Thursday, 10 January 2013

Famous Churches - St. Christopher’s Cathedral, Canberra, Australia

St. Christopher’s Cathedral, Canberra, Australia
The Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn evolved from the Diocese of Goulburn, which was itself created on 17 November 1862. It covered the area between the Lachlan and Murray rivers. Archbishop Norman Gilroy of Sydney laid the foundation stone of St. Christopher’s Cathedral on 8 May 1938. The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons and former Prime Minister James Scullin. On 4 June, 1939, the parish church of St. Christopher was opened by Archbishop Panico, the Apostolic Delegate. The architect for the Spanish Romanesque style Church was Clement Glancy of Sydney. The builder was Warren McDonald, based in Canberra. Archbishop Eris O'Brien, took up residence in Canberra in 1955, so St. Christopher's became the permanent seat for the Archbishop, and was called a Co-Cathedral, along with St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral, Goulburn. In March 1972, the extension of St. Christopher's to double its seating capacity and to provide adequate liturgical space. St. Christopher’s Cathedral claims the distinction of having four prime ministers as parishioners. On 4 June, 1939, the parish church of St. Christopher was opened by Archbishop Panico, the Apostolic Delegate.

Unique Churches - Chapel of St. Gildas, Brittany, France

Chapel of St. Gildas, Brittany, France
Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys: Statue of Saint-Gildas....
Statue of Saint-Gildas
The Chapel marks the site where St. Gildas, an Irish monk, preached Christianity to a local, mainly pagan population during the 6th century.  St. Gildas and his fellow monk Bieuzy, are said to have lived in a cave at the base of the rock where the chapel now stands. It is believed they had miraculous healing powers. Chapel of St. Gildas is locatedupon the bank of the Canal du Blavet in Brittany, France. This was once a holy place of the Druids and has been built like a stone barn over the base of a bare rocky cliff. St. Gildas appears to have travelled widely throughout the Celtic world of Corwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. He arrived in Brittany in about AD 540 and is said to have preached Christianity to the people from a rough pulpit, now contained within the chapel. According to Legend, after healing the daughter of a local Count who had been seriously injured by her husband, St. Gildas was under death threat and it was no longer safe for him to remain in the area.  Bieuzy, however, continued to preach and was famous for his ability to cure rabies. Bieuzy met an unpleasant demise when he refused to interrupt one of his sermons to cure the rabid dog of a local pagan chief who later returned and attacked Bieuzy with an axe. Statue of Bieuzy with an axe lodged in his head can be seen inside the chapel today.

Famous Churches - The Canterbury Cathedral, England

Canterbury Cathedral Church of England
The Canterbury Cathedral is the mother Church of the Anglican Communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its formal title is the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury. The Cathedral is both a holy place and part of a World Heritage Site. St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived on the coast of Kent as a missionary to England in 597 AD. Augustine was given a church at Canterbury by the local King Ethelbert, who’s Queen Bertha, a French Princess, was already a Christian. Augustine's original building lies beneath the floor of the nave– it was extensively rebuilt and enlarged by the Saxons, and following a major fire, the Cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070. By 1077, Archbishop Lanfranc had rebuilt it as a Norman church, described as "nearly perfect". The work of the Cathedral as a monastery came to an end in 1540, when the monastery was closed on the orders of King Henry VIII. During the Civil War of the 1640s, The Canterbury Cathedral  suffered damage at the hands of the Puritans.
Thomas Becket
After the Restoration in 1660, several years were spent in repairing the building. The North West tower was found to be dangerous, it was demolished in the early 1830s and replaced by a copy of the South West tower, thus giving a symmetrical appearance to the west end of the Cathedral. During the Second World War, the Precincts were heavily damaged by enemy action and the Cathedral’s Library was destroyed. In 1954, the Library rebuilt and repairing War damage was completed.
A critical moment in the history of The Canterbury Cathedral was the murder of Thomas Becket in the north-west transept (also known as the Martyrdom) on Tuesday 29 December 1170 by knights of King Henry II. The king had frequent conflicts with the strong-willed Becket and is said to have exclaimed in frustration, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" The knights took it literally and murdered Becket in his own cathedral. Becket was the second, out of the four Archbishops of Canterbury, who were murdered.
  • New Archbishop Of Canterbury 'Appointed' (

