Finland / Germany / Iceland / Italy / U.K. / World

My Top 12 Cathedrals in Europe (1)

It’s my 100th blog post and it’s excited that I have been recording my footsteps traveling around the world for 23 months. Although I may have some serious backlog but I am trying my best to get there. I hope that readers would find the information useful in some ways and do feel free to leave comments to me for any feedback or questions.

So…I wondering what should be my 100th post; and I think it would be great to celebrate it with a compilation of the Cathedrals in Europe ~ 🙂 So it’s a list of my choices of the most “memorable” cathedrals in Europe – They are the top of the list based on its look, its scale or its uniqueness. It was quite hard for me to pick them so maybe it’s not the same for you. I am looking forward to hearing your experience as well!


#12 York Minster, York, United Kingdom

Takeaway: “Look back” to the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world

york

York is one of the most visited towns in the UK as it screams “England” to the utmost. The well-preserved medieval galore in this city has attracted waves of visitors to feel the Harry Potter vibe as if everyone has traveled back in time to the 14th century. As a focal point of the York’s old town, the magnificent York Minster the second-highest office of the Church of England. Although it may look too much alike with any Gothic style cathedral in the rest of the Europe, the West Window and the Great East Window, finished in 1338 and 1408 respectively, are the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world! So don’t forget to “look back” as you enter the Cathedral and I was amazed by the delicacy and refinement of an art piece that was preserved for over 670 years.

For the photos and more places to see in York, check out York – Time for Tea


#11 Tuomiokirkko, Helsinki, Finland

Takeaway: The unique presence of a Lutheran Cathedral and appreciation of “simplicity”

helsinki

The Helsinki Cathedral (or Tuomiokirkko) was originally called the Nicholas’ Church (from Tsar Nicholas) until the independence of Finland in 1917. It is also the most photographed building in Finland, as it uniquely stands in the heart of the city overlooking the beautiful Senate Square.

True, the interior is not as “mind-blowing or jaw-dropping” as many other Roman churches but the brightening white exterior and green domes are one-of-a-kinds. The church was built in the 1800s and I appreciate the simplicity of its Neo-classical style as the image of this church kind of stuck in my head ever since I saw a picture of it dominating the city’s skyline.

There are some Russian orthodox style churches in the city that are magnificent as well but the Helsinki Cathedral is still the center of attention.

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Temppeliaukio Church (Rock church) – a popular attraction in Helsinki

I would also like to mention the Temppeliaukio Church (Rock church), another Lutheran church in Helsinki that was built directly into the solid rock. Its copper dome and pipe organ also make it a unique church in the world!


#10 St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy

Takeaway: The flooding, the sinking… and ooh the pigeons, save Venice!

venice

Of course, the St Mark’s Basilica (or Basilica San Marco) has the sculptures, the frescos, the mosaic and the treasures that many cathedrals have, but I am not sure if there’s any other cathedral in the world has the uneven marble floor. The rise and fall of the mosaic were actually caused by flooding (which has been a constant struggle of Venice), but somehow it gave the pattern a nice effect and created ripples that look like waves in the ocean.

St. Mark’s Basilica was built in the 9th century (then burnt down and restored a couple of times) and it’s a fine example of Italo-Byzantine architecture – because both Byzantine and Italian architectures and craftsmen were employed in the construction and decoration. The interesting mix of design and its location at the “finest drawing room in Europe” definitely makes everyone give it a “WOW”.

For the photos and more places to see in Venice, check out Run! Run! Venice!


#9 Kölner Dom, Cologne, Germany

Takeaway: The largest façade of any church in the world and how to take a picture of it bending backward

cologne

Welcome to one of the world’s largest cathedrals – the mighty Cologne Cathedral (or Kölner Dom), a Classic Roman Catholic Church dating back to the mid-13th century. It is definitely the most eye-catching landmark of the city and basically the first thing people would see as it is right next to the Cologne train station. The construction of the façade of the cathedral began in the mid-14th century and then it was halted in 1473, the cathedral’s south tower was left undone with construction cranes remained on top for 400 years! The construction resumed in 1842 and finally completed in 1880.

The Cathedral was once the tallest skyscraper in the world for 4 years until the Washington Monument was erected and beat it by 4 meters. But still, the cathedral remained as the tallest gothic building in the world with the largest façade of a church. Therefore, “be warned”, taking a picture of the entire façade of the Cathedral could be a challenge.

