If you’ve followed my travels at all, you may have noticed that I am a practicing Catholic and enjoy attending mass all over the world. I believe I have been to mass in ≈ 65 countries and have visited churches in ≈ 115.
In this post, I’m counting down my Top 10 favorite Catholic churches. Although beauty, size and general significance to Catholicism were considered, the choices ultimately came down to how overall important and memorable the church was/is to me – and that could be for any number of reasons.
The below entries are a purely personal opinion based on my experience and I did not receive any financial compensation for the selections. As with virtually every one of my posts, I took all of the displayed photos.
Have a look, and let me know what you think!
10.) Notre Dame Cathedral | Paris, France
A countdown like this would be incomplete without Notre Dame. In the summer of 2012, I led tours through the city of Paris for university students – of course, Île de la Cité was a significant stop. Unfortunately, Notre Dame is temporarily closed due to a fire on April, 15, 2019 that destroyed its spire and roof.
9.) Cross in the Woods | Indian River, Michigan, USA
Cross in the Woods is located in the small town of Indian River, Michigan, USA. It is home to the world’s largest crucifix and only a few miles from where my family often vacations in the summertime.
8.) Church of the Nativity | Bethlehem, Palestine
The Church of the Nativity is built on top of a grotto known to be the birth site of Jesus (hence, where the church got its name) and the oldest continuously used place of worship in Christianity.
7.) Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary | Wadowice, Poland
Wadowice is the Polish hometown of Karol Wojtyła, later known as Pope John Paul II. In this church, he was baptized, served as an altar boy, made his first Confession and received First Communion.
6.) St. Vitus Cathedral | Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s medieval architecture makes it one of the most inspirational cities in Europe. St. Vitus Cathedral’s gothic appearance fits that mold and is likely the only Cathedral I’ve visited that is located entirely within a castle.
5.) St. Paul’s Cathedral | Abidjan, Ivory Coast
St. Paul’s Cathedral in Abidjan is the mother church of its diocese and known to be the second largest Cathedral on the entire continent of Africa. It is arguably the most architecturally-unique church I’ve experienced.
4.) Florence Cathedral | Florence, Italy
The Florence Cathedral, better known as simply “Duomo,” is one of the most iconic attractions in all of Europe. The Cathedral took more than 140 years to complete and is home the largest brick dome ever constructed.
3.) Immaculate Conception Cathedral | Apia, Samoa
The Cathedral of Apia is likely the most unexpected member of this countdown. Following severe damage from an 8.1 magnitude earthquake (+ subsequent tsunami) in 2009, the church was renovated in spectacular fashion and reopened to the public in June 2014.
2.) St. Peter’s Basilica | Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica is the epicenter of Catholicism and considered to be the largest church in the world. I’ve twice taken a Scavi Tour, an experience that leads visitors underneath the church through the Vatican Necropolis. Outside, St. Peter’s square can accommodate upwards of 60,000 people at one time.
1.) Basilica of the Annunciation | Nazareth, Israel
Completed in 1969, the Church of the Annunciation is a new and modern basilica built on top of the grotto where Mary received the Annunciation from the Angel Gabriel. Given its fresh appearance, significance to Catholicism and how much I enjoyed my Holy Land experience, I’ve ranked this #1!
What do you think about my choices? Have you visited any of them? Which churches are not on this list that should be?