Beautiful Churches - St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow, Russia

St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow, Russia
St. Basil's Cathedral is also known as the Cathedral of the Intercession. Saint Basil's Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox Church erected on the Red Square in Moscow in 1555–61. The Saint Basil's Cathedral was built on the order of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan. The original building, known as "Trinity Church" and later "Trinity Cathedral", contained eight side churches arranged around the ninth. The tenth Church was erected in 1588 over the grave of revered local Saint Vasily (Basil). The building's design has no analogues in Russian architecture and it is shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky. The church was taken away from the Russian Orthodox community as part of the Soviet Unions anti-theist campaigns and has operated as a division of the State Historical Museum since 1928.
Icon of St. Basil the Blessed, St. Basil's Cat...
Icon of St. Basil the Blessed
It was completely and forcefully secularized in 1929 and, as of 2012, remains a federal property of the Russian Federation. The church has been part of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.
According to the legend, missing ninth Church (precisely, sanctuary) was "miraculously found" during a ceremony attended by Tsar. Another popular legend is that Ivan the Terrible had the architect of St. Basil's eyes pulled out after the cathedral was completed so that the architect could not be able to build an equally beautiful structure anywhere else. Yet another legend tells that Napoleon after realizing that he could not count St. Basil's Cathedral among his war spoils, wanted it destroyed. The fuses lit by his men were supposedly snuffed by a sudden downpour.

Famous Churches - St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome

St. Peters Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica (Italian: San Pietro in Vaticano) is a major basilica in Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter - the apostle, who is considered the first pope, was crucified and buried in 64 A.D. St. Peter's Tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are also buried in the St. Peter's Basilica. In 324, Emperor Constantine began construction on a great basilica over the tomb. In the mid-15th century it was decided that the old basilica should be rebuilt, this was abandoned after a short while.  The history of the design and construction of this new building spans several centuries and involved several of the most brilliant architects, including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini, of the early modern period. Construction on the current building began under Pope Julius II in 1506 and was completed in 1615 under Pope Paul V. The building itself is truly impressive.
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica (Photo credit: johnmaschak)
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome (Interior)
The largest church in the world, it has a 218 meter long nave. The basilica's dome is the world's largest measuring 42m in diameter and reaching 138 meter high (more than 450ft). The interior, which includes 45 altars, is decorated by many famous artists. Some of the most important works in the church are the Pietà by Michelangelo, the papal altar by Bernini, the Throne of St. Peter - also by Bernini and the Monument to the Stuarts by Canova.
  • Italian protester climbs down from St Peter's Basilica in Rome (
  • The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

Famous Churches - St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco),Venice, Italy

St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco),Venice, Italy
Blending the architectural styles of East and West, Venice's magnificent basilica was consecrated in 832 AD as an ecclesiastical building to house the remains of St. Mark. St Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) is one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. Located just off the Grand Canal, the gleaming basilica overlooks the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) and adjoins the Doge's Palace. In 828, Venetian merchants stole the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist from their original resting place in Alexandria, Egypt. It is said the Venetians hid the relics in a barrel under layers of pork to get them past Muslim guards. The relics were initially housed in a temporary chapel within the Doge's Palace, but a more substantial church was built to shelter the valuable relics in 829-32. This burned in a rebellion against Doge Pietro Candiano IV in 976, but was restored by Doge Domenico Contarini (d. 1070). The present St Mark's Basilica, which incorporates the earlier buildings, was completed around 1071. The Basilica di San Marco was the chapel of the Doges, but in 1807, it became the Cathedral of Venice. Exterior is decorated with Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic art, the west facade is composed of two orders of five recessed arches, supported by clusters of columns whose capitals were carved in the 12th and 13th centuries. The delicate pinnacles and other decorations at the top of the facade are Gothic additions of the 14th and 15th centuries.

