This blog is all about traveling, exploring the world and trying to understand better the cultures around us. Even though I am not religious, I was baptised as a Christian Orthodox. I am aware we are all going through some difficult times and I need to mention my article has nothing to do with religion of any kind.
I have been interested in the architecture of a spiritual building for quite a while now. Except for cemeteries, I feel the most at peace when entering such a house. And I always visit at least one in every country I go to. Even though I do not agree with most of the religions in the world (and I am saying most because I cannot disagree with the ones I haven’t read about), I do respect the meaning of them, as I believe everyone should. And I love observing little details or trying to see the bigger picture in each building.
Spain – Churches & Cathedrals
I have only explored bits of North of Spain and for a few hours, Barcelona. Sagrada Familia doesn’t need any more introduction, being an architectural wonder. Unfortunately, when I was in Santiago de Compostela the cathedral was under renovations. Luckily, there were plenty of other churches in the city or in Lugo. However, these are one of the few that I have not been inside of.
Turkey – Cathedral and Mosques
It’s been quite a few years since I was in Turkey. Long story short, I lived there for four months and still the majority of my exploring the touristic spots in Istanbul happened when a friend from back home visited me. It’s redundant to talk about the history impregnated on every wall of the city, especially the famous Hagia Sophia which from a cathedral became a mosque and now a museum. Turkey was also the first country where I went inside of a mosque, first one being Blue Mosque. And the differences from a church, the one I was used with, were more than stunning and fascinating.
Chile – Templo Bahá’í de Sudamérica
I didn’t know about this place before arriving in Chile, but as soon as I found out about it I was very curious to pay a visit. It is the only House of Worship of its kind in South America and it was inaugurated in 2016. In fact there are only 7 in total. So it felt rather special to try and see it with my own eyes. I just regret I haven’t been there after the sunset. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed when inside. I wrote on Fb about my experience being there and it feels only natural to post it here too.
However when I finally got there I was disappointed by the number of people, way too many. We were introduced to few rules before even approaching the temple: don’t take pictures inside, don’t talk, don’t eat other than the designated area and others. The next second after people start talking, quite loudly.
The area chosen for it is indeed very well chosen. You can see the whole city from above and you are just at the bottom of the Andes. It looks pretty, and I can only imagine how lovely it looks in the autumn with all its colours.
The thing I liked the most was a few songs I got to listen to while inside the temple, sang by very gifted people with serene voices. But the rest of people wondering around.. not a big fan of (and I know I am one of them, hahah).
Iceland – Secluded Churches
Iceland is known for having 10% of the population identifying as “convinced atheists” and a further 30% identifying as non-religious. The most famous one is the one in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja. But still, around the country you will see little churches with a lot of history behind them. And those are way more interesting to me.
Brazil – Rio de Janeiro Cathedral
Built in the shape of a Mayan pyramid in the late 60s throughout 70s, the Saint Sebastian Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro is the main church in the city. Brazil is known for being the country with the most Catholics in the world.
Cyprus – Greek Churches and Mosque
I have only visited Cyprus on the Greek side and it was so familiar to see the churches that are similar to the ones I am used to. However I didn’t try to get into the mosque, mostly because I just passed by it and didn’t have time.
Slovakia – The Blue Church
Officially known as The Church of St. Elizabeth, this art nouveau building is stunningly pretty. It is a bit of a walk from downtown area of Bratislava, but totally worth it. Once a school chapel, the very instagramable church is a Hungarian Catholic church build in the beginning of the 1900s.
Austria – St. Stephen’s Cathedral
To be fair I think I could have done just one article on churches in Austria. But as I have only visited a few in Vienna, maybe I will go back to this idea in the future. Until then, the famous Cathedral in Vienna it’s also known for it’s bell. I was there mid January so there was still a lot of Christmas trees around, which felt a bit odd to me. Not because January, but mostly because a tree in a church doesn’t add up. Or at least not in my book.
The access to the church is free, unless you want to visit every side of it including the it also has several catacombs where some of the Habsburgs are buried. I have not done that.
Uruguay – Montevideo
Sometimes I just go to random churches I see on my way. There was nothing special about this one, but still I found it peaceful and it was a moment for me to catch my breath from the melting sun.
Romania – Orthodox vs Catholic
Romania is my native country so naturally I visited the most churches in this country. Even though it is predominantly an Orthodox country, we have plenty of Catholic churches too (mosques and synagogues as well, but not as many). We are also known for the famous wooden churches of Maramureș County that are part of UNESCO heritage.
Fun fact about me: first time going inside a catholic church was ninth grade in high school, when before going for breakfast I would go and try to gather my thoughts. I was probably also praying at the time. I remember back them I loved that specific church because it had a bench where I could sit at. It still boggles my mind to thing in the Orthodox one people bring their own chair to sit on during mass.
What about you? Do you visit these houses of worship in your travels? Or do you have a favourite one? Is there a country where I should really visit a specific spiritual building?