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16 Divinely Inspired Pieces of Architecture

21 June 2011 No Comment

Our beautiful world is filled with wonderful pieces of architecture. Regarding religious architecture, today there are several churches that live on since the 13th century or even earlier times, which are worth knowing about.

In this short incursion into the history of sacred places all over the World, you will have the opportunity to make acquaintance with 16 examples of beautiful churches – some notable for their exterior, while others inspiring awe through the beautiful frescoes painted on the ceilings.

Saint-Michel D’Aiguilhe – Aiguilhe, France

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This beautiful construction is a chapel upon a hill top, and it was constructed as early as 962. The chapel is at a height of 279 feet, and visitors can reach it by climbing the almost 300 steps that are carved in stone.

The chapel was built as a dedication to the return of St. James from pilgrimage. What is quite interesting to note is that history says that this is the place where Isabelle Romee, the mother of Joan of Arc usually came to pray. The little chapel receives a lot of visitors from all over the world on a regular basis.

Grundtvig’s Church – Copenhagen, Denmark

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The architecture of this church is somewhat unusual, compared to what people in general expect when thinking of “cathedrals” or “churches”. It is built in the expressionist style, and it belongs to the Lutheran religious denomination.

The church was built on the design of architect Jensen Klint, who wanted a fusion between Gothic architectural style and Brick Expressionism (in which the predominant construction material is the brick or the tile which is visible in the structure of the building). The buildings that surround the church have been deliberately constructed so as to “match” in design with the church.

The Saint Ignazio Church Ceiling – Italy, Rome

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The beautiful church of Sant’Ignazio can be found in Rome, and it was completed in 1650. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this church lies in its interior design. The painter who did much of the work on the walls of the church is Andrea Pozzo (17th century).

He basically created an illusion, by using three dimensional art work (or perspectival projection), and creating what is perceived by the human eye as a “dome”, or an interior cupola illusion, when actually there is only a simple wall surface.

The painted dome style art is not the only one attraction within the church, but so are the wonderful decorations of marble, precious stones and golden details all over the interior. The work of art is called “Cupola Illusionistica” (1685).

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral – Liverpool, England

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Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral belongs to the Roman Catholic denomination, and it has been constructed based on the designs of Frederick Gibberd. Groundbreaking started in 1962, and took five years to complete.

One of the most beautiful symbols of the cathedral is its altar which is right in the center of the circular interior. It is entirely built of white marble, and it is 3 meters long. Marble is a material widely used in the interior, such as on the floor which is made of a grey and white marble combination.

Under the Liverpool Metropolitan there is a crypt made of granite and brick and it was based on the designs of Sir Edwin Lutyens. He would have been the main designer of the cathedral as well, but officials found his design extremely expensive, so the idea was abandoned. In 2009, the crypt underwent major refurbishments, with a cost of approximately £3 million.

The Ceiling of “La Sagrada Familia” – Barcelona, Spain

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La Sagrada Familia is a church located in Barcelona Spain, and it is a landmark that is visited annually by millions of tourists. This wonderful piece of architecture is a project started by famous Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi.

The interior is made up of huge columns that give the impression of a stunningly beautiful cave-like structure with white pillars of stone reaching 45 meters in height. The whole interior is based on the designs of master Gaudi, and there is no one single flat element on the ceiling of the church (which is normally a characteristic of Gaudi’s architectural style).

Sistine Chapel – Vatican City

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The Sistine Chapel is the most beautiful and one of the most admired sacred places on Earth. Both the exterior and the interior designs are breathtaking and the frescoes on the walls are all existent thanks to the contributions of the greatest artists of the Renaissance period such as Michelangelo, Sandro Boticelli, Bernini and Raphael.

One of the master pieces of Michelangelo, “The Last Judgment” is decorating the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo himself worked at painting the ceiling of the chapel for four years (1508-1512) and he managed to cover with his stunning creations 12,000 square feet in total during this time.

