Architecture has always had a role to play in religious worship. Here are the 13 most beautiful religious buildings in the world.
1. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is, quite literally, heaven on earth. Angkor is the earthly representation of Mt Meru, the Mt Olympus of the Hindu faith and the abode of ancient gods. The ‘temple that is a city’, Angkor Wat is the perfect fusion of creative ambition and spiritual devotion. The Cambodian god-kings of old each strove to better their ancestors’ structures in size, scale and symmetry, culminating in what is believed to be the world’s largest religious building, the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat.
2. Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun, more well-known among foreigners as the White Temple, is an unconventional Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Designed in 1997 by noted Thai painter-turned-architect Chalermchai Kositpipat, this magnificent temple is a bizarre blend of traditional Thai architecture and the surreal. The main building is painted white to symbolise Buddha’s purity, and is covered in mosaics of mirrors, sparkling in the sun. All around the complex are intricate sculptures of demons, skulls, severed heads handing from trees and other bizarre objects.
3. Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A
Visit the dome-shaped auditorium, which is so acoustically sensitive that a pin dropped at the pulpit can be clearly heard at the back of the hall, 170 feet away. Listen to the symphony of sound from one of the world’s great musical instruments, a magnificent pipe organ with 11,623 pipes
4. Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki, Finland
Temppeliaukio Church aka ‘the Rock Church’ is an incredible building in Helsinki, Finland. It was designed by brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and was consecrated in 1969. The Lutheran Church is one of Helsinki’s most popular tourist attractions with over 500,000 annual visitors.
5. St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, England
St. Michael’s Mount is a rocky island 5 miles south of Penzance in Cornwall, England. Surmounted by an fortress-like abbey dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, this atmospheric sacred site has much in common with its namesake across the channel, Mont-St-Michel in France.
6. Pura Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia
The tiny island was formed by the gradual erosion of the ocean tide over thousands of years. The temple of Tanah Lot is said to have been founded by the 16th-century priest Nirartha, one of the last priests to come to Bali from Java.
7. Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Mont Saint-Michel is a rocky tidal island located in French Normandy. The Mount and its bay are listed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
Just 600 meters from the coastline, this Benedictine abbey stands with a magnetic and mysterious beauty at the highest point of the small rock formation. The island has been under various controls, from the Vikings to Benedictine monks, and this complex past is palpable.
8. Dilwara Temple, Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India
Dilwara Jain Temples is one of the finest Jain temple known world over for its extraordinary architecture and marvelous marble stone carvings, some experts also consider it architecturally superior to the Taj Mahal
9. Sultan Ahmed ‘Blue’ Mosque and Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The Blue Mosque (Called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is an historical mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design.Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 years, during the rule of Ahmed I. just like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasa and a hospice.Besides still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul.
10. Prambanan, Central Java, Indonesia
Built in the 10th century, this is the largest temple compound dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Rising above the centre of the last of these concentric squares are three temples decorated with reliefs illustrating the epic of the Ramayana, dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) and three temples dedicated to the animals who serve them.
11. Potala Palace, Tibet, China
The structure as it stands now was constructed under the rule of the 5th Dalai Lama in 1645, taking more than 50 years to complete. Potala Palace served as the seat of government as well the winter residence of the Dalai Lamas. ‘The White Palace’ functions as the living quarters of the Dalai Lama, while ‘The Red Palace’ is dedicated to prayer and the religious teaching of Tibetan Buddhism. With a towering 13 stories and over a thousand rooms, it is such an impressive structure that Zhou Enlai even sent his own troops to defend it from the Red Guards during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
12. Teotihuacan, Mexico City, Mexico
The ruins of Teotihuacan archaeological site are among the most remarkable in Mexico. The Aztecs believed that the gods created the universe in this ancient city that once flourished as the epicenter of culture and commerce during Mesoamerica’s Classic period. Located about 50 km (30 miles) north of Mexico City makes an ideal day trip for history and anthropology buffs.
13. The Marble Mountains, South of Danang City, Vietnam
A cluster of five hills made from limestone and marble, Marble Mountains are a well-known pilgrimage site with peaks, caves, tunnels and temples all just waiting to be discovered. Named after the elements metal, wood, water, fire and earth, Marble Mountains exist in a coastal area that is renowned for stone-cutting and sculpture about 9km south of Danang.The caves within the mountains hold many secrets including bullet holes from when troops used to spy on the US soldiers relaxing on China Beach below and buildings standing within the caves and grottoes.