Beautiful Churches in Europe

posted by Sharon August 11, 2019 29 Comments
Berlin Cathedral

People from all over the world watched the news from Paris last April as fire raged in the iconic Notre Dame cathedral. Footage of the heavy old steeple breaking off and toppling to the ground broke our hearts. Reconstruction is already underway so Notre Dame can once again open the doors and welcome people in to bask in its quiet elegance. Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of churches large and small, old and new-ish, across Europe. Here are a few of my favorites, along with some of the reasons I recommend you visit.

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

This beautiful chapel is just a few blocks from its famed neighbor Notre Dame, but it is easy to miss. From the outside, it looks rather small and drab. Paris Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle dates from 1248 and was a bit grimy before a recent cleaning. The glory of this church is not the exterior but rather the stained glass windows seen from the inside looking out. Once in the church, you will be astounded by more than 6,000 square feet of intricately colored glass. The panes depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments and recount the history of the world up to the 13th century. Stand here and you are surrounded by shimmering, colorful art.Paris Sainte-Chapelle

Paris Sainte-ChapelleSainte-Chapelle Paris

The Berlin Cathedral

The impressive Berlin Cathedral, with its magnificent dome, is a landmark in central Berlin. The church sits among the stately museums on Museum Island, with the Spree River flowing nearby. The Berlin Cathedral is the largest Protestant church in the area and is well worth a tour. Berlin Cathedral

A church was first built on this site in the fifteenth century. This was the court church to the Hohenzollern dynasty, the Prussian rulers, and then the German Emperors. Due to fires and restorations that destroyed earlier churches, the baroque-style Berlin Cathedral on the island today dates from 1905. Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to build a cathedral to rival St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. And he did. Berlin Cathedral

The Berlin Cathedral, damaged in World War II, was finally restored in the 1990s. Today, the interior is lovely, with a large pipe organ. A skylight of stained glass is one of the artistic touches. Berlin Cathedral

Berlin CathedralBerlin CathedralWhat I loved most about the Berlin Cathedral was the view from the dome. Climb 270 steps, and you are looking down at the river, watching the city from your perch far above where you stand with the angels. Berlin Cathedral

Berlin CathedralSt. Vitus Cathedral, Prague

This cathedral in the castle grounds, and it soars above everything else. St. Vitus Cathedral impressed me with its imposing architecture. The line to get inside was very long, so I enjoyed this beauty mainly from the outside. Prague Castle

Details such as the embellishment on a door and the many gargoyles kept my attention for a long walk around this large church. Prague CastlePrague Castle

St Vitus Cathedral PragueThe one section of this cathedral I was able to go into was the dome — more stair climbing! I was a bit concerned about the person in front of me on the winding stone stairway. It’s 270 steps, and I was certainly out of breath, but she was almost hyperventilating. The views from the top were well worth the effort, though. Prague Castle

St Vitus Cathedral PragueSt Vitus Cathedral PragueSt Vitus Cathedral PraguePrague CastleWestminster Abbey, London

Sometimes the history of a cathedral in Europe is one of the most compelling reasons to visit. In the U.S., our known history doesn’t go back nearly as far so I’m amazed at the layers of centuries of life in Europe. And Westminster Abbey is a church rich in history. Westminster Abbey LondonThe present abbey dates from 1245, though a church has been on the property since 1066. The coronation of every English monarch has taken place here since the founding of the church. The last was Queen Elizabeth’s in 1953. No photos are allowed inside, but when you visit, you can see the resting places of royalty and artists, as well as walking in the footsteps of so many well known people. Westminster Abbey London

Westminster Abbey LondonI highly recommend a tour of the inside of the abbey so you can hear the many stories of the people interred here. London Walks provided an informative and lively tour. For example, we learned of the writer who was too poor to book a six-foot space for his final resting place, but he could afford a few feet. So he was buried standing up. When you’re here, wander next door to St. Margaret’s Church, a small building on the same grounds as the abbey. It’s charming, and offers intriguing tributes to the departed who “fell asleep” and to the poor soul “ejected” from his first grave. Westminster Abbey London

Westminster Abbey LondonWestminster Abbey London

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

This is one of Vienna’s most popular landmarks, attracting more than a million visitors each year. The people of Austria helped restore this treasured church after it was damaged in World War II. The church describes itself as “faith set in stone.” A fun fact is that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart got married here in 1782. I managed to see the inside as well as the exterior of this European beauty.