Sacred Destination -The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Old City of Jerusalem

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Old City of Jerusalem
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known as the Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) to Eastern Orthodox Christians, is a church in the Old City of Jerusalem that is the holiest Christian site in the world. The Roman Emperor Hadrian erected a large platform of earth over the whole area for the construction of a temple to Venus.  A statue of Jupiter was on the site for 180 years (140-320 A.D.), when Constantine converted the empire to Christianity, he had the pagan temples dismantled, the earth removed and a Church built over the spot. Originally built by the mother of Emperor Constantine in 330 A.D., the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is believed to be constructed on the hill of crucifixion and the Church also includes the Empty Tomb where the Jesus Christ was buried (The Christ rose from the dead after three days). The original Byzantine church was destroyed by the Persians in 614 A.D.  Rebuilt shortly thereafter, the Egyptian Caliph Al-Hakim destroyed the Church in 1009 and had the Empty Tombdemolished to bedrock.
Ceiling of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Ceiling of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Photo credit: slack12)
The Crusaders rebuilt the church and much of what is standing today is from that time period. Inside the church is a rocky outcropping which is the traditional place where the cross was placed.   Archaeological excavations have demonstrated that this site was outside the city but close to one of its gates and thus would have been a good location for a crucifixion. Other first-century tombs are still preserved inside the Church.  "Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea" and other burial shafts (kokhim) are clearly from the time of Christ's death and attest to some kind of burial ground in the area. The eyewitness historian Eusebius claimed that in the course of the excavations, the original memorial was discovered. However, he also claimed that all three crosses (those of Jesus and the two thieves) were found at the site.  In recent times, a fire (1808) and an earthquake (1927) did extensive damage. Not until 1959 did the three major communities (Latin’s, Greeks, and Armenians) agree on a major renovation plan. The guiding principle was that only elements incapable of fulfilling their structural function would be replaced.
  • Unholy row erupts over Church of the Holy Sepulchre's water bill (

Famous Churches - Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Paris, formerly known as Lutetium, was evangelized in the 3rd century. Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, "Our Lady of Paris") is a beautiful cathedral on the the Île de la Cité in Paris. The Notre Dame Cathedral is the most popular monument in Paris and in all of France, beating even the Eiffel Tower with 13 million visitors each year. The Notre Dame de Paris stands on the site of Paris' first Christian Church, Saint Etienne basilica, which was built on the site of a Roman Temple of Jupiter. Notre Dame’s first stone was laid in 1163 in the presence of Pope Alexander III.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France (Window)
The new building was designed according to the new art movement known as the gothic style (or the ogival style). Notre Dame Cathedral  was not completed until roughly 180 years later in about 1345. The appearance of the interior was radically transformed in the mid-13th century when the small clerestory windows typical of the Early Gothic style were enlarged downward and filled with High Gothic tracery.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France (Interior)
During the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV at the end of the 17th century the cathedral underwent major alterations, during which many tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed. Notre-Dame was plundered during the French Revolution, as were a number of other cathedrals throughout France. Citizens mistook statues of saints above the portals on the west front for representations of their kings, and, in the midst of their revolutionary fervor, took them down (Some of these statues were found in the 1970s, almost two hundred years later, in the Latin Quarter).Many of the cathedral's other treasures were either destroyed or plundered, stolen or destroyed. Restoration of the Cathedral (begun in 1844 and lasting 23 years), Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc reinstated the triforium and small clerestory windows in the eastern bay of the nave. The sculpture on the west facade, badly damaged during the French Revolution, was also restored during this period. During the Commune of 1871, the Cathedral was nearly burned by the Communards. Starting in 1991, a 10 year program of general maintenance and restoration was initiated
  • Ding dang ... Notre Dame moves to scrap out-of-tune bells (

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Famous Churches - Chartres Cathedral,France

Chartres Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres) is located in the medieval town of Chartres, about 50 miles from Paris. Chartres Cathedral is one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture and it is almost perfectly preserved in its original design and details.
Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France
In addition to its architectural splendor, Chartres Cathedral has been a major pilgrimage destination since the early middle ages. According to popular belief, Chartres Cathedral has housed the tunic of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sancta Camisia, since 876. The relic was said to have been given to the cathedral by Charlemagne, who received it as a gift during a trip to Jerusalem. Chartres has been a very important Marian pilgrimage center and the faithful still come from the world over to honor the relic. In 1020, a glorious new Romanesque basilica with a massive crypt was built under the direction of Bishop Fulbert and later Geoffroy de Lèves. The cathedral survived a fire in 1134 that destroyed much of the town. On the night of June 10, 1194, lightning ignited a great fire that destroyed all but the west towers, the façade and the crypt. Sancta Camisia  was found unharmed in the treasury  after three days, it was attributed as a miracle. After reconstruction, On October 24, 1260, Chartres Cathedral  was finally dedicated in the presence of King Louis IX and his family. The cathedral was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Famous Churches - Basilica Sacré-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart), Paris, France

