Holy Architecture – World’s Most Beautiful Spiritual Places
Legendary German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe coined the famous phrase “God is in the details”. And he is still right – Religion, throughout human history, has been the inspiration for brilliant and luminous works of literature, philosophy, sculpture, painting and of course architecture.
We compiled some of the most iconic and innovative sacred building architecture worldwide. Envisioned by legendary architects like Botta, Zumthor, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer and today’s star architect Santiago Calatrava and many more. From the ancient empire of Istanbul to majestic Abu Dhabi all the way to a remote seaside town in China.
Whether contemporary and cantilever church design or stunning and bold mosque architecture that illuminate intriguing fluorescent colours. Find below some of the most unique and beautiful worship architecture that will attract people of all ages and beliefs.
1. Seashore Chapel, China
Vector Architects planned for the structure to be lifted at the base so when the tide rises, the building seemingly appears submerged and floating on the water. Created as a spatial experience that engages all the senses, the journey towards the chapel begins with a 30 meter pathway that leads to the entrance of the chapel. On approach, the cue emerges indicating the suspended space on the other side through a 600mm wide gap set in the middle of the staircase. A constant view of the ocean is framed – further emphasized due to its elevated orientation.
2. St. Bartholomew’s Church, Eastern Bohemia in Czech Republic
Czech designer Maxim Velcovsky has redesigned the interior of a church in Eastern Bohemia, using customised design classics, rugs and chandeliers. Working with designer Jakub Berdych under the Qubus Studio banner, the interior features Verner Panton chairs customised with a punched crucifix, Persian rugs and chandeliers of rough-cut crystal.
Jakub Berdych and Maxim Velcovsky have succeeded in making design an integral part of religion. Illuminated by chandeliers adorned with pressed and roughly cut crystal, the bare space is dominated by an “army” of legendary chairs designed by Verner Panton with one crucial detail added – a Christian cross carved through the back of the chair. The redesign and religiousness of this design icon is multiplied by its installation on dozens of Persian carpets, which are so typical for Muslim shrines. This space is an eclectic cocktail and a place to ponder, moving towards cultural dialogue.
3. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, New York, USA
Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has designed the Saint Nicholas National Shrine building for the Greek Orthodox Church, which will occupy a site at 130 Liberty Street on the edge of the National September 11 Memorial park.
The original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was completely destroyed in the collapse of World Trade Center Tower 2 during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
4. Skewed Concrete Chapel, El Salvador
Local studio EMC Arquitectura designed Carded, an asymmetric concrete chapel, located on the edge of a mountain near El Salvador, situated on a grassy plot that runs down to the shores of the Coatepeque lake – a volcanic basin in western El Salvador.
The chapel has two open sides, designed to take advantage of being “in such a privileged place with spectacular views”. These openings also allow constant cross-ventilation through the interior, helping visitors to cope with the tropical climate.
5. Al Warqa’a Mosque, Dubai, UAE
The Mosque, located in the famously sandy United Arab Emirates city, was not perceived as an icon before, but given the contemporary redesign by Pan-Asian architecture and design studio ibda, this mosque now became a jewel of holy architecture.
Al Warqa’a Mosque echoes the spatial simplicity of Prophet Muhammad’s seventh-century house in Medina, which is considered the first mosque in history. The aim was for the building to look like an extension of the desert environment, utilising Saudi sandstone for the outer walls of the mosque. The ochre-toned walls offer contrast to the building‘s bright white dome and marble-lined interior.
Defining access into the haram [holy space] through the sahn [courtyard] is designed to create a spatial shift that gradually takes worshippers from the busy street environment to the serene space of worship through a series of playful and inviting arches.
6. Froeyland Orstad Church, Norway
Froeyland Orstad Church is divided into two levels and has 600 seats at the place of worship. It is the first church in Norway to have a baptismal pool. In 2009, the responsible architect office Link Arkitektur won the award with their church design and its best accessibility for people with disabilities. The church had the highest average of people going to worship in Norway in 2010.
7. San Paolo Parish Complex, Perugia in Italy
This project won the national competition organised by the Italian Episcopal Conference to design new parish centres to provide an innovative and decisive landmark in accordance with the latest international research and symbolising the rebirth of the city after the earthquake.
The new parish designed by Fuksas Architects, is a monolith of pure geometry, absolute, in a tin box. There are two main architectural elements that are identified with the functions of the religious center, the first element, the Church building, consists of two rectangules inserted into one another, the second element, also rectangular shape but long and low, is home to the Sacristy, the Pastoral Ministry of Local and Casa Canonica. A third an architectural element, smaller, combining the latter two. Spirituality and meditation joined together in a play of natural light entering horizontally and vertically, drawing a dialogue with the sky.
