Seu, is a Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral located in Palma, Mallorca, Spain, built on the site of a pre-existing Arab mosque.
Designed in the Catalan Gothic style but with Northern European influences, it was begun by King James I of Aragon in 1229 but finished only in 1601.
» See our guide to planning a trip to Mallorca, Spain.
Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland
Inspired by Icelandic traditions, this modern cathedral, consecrated in 1986, has a 73m-high tower. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson’s design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland‘s landscape.
It took 38 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986.
» Read our travel guide for Reykjavik, Iceland.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy
The Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church of Florence, Italy. Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.
» Read about all the top things to do and see in Florence.
Duomo di Milano in Milan, Italy
Milan Cathedral is the cathedral church of Milan, Italy. Dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, currently Cardinal Angelo Scola. The Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete.
» Read about the top things to do in Milan.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria
The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Built in Neo-Byzantine style, it serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, as well as one of Sofia’s symbols and primary tourist attractions.
The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg, Russia. Other names include the Church on Spilt Blood and the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ. This Church was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was severely wounded and died in March 1881.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral in the Tallinn Old Town, Estonia. It was built to a design by Mikhail Preobrazhensky in a typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire.
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Tallinn’s largest and grandest orthodox cupola cathedral. It is dedicated to Saint Alexander Nevsky who in 1242 won the Battle of the Ice on Lake Peipus, in the territorial waters of present-day Estonia.
» Read more about what to eat in Tallinn, Estonia.
Saint Gregory The Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan, Armenia
The Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Yerevan is currently the largest cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the world, effectively making it the current largest Armenian cathedral. The cathedral was constructed by the initiative of Catholicos Vazgen I.
Its construction started on April 7th, 1997 with a ground blessing service conducted by Catholicos Karekin I. The church complex was designed by the architect Stepan Kurkchyan and the construction was completed in 2001.
» Read more about what to do in Yerevan, Armenia.
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome. Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world.
While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”.
Santuario de Las Lajas, Narino, Colombia
Las Lajas Sanctuary is a basilica church located in the southern Colombian Department of Narino, in the municipality of Ipiales, and is built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River. The present church was built in a Gothic Revival style between 1916 and 1949, taking up a total time frame of 33 years to build.
Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City, Mexico
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heavens is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico. It is situated atop the former Aztec sacred precinct near the Templo Mayor on the northern side of the Plaza de la Constitución in Downtown Mexico City.
» Read more about what to do in Mexico City.
Cathedral in Guadalajara, Mexico
The Guadalajara Cathedral or Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady, located in Guadalajara, Jalisco, is the Roman Catholic cathedral of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara and a minor basilica. It is built in the Spanish Renaissance style, except its Neo-gothic spires.
Catedral de Sevilla, Spain
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as Seville Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Seville, Andalusia, Spain. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the adjoining Alcázar palace complex and the General Archive of the Indies.
» Read more about what to do and eat in Sevilla, Spain.
(Note: All descriptions are from Wikipedia)
When you’re traveling, do you seek out cathedrals and churches to photograph? Where is your favorite or most inspiring cathedral? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries.