Churches have always excited architects and artists due to their various styles, massiveness, and intricate motifs. Churches are known by their styles and depict the transformation of architecture and art from one era to the other. Churches architecture and art speak to the people the level of intricacy a human can go into and create a similar experience within the users. The historic styles of architecture and its plans and proportions have created an enthusiasm for the architects to witness it with their own eyes and experience the space through all their senses. 

So, here are a few of the many churches that every architect must visit and experience.

1. Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence | Churches Architecture

The Florence Cathedral has the largest masonry dome having a diameter of 130 feet, which was a structural marvel of that era. This church is also the largest in Italy and is built in Italian Gothic and early Renaissance style. The vast interior has pavements in colored marble as well as white marble facades which are seen in green, pink, and white hues.

Churches Architecture - Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence - Sheet1
Dome of the Cathedral by Filippo Brunelleschi, as the highest point ©
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence - Sheet2
Marble façade with Gothic and Renaissance elements ©
Churches Architecture - Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence - Sheet3
Decorative marble flooring ©

2. Abbey of Saint-Denis, Paris

The beginning of a new style in architecture, the Abbey of Saint-Denis is the first Gothic structure that was transformed from Romanesque style for the accommodation of larger crowds. Rib vaults and pointed arches were experimented to create more interior spaces which also led to astoundingly thinner walls, and huge window openings having stained glass, flooding the interior with colorful lights.

Churches Architecture - Abbey of Saint-Denis, Paris
Renaissance style front façade ©

3. Pisa Cathedral, Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is on everybody’s bucket list but very few know about the Cathedral of Pisa in the same complex. The cathedral is built in a variety of architectural styles beginning from Romanesque to the Gothic with influences from Islamic, Byzantine as well as Lombardian style, which led to the creation of a new style called Pisan Romanesque. The plan resembles that of an Early Christian basilica with a timber roof. The cathedral has a white-marbled façade with a blind arcade with round arches on the west façade depicting Romanesque style, and a white-marbled dome with influences from Islamic style.

Churches Architecture - Pisa Cathedral, Italy -Sheet1
View of cathedral and dome ©
Pisa Cathedral, Italy -Sheet2
Front façade with Romanesque elements ©

4. Milan Cathedral, Italy

The largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the front façade of the cathedral is different from the other Gothic cathedrals. The façade consists of numerous pinnacles and spires that are supported by flying buttresses. The façade is of marble, showing shades of pink, white, and light grey. The huge span between the construction time has led to the fusion of late Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Milan Cathedral, Italy - Sheet1
View of the cathedral ©
Milan Cathedral, Italy - Sheet2
Church spires ©

5. Cologne Cathedral, Germany | Churches Architecture

The Cologne Cathedral holds the record of being the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, as well as the tallest twin-spired church in the world. The cathedral is 45 meters high, 144.5 meters in length, 84 meters wide. It also has one of the highest Gothic vaults ever built.

Churches Architecture - Cologne Cathedral, Germany
View of the Cathedral ©

6. St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague

Prague is known for its beautiful historical architecture. St. Vitus Cathedral is one such church that has ornamental interiors as well as an exterior. Numerable gargoyles dominate the façade and the flying buttresses and stained glass windows depict the Gothic influence.

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague - Sheet1
Gothic style front façade with spires ©
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague - Sheet2
Gargoyles ©

7. Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, France

The fortress-like exterior of the church is a symbol of protection and strength and is considered as the largest brick church in the world. But the exterior is very much a contrast to the interiors. Colors and geometric patterns cover every inch of the interior, hence making it the largest painted cathedral in Europe. The interiors lack aisles which are found in the majority of the churches.

Churches Architecture - Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, France - Sheet1
Semicircular buttresses (Southern French Gothic style) and tall windows on the facade ©
Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, France - Sheet2
Italian Renaissance style decorations in blue and patterns ©

8. Burgos Cathedral, Spain

This cathedral was Spain’s first Gothic church built with an interruption of 200 years during construction, leading this to the involvement of various styles in the church from Romanesque to Baroque. The main feature of this cathedral is the eight-sided star in the dome that is illuminated by the colorful stained glass windows, which altogether illuminates the entire interior. The pointed octagonal pinnacles in the four corners make up the silhouette.