Montmartre, an area on a hill in the 18th arrondissement, north of downtown Paris, is known for its many artists who have been ubiquitous since 1880. The name Montmartre is said to be derived from either Mount of Martyrs or from Mount of Mars.
Sacré-Coeur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart), Paris, France
Sacré-Coeur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) is positioned on a hilltop at the north end of the city; it can be seen from most places in Paris. The site of the 19th-century basilica is traditionally associated with the beheading of the city's patron, Saint Denis, in the 3rd century. According to legend, after he was martyred, Bishop Denis picked up his severed head and carried it several miles to the north, where the suburb of Saint-Denis stands today. Basilica Sacré-Coeur on Montmartre was begun in the troubled period of the 1870s to celebrate the triumph of "Christian Values" over the “Socialist Aspirations” of the Paris and Lyon communes. Entirely paid for by private donations, The Sacre Coeur was built between 1875 and 1919, amidst intense controversy with secularists and radicals. Architect Paul Abadie designed the Sacre Coeur .in a Romano Byzantine style, this architectural style stands in sharp contrast with other contemporary buildings in France, which were mostly built in a Romanesque style. Five architects continued the project after his death in 1885. Sacré-Coeur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) waselevated to the status of a basilica in 1919, after the end of the First World War.

Unique Churches - The Las Lajas Cathedral, Southern Colombia

Virgin of Rosary in las Lajas Cathedral
Virgin of Rosary in las Lajas Cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Legend
The Las Lajas Cathedral is located in Southern Colombia and built in 1916 inside the canyon of the Guaitara River . According to the legend, this was the place where an Indian woman named Mari­a Mueses was carrying her deaf-mute daughter Rosa on her back near Las Lajas (”The Rocks”). Weary of the climb, the María sat down on a rock when Rosa spoke (for the first time) about an apparition in a cave. A few days later, the child Rosa disappeared from her home. After looking everywhere, the anguished Maria guessed that her daughter must have gone to the cave. The child had often said that the Lady was calling her. Maria ran to Las Lajas and found her daughter in front of a noble Lady and playing affectionately with a Child who had come down from His mother’s arms to let the girl enjoy His divine tenderness.Fearful of ridicule, Maria kept quiet about the episode. But she and Rosa frequently went to the cave to place wild flowers and candles in the cracks of the rocks.
The Las Lajas Cathedral, Southern Colombia
Months went by, with Maria and Rosa keeping their secret. Finally, one day the girl fell gravely ill and died. A distraught Maria decided to take her daughter’s body to Las Lajas to ask the Lady to restore Rosa to life. Moved by the sadness of Maria’s unrelenting supplications, the Blessed Virgin obtained Rosa’s resurrection from her Divine Son. Overflowing with joy, Maria returned home. It was not long before a crowd had gathered to hear what had happened. Early the next morning everyone went to Las Lajas, each one wanting to check the details for themselves. Studies of the painting showed no proof of paint or pigments on the rock – instead, when a core sample was taken, it was found that the colors were impregnated in the rock itself to a depth of several feet. The legend spurred the building of this Amazing Church.
The Cathedral
The Church is of Gothic Revival Architecture and was built from January 1, 1916 to August 20, 1949, with donations from local churchgoers, replacing an old nineteenth-century chapel. The name Laja comes from the name of a type of flat sedimentary rock similar to floor tiles found in the Andes Mountains. There was a claim that an apparition of the Virgin Mary was seen. The image on the stone is still visible today.

