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The World’s 13 Most Beautiful Churches

Whether you're a religious person or not, it's hard to deny the pure architectural allure behind cathedrals, mosques, abbeys, and temples. From Byzantine-era beauties in Istanbul to Art Nouveau numbers in Barcelona, here are just 13 of the world's most beautiful churches.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

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Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales, Colombia

In southern Colombia, not far from the border of Ecuador, the Gothic Revival-style Las Lajas Sanctuary stands tall over the lush Guaitara River canyon. The current incarnation of the fairytale-esque basilica took some 33 years to build, starting in 1916 and ending in 1949, and was funded entirely by donations from locals.

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Notre-Dame de Paris, Paris, France

It goes without saying that the Notre-Dame de Paris is one of the world’s most beautiful churches. The more than 850-year-old French Gothic-style cathedral sits just beside the River Seine, an imposing and iconic assemblage of ornate stained glass, playful gargoyles, multi-ton bells, and an organ with no less than 7,952 pipes.

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Il Duomo di Firenze, Florence, Italy

An antique facade on Florence’s cityscape (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Il Duomo di Firenze first broke ground back in 1296 and wasn’t completely finished until the 19th century. As far as exteriors go, the cathedral’s most well-known attribute is its pink, white and green marble Renaissance dome. Inside, intricate tile work and extremely detailed frescoes are the main draw.

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Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

The Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia first served as an Eastern Orthodox basilica and then an imperial Ottoman mosque before settling into its current role as a museum. The cathedral’s most defining characteristic is its enormous window-lined, marble and brick dome. Since the building's construction in 537, the dome has has actually been rebuilt multiple times as a result of earthquakes, collapses, and cracks.

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Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

Between the waters of Brittany and Normandy lies the medieval abbey-peaked island of Le Mont-Saint-Michel. The eponymously-named 11th-century Romanesque church is one of France's most visited cultural sites, garnering the attention of more than 2.5 million visitors each year.

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Gergeti Trinity Church, Gergeti, Georgia

In terms of jaw-dropping scenery, the Gergeti Trinity Church pulls out all the stops. The simple, 14th-century cross-cupola church soars over the Chkheri River in the shadow of Mount Kazbek, one of the tallest peaks in the Caucasus range. Accordingly, the scenic beauty attracts its fair share of hikers who trek about three hours up the steep incline to take a break at the church and it’s separate bell tower.

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Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

Truth be told, Saint Basil’s iconic, candy-colored domes weren’t a part of its original design. When it was ordered, and completed in 1560, by Ivan the Terrible (Russia’s OG tsar), it was done up in stark white with gold domes, all to match the nearby Kremlin. It’s brilliant hues were introduced in the 1600s, once the cathedral was already at the center of much urban folklore – including a rumor that Ivan had personally blinded the Italian architect behind the holy spot in order to ensure he would never reproduce his genius design.

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Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s Gothic and Art Nouveau-style Sagrada Familia is considered the finest work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi even though the basilica was less than a quarter finished when he passed in 1926. Today, more than 90 years later, the church is 70 percent completed with the aim of total completion set for 2026.

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Duomo di Milano, Italy

When a church takes six centuries to complete, you can bet that what was architecturally fashionable each period was subject to change. Over the course of so many years, the grandiose facade of the Duomo di Milano took on a fair number of architectural styles, eventually settling on a mix of French, Italian, and English Gothic aesthetics that include multiple naves (central aisles), spires, ornamental pinnacles, and flying buttresses.

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Westminster Abbey, London, England

If you've been to London, chances are you’ve seen the Gothic Westminster Abbey up close. What you might not know is that since 1066, it’s served as the official coronation church, been the final resting place of 17 monarchs, and the host of 16 royal weddings, Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s being the most recent.

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Sacré-Coeur, Paris, France

After nearly 40 years of work, Paris’ Sacré-Coeur was completed in 1914. Sitting atop the summit of Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement, guarded by two bronze statues – Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX – both French national saints, the basilica gained much attention for its unusual (for the time and place) Romano-Byzantine style. As the second highest point in Paris (just behind the Eiffel Tower) the cathedral draws unparalleled views of the city from an elevation of more than 650-feet over the Seine.

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Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Kiev, Ukraine

More than a single cathedral, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra is an Orthodox Christian monastery complex composed of multiple golden-domed buildings and structures. As Kiev’s largest attraction, its network of bell towers, underground cave systems, fortification walls, and smaller churches and cathedrals spill out over 70 acres along the Dnipro River.

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Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France

Just 50 miles southwest of Paris, the exceptionally preserved Chartres Cathedral has seen only minimal restoration updates since the 13th century. Arguably one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, the majority of its original 12th-century stained glass windows and sculptures remain intact.

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