For the photos and more places to see in Venice, check out A Day in Düsseldorf and Cologne


#8 Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík, Iceland

Takeaway: The unique design that resembles basalt lava flows, not a space shuttle (as much as how extraterrestrial Iceland looks)

reykjavik

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother iconic Lutheran Cathedral (while the Helsinki Cathedral being the other one) in North Europe. Of all the classic extravagant churches that were built all over Europe, these churches managed to stand out from the “norm” with its futuristic and simplistic design. Some say the cathedral looks like a space shuttle but in fact, the design resembles the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s extraterrestrial landscape. The tallest building in Iceland was located on a hill and could be seen almost anywhere in the capital of the country. My experience of visiting the northernmost capital in the world was simply incredible, and I enjoyed a panoramic view of Reykjavík at the top of the bell tower with colorful rooftops, glaciers, Atlantic Ocean and beyond…

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Panoramic view of Reykjavík


#7 Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom

Takeaway: A connection with the royal family means everything

london

The Westminster abbey was anything anyone could talk about. Located in the heart of Westminster in London next to the Parliament, Big Ben, and all iconic structures, the Westminster Abbey has been a there since 1000 years ago where countless monumental events were held at the Abbey. Since 1560, the building was no longer an abbey nor a cathedral, but a Church of England “Royal Peculiar” – which means instead of the diocese the building was subject to the direct jurisdiction of the monarch. From the coronations of kings and queens (with a few exceptions), royal weddings, funerals to burials, they were all taken place in the Westminster Abbey. Therefore it has a supreme status and close tie with the Royal families. On “usual” days, though, civilians like me could still enter the building for the daily service to worship, or a guided tour to marvel.

Btw, the Westminster Cathedral is a completely different building that looks completely different from the abbey! – check out London in a nutshell and you might find a picture of it 😛

25 thoughts on “My Top 12 Cathedrals in Europe (1)

  1. I really enjoy visiting cathedrals when I travel, so I will be making mental notes of what to see. The Hallgrímskirkja really makes quite a statement, doesn’t it? At first glance, I thought what an unusual contemporary building, but then I read your comment about the basaltic columns and I can see that in the design.

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    • Yes Lara and thanks for dropping by. Although Hallgrímskirkja may not be the most important cathedral in the world but the exterior left quite an impression to the audience ~

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  2. For me, entering a cathedral is like entering a work of art and a historical monument, because many of them are both. All the arches, chapels, stained glass, and frescoes took so many people and time to complete, it is awe-inspiring!

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    • Yes, many cathedrals are actually the landmark of the city. It’s hard to imagine how much work had put into these landmarks in terms of art, science and engineering discoveries.

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    • Thanks, Cindy. I am sure you have your own lists of favorites and I find it fun to compile it. Yes, I am embracing different architectural styles in the list! 🙂

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  3. From your list I’ve only been to one — St. Mark’s in Venice. My favorites would have to be St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican (it’s the largest churchin the world) and also the Milan Duomo, with it’s lace-like carvings. We even walked on the roof of that one! I personally love to explore any and all churches…a tiny medieval crumbling church in Auvillar, France… St Merry church in Paris, where the Revolution barricade was…to an old church designed by Michelangelo when he was in his 80’s in Rome (Santa Maria degli Angeli) with amazing light and science exhibits…to a one-room church in Varenna along the shores of Lake Como honoring St. John the Baptist, with 12th century frescos. They’re all free to see, and they all have incredible art, architecture, and history!

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  4. From your list, I’ve only been to one…St. Mark’s in Venice. Others that really stood out for me were St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican (I think it’s considered the largest church in the world) and Milan’s Duomo, which has a beautiful lace-like look to it with all the carvings. We even got to walk on the roof of that one! I, personally, love to explore any and all churches, from an old crumbling medieval church in Auvillar, France, to Notre Dame in Paris.

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    • Yes Milan’s Duomo is actually also very very impressive – but I decided to select cathedrals in other architectural styles so it didn’t make the cut. But I found it fun in the process of reviewing the list and so I got to know a lot more about each place!

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    • Thanks for stopping by and yes! York Minster is a very special and important cathedral in the world. But actually there are a lot more in Europe that make the selection so difficult! 💪🏻

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  5. Fantastic list! My favorite is Westminster, because that’s where my husband proposed :D! And also because I’m a massive fan of the British Royal Family, so obviously it’s going to be top of my list!! Tuomiokirkko though was very cool when I visited Finland and made for a really fascinating day out 🙂 Europe has some great cathedrals, even if you’re not religious they’re captivating buildings to visit 🙂

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  6. I always find cathedrals to be fascinating with their beautiful architecture. But the one that stands out is the one in Iceland. It looks so frightening and looks straight of a Hollywood Sci Fi movie 😀

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  7. Pingback: Run! Run! Venice! | Knycx

  8. Pingback: York – Time for Tea | Knycx

  9. Pingback: London in a Nutshell | Knycx

  10. Pingback: A Day in Düsseldorf and Cologne | Knycx

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