Pisa Cathedral

Bell Tower, Campanile, or Leaning Tower, Pisa, Italy
Bell Tower and Cathedral, Pisa, Italy

A train ride of just over an hour from Florence takes you to the town of Pisa, Italy.  Famous for the leaning bell tower, the complex is also home to the Pisa Cathedral and Baptistry and is known as Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) or Square of Miracles.  The Cathedral’s construction started in 1063 and consecrated in 1118.  Over the years it’s been expanded and also partially rebuilt after a severe fire in 1595.

Baptistry of St. John, Pisa, Italy
Baptistry of St. John, Pisa, Italy

The Pisa Baptistry of St. John  is the largest in Italy.  The marble building has both Romanesque (lower) and gothic sections (upper) and was completed in 1363, two hundred years after construction began.  A computer analysis of the building supports the theory that the original architects designed it to mimic church organ pipes and the building is known for its incredible acoustics which the staff periodically demonstrate.




Votive Church, Vienna, Austria
Votive Church, Vienna, Austria

The Votivkirche (Votive Church) is a neo-gothic church in Vienna, Austria.  It was being remodeled when I was visiting, but much of the cathedral was still accessible.  The church was built as a thanks to God when the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph survived an assassination attempt in 1853.  His brother helped raise the funds and it was dedicated in 1879.    The church was badly damaged during World War II and has had various renovations since then.  Wikepedia has some detailed information on the interior as well.

Saint Sulpice

Place Saint Sulpice, Paris, France
Place Saint Sulpice, Paris, France

There are several large, ornate churches in Paris that I’d never heard of before I visited.  Saint-Sulpice is a Roman Catholic Church a bit away from the main tourist areas but it’s the second largest church in Paris, France, after Notre Dame. The Romanesque church now in this spot (replacing an earlier building) was started in 1646.  It features a spectacular Great Organ dating from 1862 and is used for regular organ concerts in addition to Mass.

Notre Dame du Sablon

Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon Church, Brussels, Belgium
Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon Church, Brussels, Belgium

Notre Dame du Sablon (Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon) is a Brabantine Gothic  style church in the historic area of Brussels, Belgium.  Initially this was the site of a smaller chapel honoring Mary, but around 1400 the construction of the church began and took about a hundred years. The two chapels were added in the 17th century (St. Ursula – 1676, Saint Murcouf-1690) and a significant restoration was needed in the late 19th century due to deterioration.   Wikipedia has a fairly thorough summary of the history of the church.

Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey or Stift Melk, Melk, Vienna
Melk Abbey or Stift Melk, Melk, Austria

Melk Abbey is about an hour’s drive from Vienna, Austria and was founded on an rocky overlook in 1089 when the former castle was gifted to the Benedictine monks by Leopold II of Austria.   The abbey has had several fires and suffered severe damage from invading Turks, but was largely rebuilt in 1702.  It’s a Baroque complex that includes a school and museum and is a popular tourist spot these days.

St. Vitus

St. Vitus Cathedral or St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
St. Vitus Cathedral (or Cathedral of Saints Vitus,  Wenceslas and Adalbert), Prague, Czech Republic

This church is a little older than the average.  Saint Vitus Cathedral is in central Prague and is the third church on this site.  Construction of this gothic cathedral started in 1344 when the the King of Bohemia wanted a church for coronations, royal burials, and a treasury for the most valuable relics of the kingdom.  Work on different parts of this massive church continued at various times over the next 600 hundred years and was considered finally finished in 1929.  There is a lot of history online with more details and a virtual tour on the church’s website.  In 1997 the church was rededicated as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert.



Iceland Churches

Small Church, Vatnsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Iceland is an old country and has had churches for over 1000 years, but the Protestant churches you’ll see if you visit are typically 50-150 years old.  I stopped at a few as I passed them in various parts of the island, but have limited information on each.  Although there are still a healthy number of churches standing, Iceland has become decreasingly religious over the decades, and I didn’t see any in use while visiting.

Here are a few spotted along the way.

Vik Church was included in an earlier post.