1. St. Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow, Russia)
Commissioned by Ivan the terrible to commemorate his successful military campaign against the Tartar Mongols in the city of Kazan, in 1552, St. Basil’s was designed by Postnik Yakolev and built between 1555 and 1561. Legend has it that Ivan the Terrible had the architect blinded after the building was finished, so he could never build anything more beautiful, but history records that he did build another cathedral in Vladimir, so the legend is most likely just that.
Built on the edge of the Red Square in Moscow, St. Basil’s Cathedral is a colorful edifice made up of 9 individual chapels, each a symbol of a successful assault on Kazan and topped by an onion dome. The ninth chapel was erected in 1588 between the first eight, giving the cathedral the look of an eight-corner star when seen from above.
2. Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain)
Designed by now famous architect Antonio Gaudi, Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic cathedral still under construction in Barcelona. Work on the cathedral started in 1882 and Gaudi himself worked on it for 40 years, 15 of which he dedicated exclusively to it, until his death in 1926. When asked about the deadline of his project, now scheduled to 2026, Gaudi said “My client is not in a hurry.”
3. Notre Dame (Paris, France)
One of the most famous cathedrals in the world, especially due to the popular novel by Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it is considered the finest example of French Gothic Architecture.
Construction of the cathedral began in 1163, after the Bishop Maurice de Sully considered the current cathedral unworthy of its role, and it lasted until 1345. Over this long period of time, many architects worked on the project, evidenced by the many styles used on the west front and towers.
4. Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey)
Former patriarchal basilica, a mosque and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest structures ever built. Created between 532 and 537 as a church on the orders of Justinian, emperor of the Byzantine Empire and home to many holy relics, Hagia Sophia was the Patriarchal church of Constantinople and the religious ground zero of the eastern Orthodox World for almost 1000 years.
The greatest example of Byzantine architecture, Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world for 1000 years, until the completion of the Cathedral of Seville.
5. Winchester Cathedral (Winchester, England)
Dedicated to the Holy Trinity of Saint Paul, saint Peter and Swithun, Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in England and the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe.
Winchester Cathedral is very popular among tourists who come here to visit the place where famed English writer Jane Austin is buried. Her tomb lies in the north aisle of the nave and marker there praises her work and contribution to international literature. It has also been a film-set for 2005’s The Da Vinci Code.
It is one of the most impressive structures in England and of its greatest sacred places, with many Saxon kings buried here, as well as William the Conqueror and his son William II.
6. Cathedral of St. Sava (Belgrad, Serbia)
The Cathedral of St. Sava is the largest Orthodox Church in the world, currently in use. It is a monument erected in the memory of Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in Serbian History. It is built on Vracar plateau, the place where it is believed Sinan Pasha burned the remains of Saint Sava in 1595.
7. Cologne Cathedral (Cologne, Germany)
An “exceptional work of human creative genius” as described by UNESCO, Cologne Cathedral is one of the most popular monuments in Germany. It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and between 1880 and 1884 it was the tallest structure in the world, before the completion of the Washington Monument and later the Eiffel Tower. Its spires are only surpassed by the singular spire of Ulm Cathedral, making it the second tallest church in the world, with 157 meters in height.
In 1996, Cologne Cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
8. Basillica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence, Italy)
Designed to be the largest cathedral in the world, Santa Maria del Fiore is today surpassed in size only by St. Peter’s Cathedral in The Vatican, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Cathedral of Milan. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296, it started as a wish of the Florentines to have a greater holy place than the ones in Pisa and Siena and it is built upon an older church, Santa Reparata. When it was finished, it was the largest cathedral in Europe able to embrace 30,000 Christians.
9. Seville Cathedral (Seville, Spain)
Formally known as Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede, Seville Cathedral is the largest Roman-Catholic cathedral in the world and also the largest Medieval Gothic religious buildings. The building process began in 1402 on the site where the Almohad Mosque once stood and it stretched into the 16th century.
The Seville Cathedral was built to show the world the wealth of the city, which had become a major trading center after “La Reconquista” During its construction somebody is recorded to have said “we shall have a church [so great and]of such a kind that those who see it built will think we were mad.”
10. Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim, Norway)
Undoubtedly the most beautiful cathedral in Norway, probably in all Scandinavian Peninsula, Nidaros has been an important destination for pilgrims coming from all over Northern Europe since the building process began in 1070. It is supposedly erected over the tomb of King Olav Haraldsson, who was declared a saint 5 days after his death.
Throughout the years, Nidaros Cathedral witnessed many coronations, the last taking place in 1906 and it is a very popular tourist attraction in Norway.