Churches are one of the underrated travel delights that many tourists frequently miss out on. While there are some well-known cathedrals that get a steady stream of people in and out of their doors, many others are neglected despite their beauty. A church doesn't need to have a famous name or be in a prime location in order to be breathtaking, and there are many that go unnoticed... until now.
Many of these churches are lesser known than their neighbors but are equally as stunning. For all those who love history (and stained glass windows), whether religion is part of daily life or not, there are some that we would definitely consider adding to our tour list.
10 San Luigi dei Francesi
The main reason to visit this church is centered around its awe-inspiring artwork. The entire interior of the structure is painted with wall-to-wall murals, painted by Caravaggio. These enormous yet flawless paintings can be seen in the Contarelli Chapel and are titled The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.
The story behind this artwork is the battle between good and evil, something that's depicted in a unique yet striking way. In addition, visitors will be floored by the architecture that this church boasts, from marble columns to grand facades.
9 Santa Maria della Pace
The exterior of this church simply doesn't do it justice. The Roman-style columns in the front give way to a humble entrance, which is not what one would expect as soon as they walk into this chapel. The interior is bright, welcoming, and open, with a high ceiling and various artistic depictions lining the walls. The altar sits front and center, set apart from the rest of the room with its bold and vibrant colors, drawing the eye forward.
On either side are the pews which are works of art themselves; each carefully carved and placed at an angle facing the front of the church. Entering this sanctuary is more of an experience than a tourist attraction.
8 Salzburg Cathedral
Rome isn't the only country which holds intrigue and wonder when it comes to some of the world's most beautiful churches. Salzburg Cathedral in Austria is a must-visit. Its Baroque architecture is the first thing that many notice about this cathedral, along with the fact that it rises high above the old city.
The architect responsible for the design is Santino Solari and over time, the integrity of the structure has been kept up so that many may continue to visit and pay their respects. When we speak of historic churches, though lesser known, this one dates back to the year 774.
7 Bedkhem Church
Iran is also home to a church that's worth a visit for those so inclined, and that would be none other than the Bedkhem church. While this church might not look any different than any other from the outside, the inside holds quite the surprise.
In the form of 72 paintings, visitors will be able to walk through a visual account of the life of Christ. These paintings were created by various Armenian artists, each just as beautiful as the next. Along with its artwork, the church is notable for its architectural details, including various domes and archways that make it such a unique appearance.
6 Santa Maria della Vittoria
When walking into this church, it's impossible to avoid the instinct to look up. There's no end to the artistic and architecturally stunning surprises that await visitors around every corner in this church. When translated, the name of this church is 'Our Lady of Victory' and is a basilica built in the 17th century. Benini, the sculptor who is known for creating the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, is also known for his work in this basilica.
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is the sculpture that many come to see and it's surrounded by solid marble columns and additional artwork that can be found throughout the basilica, including that which is on the ceiling.
5 Kizhi Pogost
Kizhi Pogost is an interesting church that has quite the history and story behind it. For starters, its location is quite unique: It can be found on a strip of island on Lake Onega in Russia and is called the 'Church of Transformation'. Upon further inspection, visitors will notice that the entire church has been built without the use of any nails whatsoever. It relies on interlocking wood pieces, making it unique in structure as well as design.
The purpose behind this is to prevent lightning strikes, something the previous structure had an issue with on the lake. It's also rumored that the entire church was built using only one ax, adding to its intrigue.
4 St. Stephen’s Basilica
Although this church is the largest in Budapest, we added it to this list simply because it doesn't get the attention that it should. From the inside of this basilica, visitors are able to look out over the entire city, making it a great stop for those who are visiting. However, the view is not the only thing worth visiting this basilica for.
The church has a long history and took nearly 50 years to complete, due to various issues and turmoil within the city. The fact that it's standing is amazing in itself and it's also home to one of Hungary's most treasured possessions: The mummified fist of that whom bears its namesake, King Stephen.
3 Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio
What makes this church so intriguing (besides the fact that it's only a short walk from the Pantheon) is its artwork. Created by the artist Andrea Pozzo, his work is known for its ability to make onlookers feel as though the artwork's depth is true to life.
You can imagine how intricate and life-like his paintings would be, especially those featured high above on the ceiling. The illusion lies in the belief that those walking into the church are walking into a structure without a ceiling, and are instead staring straight up at a scene depicted straight from the Bible. The realism involved in such artwork is what makes this church such a beautiful experience.
2 Sagrada Familia
While this church, although more like a grand cathedral, is hard to miss, it's one that visitors must add to their list. While not as popular as some other sights, the Sagrada Familia has much to offer in the way of both worship as well as design. This church was designed in a Neo-gothic style, lending itself to steep towers and grandiose heights.
The regality of its design is out of respect for Jesus, the Gospels, the Virgin Mary, and his 12 Apostles, of which there are 18 towers in all which stand for each person mentioned. The overall height of the church is intended to represent closeness to God, equating elevation with faith.
1 Las Lajas Sanctuary
The reason Las Lajas is on our list is that many people don't think to visit a basilica when they're visiting Columbia. This sanctuary is built in quite a striking way, as it sits just off a steep cliffside, making it appear to be supported by virtually nothing.
The basilica towers high over the Guaitara River Canyon and visitors will immediately note its Gothic-style towers, which only add to the grand appearance of this lesser-known church. The history of this basilica includes the story of the Deaf-mute daughter of Maria Muences claiming to have witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary over the ravine. This basilica was built in that same spot.