France / Italy / Russia / Spain / turkey / World

My Top 12 Cathedral in Europe (2)

It’s my 100th blog post (and part 2 is technically the 101st) and it’s celebration of a compilation Cathedrals in Europe! 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. Here is the #6-#1 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!


#6 Santa Maria Del Fiore, Florence, Italy

Takeaway: The largest cathedral dome in the world painted with world-class fresco

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florence-1Standing at the Michelangelo Square, there’s the view of the city of Florence with a striking and eye-catching dome that dominates the skyline. The Giant dome of Santa Maria Del Fiore is the largest cathedral dome, and the largest brick and mortar one, in the world. How it was built remained a mystery as the architect Filippo Brunelleschi left no sketch or evidence about the know-how of constructing such a massive structure with only bricks and mortar 600 hundred years ago.

Not only the dome has an incredible “hardware”, but also an incredible “software” as it was painted by the architect’s student with the fresco of “Last judgment”.

Besides, the polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink were marvelous. More! – The breathtaking experience of climbing up 463 stairs to the top of the dome for a gorgeous panoramic view of the city. I could take a really close look to the fresco on the way up there.

Florence – Cathedrals, churches, mansions, and palaces… it takes days to look at them all! Check out The Birthplace of Renaissance


#5 Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Takeaway: The building withstood 1400 years of chaos and it remained powerful and strong. Embrace changes and persevere!

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instanbul-1The Byzantine-style building has undergone quite a few transformations over the last 1400 years. Originally an orthodox church, it then became a Roman Catholic church. Later it was again converted to a mosque, and finally, it was secularized and converted into a museum. Although it’s not a place of worship anymore, I could feel the sense of sanctuary washed over me as I entered the museum and I could see traces of both Christian and Muslim religion here and there. In a city like Istanbul, the only transcontinental metropolis that straddles the Bosphorus Strait between Europe and Asia, it’s also a symbol of the mix of oriental and western culture. It is simply unique. We arrived at the museum early in the morning before it opened and immediately it was swarmed with tourist from all over the world.

Learn more about must-visit places in Istanbul, check out Europe to the Left, Asia to the Right


#4 Notre Dame, Paris, France

Takeaway: Paris would always have a place in my heart 🙂 

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Of all the beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Europe, the Notre Dame is a classic and of its genre. Standing in the historic center of the city, Île de la Cité, the cathedral is a symbol of Paris’s culture and history. Notre Dame de Paris was built in the 1240s and every part of the structure was art. The north rose window, the flying buttresses, the gargoyle statue, the tympanum of the last judgment, and the altar… it would take days to appreciate them one by one.

I always stayed in the area every time I visited Paris and sometimes I could I see the beautiful cathedral from the window. Hop on a Seine River Cruise to view the architecture from the water, or go in and climb the stairs to view the city from the tower. Either way, they just make my love of Paris grew more and more.

The Île de la Cité has a lot of historic attractions and I would also like to recommend the La Sainte-Chapelle, simply because the royal chapel looks completely ordinary from the outside but it has the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collection anywhere in the world. Once I got in I was just “surprised”.

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#3 Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

Takeaway: Amazing thing comes in small package

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother Cathedral that was converted into a museum yet its religious flavor didn’t quite fade away. The Red Square in Moscow was intense to me – simply because as grand as the square already is, every side and every corner of it stands an important Russian building or monument that was insane. Among these buildings, the Saint Basil’s Cathedral managed to be the most eye-catching and recognizable of all. I am not sure if it was the Kremlin or GUM that looked so massive, or it really was true; my first impression of the Saint Basil’s Cathedral was kind of …. tiny. Once I got into the museum it didn’t has a grand hall that most cathedrals had and instead, there were passages that connected us to different rooms of different churches (the churches actually consisted of seven churches around the central core.) Anyway, the small size was made up with amazing frescos and valuable artifact on display. The museum has 2 floors – the ground floor is a foundation of the building and the churches are on the second floor.

Interesting, the layout of the cathedral was in perfect symmetry – a core in the center, four middle-sized churches built on the four compass points, and other smaller churches diagonally placed between the middle-sized churches. With multiple colors, size, and careful placements, the architectural wonder looks great and different in any angles and distance.

See the photos of Red Square and get more travelling tips of visiting Moscow, check out We are Here! Moscow! and Moscow! Onion Domes!


