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 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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.