Church of Light – Ibaraki Kasugaoka, Japan

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The church is located in Ibaraki, Japan and it was completed in 1989. The “Church of Light” imposes through its unique architectural style which combines Zen philosophy, with existential beliefs. The construction is one of the trademarks and most famous structures of architect Tadao Ando.

The most impressive feature of the church is basically the fact there is a huge space in the wall, right behind the altar, in the shape of a cross. Through this space, the sun rays enter and then a huge “fiery” cross can be seen by those who sit inside. The church has sparked many controversies though, because it has quite a barren interior with its huge solid grayish walls and not too many decorative features.

Duomo di Milano – Milan, Italy

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This wonderful piece of architecture can be found in Milan (Lombardy region, northern Italy). The most interesting and awing thing about it, is that it took 600 years until it could be finally completed (1386- 1965).

A statue of Napoleon can also be spotted on top of one of the spires of the church (he was crowned as the King of Italy right here in the Duomo di Milano). The cathedral belongs to the Gothic architectural style with its representative domes and spires decorating it.

The Cathedral of Maringa – Parana, Brazil

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This church has an innovative architectural style, given its unusual shape for a Roman Catholic Cathedral. The construction was completed back in 1972, yet it still is the tallest church in South America.

The designer was Jose Augusto Bellucci, who used as main inspiration for the church’s design the Soviet Sputnik Satellites (one can clearly note the resemblance in the conical structure of the cathedral). It is also the 16th tallest church in the World.

The Church of Saint George – Lalibela, Ethiopia

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This is a monolithic church belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox denomination. The church has been completely carved in solid rock in the shape of a cross. It is important to know that in the Lalibelia region there are 11 such churches, but the church of Saint George is the most famous of all.

It’s “construction”, or rather “carving” took place as early as the 13th century, and today it belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Informally, the church is called the “8th Wonder of the World”.

Madonna delle Lacrime” Sanctuary – Sicily, Italy

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The formal name of this sanctuary is Madonna delle Lacrime, and it translates as “Our Lady of the Tears”. It is a wonderful structure built in a quite modernistic and unusual style, given the fact that it belongs to the Roman Catholic religious denomination.

It is a pilgrimage church by tradition, receiving thousands of visitors from all corners of the world on an annual basis.

Cathedral of Brasilia – Brasilia, Brazil

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This beautiful structure belongs to the innovative church constructions list and it was designed by famous architect Oscar Niemayer, a follower of international modern architecture. The Cathedral of Brasilia was completed in 1970.

This hyperboloid structure resembles two hands that are reaching towards the heavens. For its construction, 16 pieces of concrete which are identical (weighing 90 t) were used.

Ascension Cathedral – Kazakhstan

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This wonderful fairy tale like construction resembles a palace; but it is actually a Russian orthodox cathedral located in the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan. The structure is made of wood, and very beautifully decorated with golden details and painted in yellow.

It is the second tallest building in the World which is made entirely of wood. The structure was completed in 1907, and it is also known as the Zenkov Cathedral.

Notre Dame du Haut- Ronchamp, France

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This church is perhaps the finest example of religious architecture of the 20th century, and it was built on the design of famous architect Le Corbusier. Notre Dame du Haut was completed in 1954.

What Corbusier wanted to express through his design was simplicity, and in general a sculptural style and he tried to avoid the so called “machine age” architectural style.

St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery – Kiev, Ukraine

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The original construction of this beautiful and vividly colored monastery started in the Middle Ages. However, the Soviet authorities demolished it in the 1930’s and after Ukraine gained its independence, it was been rebuilt (1999).

The architectural style of the monastery is that of Ukrainian Baroque, and its affiliation is Eastern Orthodox.

St. Basil’s Cathedral – Moscow, Russia

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The church can be found on the “Red Square” of Moscow, and it was built between 1555 and 1561. The entire structure is a wonderful display of color and beauty. The church is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites from 1990.

The church has 9 chapels of different sizes, and its spires are all painted in different vivid colors- dark blue, red, green, orange, yellow, white and Earth tones.

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