8. Farewell Chapel, Slovenia
Slovenian practice OFIS Arhitekti have completed a chapel next to an existing graveyard near Ljubljana in Slovenia. Using polished concrete, larch wood and glass, OFIS created a chapel that follows the lines of the landscape trajectories around the graveyard. There are three curved walls which embrace and divide the programs. The external curve divides the surrounding hill from the chapel plateau whilst the internal curve embraces the main farewell space. Services such as storages, wardrobe restrooms and kitchenette are on the inner side along the wall. A cross that lays on the roof sparks light in night time and allows the light to enter during the day.
9. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi in UAE
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque‘s design and construction „unites the world“, using artisans and materials from many countries including India, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, China, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Republic of Macedonia and United Arab Emirates.
The project was launched by the late president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who wanted to establish a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics.
The design of the mosque can be best described as a fusion of Arab, Persian, Mughal and Moorish architecture. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has many special and unique interior design elements: The carpet in the main prayer hall is considered to be the largest and most expensive carpet in the world. This carpet measures 5,627 m2. The weight of this carpet is 35 ton and is predominantly made from wool (originating from New Zealand and Iran). It took approximately two years to complete.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has seven imported chandeliers from the company Faustig in Munich Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals and the third largest chandelier in the world with a 10 m diameter and a 15 m height.
The pools along the arcades reflect the mosque’s spectacular columns, which becomes even more glorious at night. The unique lighting system was designed by lightning architects Speirs + Major to reflect the phases of the moon. Beautiful bluish gray clouds are projected in lights onto the external walls and get brighter and darker according to the phase of the moon.
10. Mid-Century Church in Quebec transformed into a library
Canadian studios Dan Hanganu Architectes and Côté Leahy Cardas Architectes have revamped the tent-like structure of a church in Quebec to create a modern library featuring coloured glazing, spiral staircases and lofty ceilings.
The St. Denys-du-Plateau Church, a remarkable creation of the late architect Jean-Marie Roy erected in 1964, was part of this renewal, at once architectural and religious.
Seen from outside, the building is elliptical in shape, with a slanting roof and black and white stripes. The interior has a dizzying checkerboard design in the same colors. This is the church that was designed by the well-known architect, Mario Botta – the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista at Mogno. The innovative building made from alternating layers of native Peccia marble and Vallemaggia granite was extremely controversial, but eventually became a landmark that is known far beyond the borders of Switzerland. The church has no windows, and the interior (which seats about 15 people) is only illuminated by natural light streaming in through the glass roof.
12. Cathedral of Brasilia, Brazil
The Cathedral of Brasília is the Roman Catholic cathedral serving Brasília, Brazil, and serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Brasília. It was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, and was completed and dedicated on May 31, 1970. The cathedral is a hyperboloid structure constructed from 16 concrete columns, weighing 90 tons each.
13. Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a historic mosque located in Istanbul. The Blue Mosque, as it is popularly known, was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed‘s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Magnificent hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes.
Built above the village Mechernich, the Bruder Klaus Kapelle is a privately endowed Catholic chapel and now become the landmark in Germany natural landscape. The chapel was designed in 2005 by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor for the family of farmers Trudel and Hermann-Josef Scheidtweile, who wanted to honor their patron saint, Bruder Klaus of the 15th century.
Arguably the most interesting aspects of the church are found in the methods of construction, beginning with a wigwam made of 112 tree trunks. Upon completion of the frame, layers of concrete were poured and rammed atop the existing surface, each around 50cm thick. When the concrete of all 24 layers had set, the wooden frame was set on fire, leaving behind a hollowed blackened cavity and charred walls.
15. Notre-Dame-du-Haut in Ronchamp, France
The chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp is one of the finest examples of the architecture of Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier and one of the most important examples of twentieth-century religious architecture. In 1950, Le Corbusier was commissioned to design a new Catholic church to replace the previous church that had been destroyed during World War II. The church reformists wanted to clear their name of the decadence and ornamental past by embracing modern art and architecture. Spatial purity was one of Corbusier’s main focuses by not over complicating the program and removing the typical modern aesthetic from the design. Stylistically and formally it is fairly complex; however, programmatically it is relatively simple: two entrances, an altar, and three chapels.
Notre Dame du Haut is one of 17 buildings by Le Corbusier that have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List of internationally significant architecture sites.