St Stephens Cathedral Vienna

St Stephens Cathedral ViennaSt Stephens Cathedral ViennaSt Stephens Cathedral ViennaViennaSt. Stephen’s Cathedral offers beauty, history, and a view. Climbing the dome (343 steps), I found an inscription in the inside stone wall. St Stephens Vienna

I learned that an Allied bomber aiming for a nearby industrial plant dropped a bomb on the church by mistake on April 11, 1945. Fire ravaged the church for 4 days. One casualty was the giant bell. Here’s the empty place where it hung. A bell is now in another tower. The roof of the cathedral was also destroyed. It’s been rebuilt with lovely mosaic tiles. And the view over the city is magnificent.Vienna St Stephens

Vienna St StephensViennaChapel at Flossenburg Concentration Camp and Memorial

This tiny chapel sits in what was a concentration camp, and you have likely not heard of it. It’s the opposite kind of church from Notre Dame in Paris or Westminster Abbey. It’s in a corner of Germany far from major cities, and is simply called the “chapel.” But I found a visit here so moving. This chapel was built by Polish people in remembrance of those who suffered and lost their lives at Flossenburg during World War II. The stained glass windows depict scenes of the camp and the badge worn by prisoners. Flossenburg

FlossenburgFlossenburgThe chapel is in the shadow of a guard tower, and it looks out on the crematorium. It’s a somber place of honor, offering a way to look at the past and move into the future with hope. FlossenburgFlossenburg

How about you? Have you visited a cathedral that’s been memorable for its history, architecture, views? I’m looking forward to exploring more cathedrals, and I would love to hear your experiences! Westminster Abbey London

 

 

Practical Information

All of these churches hold services, and many of them also host concerts and special events. Before you go, check the local schedule to make sure the church will be open to visitors. Of course, you may also want to plan to take in a concert or attend a service.

Sainte-Chapelle is open 9 am to 7 pm; cost is 10 Euros

Berlin Cathedral is open midday to 8 pm Sunday, Monday through Saturday 9 am to 8 pm; cost is 7 Euro

St. Vitus Cathedral is open Sunday noon to 5, Monday through Saturday 9 to 5; cost is 350 CZK (about $15)

Westminster Abbey suggests checking the website, as they are closed to visitors for various reasons; cost is 23 Euro, with a highlights tour Wednesday evening when most parts of the abbey are closed.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is open Sunday from 7 am to 10 pm, Monday through Saturday 6 am to 10 pm; cost of 15 Euro includes audio guide

Flossenburg Chapel is open 9 am to 5 pm daily; free

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29 Comments

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Andrew August 11, 2019 at 11:26 am

That’s why I really like to travel around Europe because of the churches. My favourite are in France.

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Tamar A Strauss-Benjamin August 12, 2019 at 1:37 am

These buildings are just amazing!! That stained glass, wow.

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Karletta Marie August 12, 2019 at 3:05 am

Stunning pics. I’m heading back to Europe later this year, you’ve given me some great inspiration! Thank you.

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Val August 12, 2019 at 4:07 am

Although not a huge fan of churches myself I admit that some have a really fascinating history (like the London Abbey you mentioned too) . I loved your photos from the Sainte-Chapelle which I haven’t heard of even if I’ve been to Paris twice! Thanks for the tips!

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Cristina - Memories of the Pacific August 12, 2019 at 6:18 am

The stained-glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle are stunning! I love the mixture of different types of architecture. Religious heritage has always amazed me, we have plenty in Spain and whenever I’m in a new city I always visit the churches/cathedral.

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CARMEN | Wellington World Travels August 12, 2019 at 7:10 am

Stunning! I have always been fascinated with churches and how beautifully-designed they are. I have seen the Berlin Cathedral. I want to see the rest!

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Fun60 August 12, 2019 at 10:35 am

Living in the UK I am fortunate to have seen many of the places you have featured but Saint Chapelle was an unexpected delight.

