8 Gems among Europe's Lesser Known Cathedrals and Churches

10843048257?profile=RESIZE_930xDimitry B


Notre Dame in Paris, London's St. Paul, St. Peter's in Rome - some of Europe's greatest cathedrals are justly famous and huge tourist draws. But of course Christian Europe offers myriad other cathedrals which are lesser known but also well worth a visit. Here we offer a look at seven of the best:

Finland: Tuomiokirkko, Helsinki

The neoclassical Lutheran "Domesday Church" (top) in the gracious, laid-back Finnish capital was finished in 1852 and is notable for its striking white, green and gold exterior, contrasted with a simple wooden interior. It's perched on top of a long flight of steps, which in the summer become the city’s favorite public bench: a place to have some fresh Finnish strawberries and catch street buskers doing their thing. With a Greek-cross layout, its interior is elegant but simple in the way many European Protestant churches tend to be.


10843073680?profile=RESIZE_930xDolf van der Haven

Iceland: Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík

Named after 17th-century poet and cleric Hallgrimur Petursson, this isn't a Lutheran cathedral but a church - Iceland's largest, at 244 feet tall, and perhaps the capital's most It took 41 years to build, inaugurated in 1986, and its design is said to evoke the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s rugged natural landscape. There's also an observation deck (reachable by elevator) to get a bird's-eye view over Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains.

10843078275?profile=RESIZE_930xAndrea Schaffer


Italy: Cattedrale Metropolitana della Santa Vergine Maria Assunta, Palermo, Sicily

Sicily's capital is packed with architectural riches, and for many its cathedral is at or near the top of the list, Dating back to 1185, was enlarged and revamped up until the 18th century, leaving it with a mix of Gothic, Baroque, and neoclassical styles. Notable elements include an ornate 15th-century portal, an also 15th-century Catalan-Gothic portico, and a beautiful 12th-century apse. The whitewashed interior, by contrast, is relatively plain, though there are some lovely statues, chapels, and crypts, plus the treasury of religious art and artifacts is quite impressive.


10843079267?profile=RESIZE_930xRaimond Spekking


Italy: Duomo di Siena, Tuscany

Also officially the Cattedrale Meotrpolitana di Santa Maria Assunta and completed in 1263 (with the inevitable additions made in subsequent centuries), its striking marble facade contains French Gothic, Tuscan Romanesque, and classical elements, and its black-and white striping is associated with the black and white horses of the city’s legendary founders Senius and Aschius, sons of Rome's supposed co-founder Remus. The interior is colorful and exuberant, with ornate mosaics, columns, and stained-glass windows among other features.


10843082495?profile=RESIZE_930xJakub Halun

Poland: Wawel Cathedral, Kraków (Cracow)

Poland's capital until 1596 is its most historic city, and Wawel Hill, perched on a bluff over the Vistula River, was its ancient nucleus, home to the royal castle as well as this Gothic cathedral, officially called the Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaud and Wenceslaus. It was founded nearly a thousand years ago, but what we see now is the third iteration, built in the 14th century and as usual added to over the years, yielding a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Neogothic. Notable interior features include the tombs of various Polish kings and national heroes.



Slovakia: St. Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava

Finally completed in 1452 after 141 years on and off, its 279-ft. spire dominating the Slovak capital's historic center, the white Gothic Katedrála Svatého Martina was from 1563 to 1830 the coronation church of the kingdom of Hungary and later Austria-Hungarian Empire (of which Slovakia was part until World War I). For a Roman Catholic cathedral it's surprisingly austere both inside and out, but does have a certain rustic charm.


Spain: Burgos Cathedral

The medieval capital of Castile naturally merited a suitably grand cathedral, and the Sant Iglesia Basilica Catedral Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos is without a doubt one of Spain's grandest. Started in French Gothic style and consecrated in the 13th century, it took some 300 years to complete, adding Plateresque and Renaissance embellishments in the process. It's the only Spanish cathedral to be listed independently as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The interior is grand, as well, with various impressive altarpieces, stained glass, and and the tomb of El Cid, the legendary medieval hero of the Reconquest.


10843104654?profile=RESIZE_930xTrevor Huxom


Spain: La Mezquita/Catedral de Córdoba

A leading contender for one of the world's most unique cathedrals, this is a great example of Moorish architecture and culture. The cathedral has a chequered past: first founded by the Visigoths, the Cathedral was taken over by Muslims in 711 and divided into Muslim and Christian halves.  After the 15th century Reconquista, the cathedral was fully converted to a Roman Catholic Church. Its beautiful arches and Moorish architecture make it a stunning place of worship, a unique symbol of European and world history coming together. 


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