St. Peter’s Basilica

Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City near Rome, Italy
Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City near Rome, Italy

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican is the formal name of the principal church of the Roman Catholic Church.  St. Peter’s Square leads you to the Basilica, and after a security check, the massive Renaissance cathedral is not only a spiritual pilgrimage site, but an architectural wonder as well.   I visited during an Easter week, but the crowds were manageable.   I didn’t see the Pope at the Vatican, but did make it to the Stations of the Cross held on Good Friday each year outside of the Roman Colosseum – here’s a photo of what it looked like while sitting on a nearby hill.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating the Stations of the Cross outside of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

The Basilica site was chosen on the location it was believed Saint Peter was buried after he was martyred in October 64 A.D.  The first Basilica was built in the early 300s, but the replacement you see today was started in 1506 and completed more than a century later.  There are several masterpieces of art inside, including Michelangelo’s Pieta. Thanks to an attack with a hammer in 1972, the famous sculpture is now seen through a glass panel.


In addition to the Basilica, the Vatican Museums are a must see, and a visit includes the Sistine Chapel.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris or Notre Dame, Paris, France
Notre Dame, Paris, France

I was planning on adding Notre Dame to the blog this week, and then the sad events of this afternoon occurred.  Notre Dame (“Our Lady) is in the center of Paris, France and is nearly 900 years old.  When I was in the city, I took a few hundred photos from as many areas as I could and left without a doubt of why it’s one of the most visited churches in the world.  Despite the destruction from today’s fire, the church fared better than I would have expected and hopefully will be restored over time.  The Roman Catholic Cathedral has survived destructive events in the past, including desecration by atheists during the French Revolution and World Wars, so there’s reason to be optimistic.  There’s also a lot of history about this church online, so I’ll just add a couple more links if you want to read more.

Philosophou Monastery

Nea Moni Filosofou Monastery, Greece
Assumption of Mary Church, inside the Prodromou Monastery (Monastery of Saint John the Baptist), Greece

Founded in 963 A.D., the Philosophou Monastery is just outside a picturesque town called Dimitsana, in the Peloponnese region of Greece.  The Monastery of the Philosopher (also called the Hidden School) was named by a philosopher from Dimitsana who was the secretary of Emperor Nikephoros Phokas. The “new” portion , which includes the Assumption of Mary church was founded in 1691 (see above photo), but the more interesting church from the 10th century involves a short hike along the Lousios Gorge.  These ruins still have partial frescoes painted on the walls along with the bones of earlier monks that resided here.

Our Lady of Loreto

Prague Loreto, Prague Czech Republic
Prague Loreto, Prague Czech Republic

Found in the Little Quarter area of Prague, Czech Republic, Loreto or Loreta is a historic baroque monastery cloister.  The Loreto is also a pilgrimage site with a replica of the “Holy House” of Nazareth as part of the complex.  The ornate Church of the Nativity of Our Lord was consecrated in 1738 and includes a ceiling fresco of the Nativity and the original organ which is often used for concerts.  The site also includes a small museum with one of the most valuable collections of church treasures in Bohemia.  There are several  interesting items, including the “Prague Sun”, a monstrance (used for holding a consecrated host for veneration/adoration) with over 6,000 diamonds.


St. Johann Nepomuk or Asam Church, Munich, Germany
St. Johann Nepomuk or Asam Church, Munich, Germany

St. Johann Nepomuk is also called the Asam Church after a pair of artistic brothers who built this as their private chapel.  This baroque church is near the center of Munich, Germany and was completed in 1746.  Cosmas Asam, the brother who was the painter, completed the ceiling fresco on the Life of Saint Nepomuk.  The other brother (Egid Asam) was a sculptor and you can see several of his additions around the perimeter.  The chapel was damaged from bombing during World War II and some of the choir area has been reconstructed.   An eye level panorama is also online.

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel, St. Patrick's Rock, Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland
Rock of Cashel (St. Patrick’s Rock), Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland

The Rock of Cashel, in Tipperary County, Ireland,  is a medieval structure that was originally a fortress.  The first floor entrance was designed 12 feet above the ground and accessed by a ladder to protect against unexpected Viking invasions.  The King of Munster donated it to the church in 1101, and soon a chapel was added (1134) and the cathedral portion was built between 1235 and 1270.    The complex has lasted several hundred years despite various wars and other collateral damage over the centuries.  In 1749, the roof over the cathedral was removed by the Anglican Archbishop of Cashel for the lead content which could be used for ammunition.  The location of the ruins is also believed to be the spot where Saint Patrick converted the King of Munster to Christianity in the 5th century.  Today the grounds are open for tourism.

Saint Marie Madeleine

Church Saint Marie Madeleine, Paris, France
Church Saint Marie Madeleine, Paris, France

Saint Marie Madeleine, or La Madeleine is a Neo-classical style Roman Catholic church started in the late 1700s, but  finally consecrated in 1842.  Originally, the design with the columned exterior and alcoves for statues was designated by Napoleon to be a memorial to the “Glory of the Great Army”.   Later, after Napoleon’s fall, King Louis XVIII decided that the structure would be a church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene.  The composer Chopin’s funeral was held here the year the church opened.  It still has daily Masses and can be visited at its location in the 8th arrondissement in Paris, France.