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junieper/jesh August 12, 2019 at 10:46 am

Recognized the towers in Berlin right away. When I lived there I was in my beginning twenties and not interested in church interiors, so we never visited the inside, which I later regretted! You are right, I didn’t know about the chapel of Flossenberg – beautiful stained glass work here – and a great tribute to the fallen. Wow, that was a big oops in Vienna! Luckily that city has so many exquisite buildings. Great and significant post of Europe, Sharon – thank you for sharing them with All Seasons – have a lovely summer week!

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Eileen Wise August 12, 2019 at 10:49 am

Wow, beautiful churches. The stained glass is gorgeous. Wonderful post and photos. Enjoy your day, wishing you a great new week ahead.

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Carol August 12, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Stunning churches and photography – I always love traveling with you.

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Photo Cache August 12, 2019 at 12:26 pm

You have visited some spectacular churches. I am jealous, LOL. Thanks for sharing these. I armchair travel with you.

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Aletha Oglesby, M.D. August 12, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Churches are my favorite buildings to explore when I travel. Sometimes, the small intimate chapels are the most moving. Even though our churches in the U.S. are not old, they are often stunning. Thanks for sharing these.

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William Kendall August 12, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Magnificent photographs!

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Sandra Nachlinger August 12, 2019 at 5:00 pm

LOVE the stained glass and the gargoyles. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos.

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judee August 13, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Absolutely amazing structures and magnificent photos capturing these beautiful churches

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Mandy August 13, 2019 at 6:46 pm

You chose so many beautiful churches. I especially love the Berlin Church, having gotten to visit myself. It was stunning in person and I have fond memories of it. The Vienna and London churches are on my bucket-list though since I have yet to visit! One day!

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Lady Fi August 13, 2019 at 9:49 pm

Such spectacular photos! I love St. Chapelle!

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Rajlakshmi August 14, 2019 at 4:48 am

Wow, the artwork on glass panels look mesmerizing. I could look at them all day long. You have shared so many gorgeous churches. Love the architecture and the intricate designs.

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Allison August 14, 2019 at 7:44 am

Europe has some of the most gorgeous churches. #wanderfulwednesday

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Michelle August 14, 2019 at 8:27 am

Those old churches are such incredible works of art. It took generations to build and yet men did do the work knowing that they would probably never see the culmination of their work. It’s fascinating. Thanks for sharing these stunning photos!

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Emese August 14, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Your photos are amazing! I didn’t know you could get into the dome of St Vitus – I’ll just have to do it next time. I guess we were lucky when we went, though it was relatively crowded, we didn’t even have to stand in line to get in; but I missed out on the dome. Thanks for sharing all these photos! #wanderfulwednesday

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Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid August 14, 2019 at 12:44 pm

I’ve only been to Westminster Abbey and that was when I was a child. I’m also a big fan of St Paul’s in London and I’m currently visiting family in Lincoln which has the most stunning cathedral (and a castle too!) The views from St Vitus are simply stunning!

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betty - NZ August 14, 2019 at 6:23 pm

These are some spectacular buildings! Wow! Old architecture always amazes me.

Thank you for linking at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!

My Corner of the World

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Rhonda Albom August 15, 2019 at 7:00 pm

Impressive photos of the European churches. I do love the intricate details and how each church is different from the next in some way.

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Courtney {Alkeks Abroad} August 16, 2019 at 12:55 pm

I love all the beautiful stained glass. So many gorgeous churches to check out.

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Jenn | By Land and Sea August 17, 2019 at 3:53 am

I’ve always said if I lived in Europe that I would live in one of the amazing churches/cathedrals, not a castle! They are beautiful!!

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Lisa | Handmade in Israel August 18, 2019 at 6:39 am

I agree, the stained glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle are breathtaking. We just climbed the steps up St. Stephens in Budapest. I was also out of breath but the view was so worth it! #FeetDoTravel

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Zena's Suitcase August 18, 2019 at 1:23 pm

I really enjoyed reading this post. I always visit the local church or cathedral when I visit a new city. They are so significant to the local history and culture. We recently visited Seville cathedral and that was very impressive, and being the resting place of Christopher Columbus makes it even more significant

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Rishi rathod August 19, 2019 at 10:15 pm

This was a great post to read. I have never been there and your post is so beautiful that now I am very much keen to visit there. Thanks for the share. Cheers!!!

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