Burgos Cathedral, Spain - Sheet1
The difference in façade showing Romanesque and Gothic features ©
Burgos Cathedral, Spain - Sheet2
Eight-sided star ©

9. Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey is the most famous church and is an amalgamation of Gothic style and early medieval style. The pointed arches, ribbed vaulting, rose windows, and flying buttresses signify the gothic architecture. The interior is ornamental and the long cloister is lined with decorative arches. The most beautiful element is the pendant fan vault ceiling.

Churches Architecture - Westminster Abbey, London - Sheet1
Decorative arches and various hues ©
Westminster Abbey, London - Sheet2
Pendant fan vault ceiling ©

10. Sainte Chapelle, France | Churches Architecture

Sainte-Chapelle is known for its huge stained glass windows and its Rayonnant Gothic style, which is known for creating structural lightness for illumination, and emphasis on decorative elements. The blue vaults are ornamented by decorative floral design in golden, whereas the ribs are made bold with red and gold stripes. Not an inch of the wall is left undecorated.

Sainte Chapelle, France - Sheet1
View of the Cathedral ©
Sainte Chapelle, France - Sheet2
Tall and colorful stained glass windows ©
Sainte Chapelle, France - Sheet3
Bold ribs of the vault ©

11. Notre-Dame Cathedral, Canada | Churches Architecture

A replica of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, this cathedral in Montreal is one of the first examples of Gothic Revival architecture built from 1824 to 1829. The interior features rich hues of blue, gold, silver, red, and purple. The interior is full of intricate woodwork and stained-glass windows. The vaults are blue decorated with stars in golden color. The church also has incredible acoustics.

Churches Architecture - Notre-Dame Cathedral, Canada - Sheet1
Notre – Dame Cathedral ©
Notre-Dame Cathedral, Canada - Sheet2
Lighting effect created in the interior ©

12. Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi island Russia

A summer church on the island of Kizhi is 300 years old and is built entirely of wood, not involving even a nail as a metal. This multi-dome structure consists of 22 domes of different shapes and sizes, and are built over drums and vaults, and are covered with aspen shingles. This unique masterpiece stands 37m tall which is multi-storeyed.

Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi island Russia -Sheet1
View of the cathedral ©
Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi island Russia -Sheet2
Diamond-shaped aspen shingles ©

13. Ottobeuren Abbey, Germany

The Church of the Benedictine Abbey has some of the best Rococo-Baroque style ornate interiors in the world. The Baroque-styled building creates a huge contrast to what is seen inside. The white-colored Rococo-interior is ornately adorned with a contrast of dark frescoes and embellishments.

Churches Architecture - Ottobeuren Abbey, Germany - Sheet1
View of the cathedral ©
Ottobeuren Abbey, Germany - Sheet2
Ornate embellishments ©

14. Cathedral of Santa María de Mediavilla, Teruel- Spain

Built in the Mudéjar style, the design of the church is quite different from the other styles of churches. An amalgamation of Moorish and European style, the design features geometrical patterns, intricate tile and brickwork, wood, and plaster carving. Brick is used majorly in this style. A unique treasure given to Spain, this church is also a UNESCO World Heritage structure.

Cathedral of Santa María de Mediavilla, Teruel- Spain - Sheet1
Features depicting Mudéjar style ©
Cathedral of Santa María de Mediavilla, Teruel- Spain - Sheet2
Decorative pattern on walls and arches ©

15. The Church of Holy cross, Santorini- Greece | Churches Architecture

A photographer’s paradise, the architecture of this church is unique to the architects. The church is built in a local Cycladic style. The white walls of the church depict the foam of the sea waves as well as reduce the sun absorption in the summer months, and the blue color of the domes depicts the Greek sky. The aesthetics are given the least priority, and the design is based according to climatic needs, i.e. thicker walls and comparatively smaller windows to maintain the desired temperatures during summers and winters. The short structure of the church blends with the surrounding houses.

Churches Architecture - The Church of Holy cross, Santorini- Greece
View of the cathedral ©

Pranjali is a passionate artist and an architect who loves to blend her designs with nature. She designs meticulously and is always exploring the impact of architectural spaces on user's mind and body. You will find her lost in travelling, daydreams, books, and also on mountain trails.