#2 Saint’s Peter’s Cathedral, Vatican, Italy

Takeaway: The LARGEST church in the world. Period.

st-peters-basilica-title

If you agree that size doesn’t mean everything then I am about to conflict everything I just said. I have never seen anything that’s quite big (Of course, Saint Peter’s Basilica is the largest cathedral in the world, and it’s 4 times larger than the second-largest cathedral in the world in terms of volume) and trust me: it was impressive, jaw-dropping, wowing. I had to gasp in awe as I enter because it was just so… huge. Every corner there is a sculpture, and every corner there is an art. My heading was spinning at all angles I was worried that I broke my neck. Of course, there were thousands of artworks that worth admirations, and I would probably go back to Rome to appreciate them one by one.

Talking about sending a postcard back home and Vatican and throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain over the shoulder…

About my trip to Rome in 24 hours – Check out Run! Run! Roma!


#1 Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain

Takeaway: If you have passion, you get inspired.

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Antoni Gaudi’s organic and unique style in architecture has influenced the world profoundly and I admire his work so much for a long time. “Organic” is such a great, and truthful word to describe Gaudi’s work. He regarded a building as a human body covered with skin, the structure itself were flesh and bones, so it’s curvy, and it has an element of randomness to the way he created art. Antoni Gaudi has countless masterpieces left behind and his final unfinished project, the Sagrada Familia, alone is already a lot to talk about.

It’s been under construction for 135 years and probably would take 20 more years to build. His organic interpretation of nature and how he applied it to his architectural work just amazed me profoundly. I am the MOST passionate (& fascinated :P) about the 2 façades – the Nativity Façade and the Passion Façade. One of them is complicated, classic and busy. The opposite one is clean, simple, modern… The Nativity Façade depicts the birth of Jesus Christ, sculptures (plants and animals and saints) organically ornate the façade without an inch of blank space. The Passion Façade represents the Passion of the Christ. The entire storyline is vividly laid out one by one on the façade with modern giant sculptures.

The 2 façades face Northeast and Southwest, forward and backward, covered and bare, hard and soft, organic and passionate, life and death…

Check out the 4 Gaudi’s amazing works in Barcelona and more photos at The Gaudi’s Muse

24 thoughts on “My Top 12 Cathedral in Europe (2)

  1. Pingback: Moscow! Onion Domes! | Knycx

  2. Compiling “top [put whatever number you want here]” list of any attractions in the world is so difficult. It is such a subjective matter. I appreciate your selection: excellent and unique choices. I want to share with you one of my favorites, which is lesser known albeit deserves more attention: The Duomo (Cathedral) of Palermo, Sicily. Built in the 12th century, it’s architecture encompasses a wide variety of styles through eventful Sicilian history.

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    • Thanks Travelling Bytes for stopping by. Yes, it’s so hard to select because there are so many choices! I would love to share mine and hopefully would see yours, and thanks a lot for introducing the Duomo of Palermo, and aren’t all the churches in Italy are just great? 😛 Actually I should have put Milan’s Duomo and St Paul’s Cathedral but ultimately I decided to embrace a more diversed architectural styles. 🙂

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  3. Thank you for such a lovely post! When in Europe I don’t think many people really get to experience the cathedrals and I am happy to see you were able to hit a lot of them on your trip! They are definitely so overlooked, but they represent so much culture. I definitely would like to visit a few this year when I head over there!

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    • Thanks Stephanie and I think Cathedrals are usually the landmark of the city but not many of them took time to appreciate the stories behind them. Hopefully more people will! 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

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  4. There are so many cathedrals to visit in Europe, and you’ve certainly highlighted some of the most grand here. I’ve been to four on this list (plus so many others). The two I haven’t been to yet — St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and Hagia Sophia — I’d love to see in person someday. St. Basil’s is so unique and colorful, while Hagia Sophia has such an interesting history between the Christian and Muslim faiths.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I selected them based on their popularity, architectural style and uniqueness. So yes, each one of them is rather special! What about your own favourites? 😊

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  5. Saint’s Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican City would be the cathedral I’d be most interested in photographing. As you say, it’s the largest cathedral in the world. You could easily spend days exploring it.

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  6. Fascinating post – I’ve ticked most of these off the list. I find that most cathedrals or churches that we’re told to visit in blogs are really rather ordinary (or perhaps I’ve reached ‘religious building saturation’). However, when I travel I definitely make sure I visit them if they’re as special or impressive as the ones you’ve written about here.

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    • Yeah Anf and I think we see them because these are usually the landmarks of the city and most of the impressive architectural tricks were used on cathedrals. 😂. Now modern people don’t see cathedrals as important.~

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

  8. Pingback: Florence: The Birthplace of Renaissance | Knycx

  9. Pingback: Europe on the left, Asia on the right | Knycx

  10. Pingback: The Gaudi’s Muse | Knycx

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