Famous Churches - The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

The Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudí's unfinished masterpiece, is one of Barcelona's most popular tourist attractions. The architect Francisco de Paula del Villar designed a Neo Gothic Church and led the construction which started in 1882.
The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
One year later, the modernist architect Antoni Gaudí took over as lead architect at the age of 31. From that moment on, Gaudí devoted most of his life to the construction of the church. When he died in 1926 only one facade (the nativity facade), one tower, the apse and the crypt were finished. The artist was run over by a tram on the Gran Via. He died in hospital two days later and was mourned by all of Catalonia. He is buried in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia. The work was interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1935. The building remained intact during the war, but in 1936 many of its models and plans were destroyed by Catalan anarchists. The last version of his design called for a church 95m/312ft long and 60m/197ft wide. The Sagrada Familia will have a total of 18 towers.  Four Towers on each of the three facades represent the 12 apostles. The towers reach a height of 90 to 120m (394ft). Another four towers represent the 4 evangelists. They will surround the largest, 170m/558ft tall tower, dedicated to Jesus Christ. The last tower, dedicated to Virgin Mary, will be built over the apse. Estimated completion dates of The Sagrada Familia range from 2017 to 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Famous Churches - The Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain

The Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain
The Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain

The Legend
Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar is one of the biggest and most important churches in Spain. St. James the Greater is born the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of John the Evangelist. According to legend, in the early days of the Church, on January 2, 40 AD, the Apostle James the Greater was proclaiming the Gospel in Caesaraugusta (present day Zaragoza) by the River Ebro, when he saw Mary miraculously appearing in the flesh on a pillar calling him to return to Jerusalem. She gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper and told him to build a church in her honor. The pillar is believed to be the same one venerated in Zaragoza, Spain today. Miraculous healings have been reported at the location. James then builds a chapel, the first built in honor of Mary. It was to become the first church in the world that was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The jasper column and the wooden statue can still be seen on special occasions at the church. Before long, the chapel became a center for the conversion of pagans. Because of the apparition and the rapid rise of Christianity, Zaragozaquickly became a major political and commercial center. The simple chapel was often updated, growing in size into the existing Cathedral that was completed about the 17th century. Several chapels and churches were built at the site and destroyed with time.
The Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain (Interior)
The Cathedral
The current “The Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar” was built between 1681 and 1686 by the King Carlos II. In 1725 the church commissioned the architect Ventura Rodriguez to transform the building to the Baroque style. The church now measures 130 by 67 meters. There are large corner towers and a central dome surrounded by ten brightly tiled cupolas. There are two domes that were painted with frescoes by Goya. One of them has the Queen of the Martyrs and the second one has the Adoration of the Name of God. The final reconstruction was finished in 1872.

Famous Churches - Milan's Cathedral Duomo in Italy

Milan's Cathedral Duomo in Italy
Milan's Cathedral Duomo has been a central part of the city's life since 1386, when it was founded by Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Milan's Cathedral Duomo is built on the place of the preceding church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the work on The Cathedral Duomo started 1386. It is the most important work of gothic architecture in Italy. During the construction of five centuries, the style has been influenced by many architects. The façade was started in 1567 and was built in a classic-baroque style with a certain variety of classical and neo gothic elements. In 1805, the front works were finished, while the construction of the statues continued through the 19th century. Milan's Cathedral Duomowas completed only in 1960, when the last bronze door was put into place.
Interior - Milan's Cathedral Duomo, Italy
In white Candoglia Marble the majestic construction extends about 157 m length, 93 m wide, and its tallest spire reaches a height of 108 meters. With its 5 naves it is overwhelmingly great and one of the largest churches in Europe. The Terraces on the Roof of the Cathedral are constructed of Candoglia marble from the Maggiore Lake. It presented a unique innovation in the construction of cathedrals roofs. The light falls through splendid stained glass inside. Fascinating is the decoration of more then 3,400 statues. The Golden "Madonna", the four-meter, gold-leaf covered statue of Mary stands at the top of the tallest spire. Milan's Cathedral Duomo is the fourth largest in Europe and the second largest Catholic Cathedral in the world.

Famous Churches - St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore), Esquiline Hill, Rome

The legend
Situated on the summit of the Esquiline Hill, St. Mary Major is the only one of the four patriarchal basilicas to have retained its paleo-Christian structures.
St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore), Esquiline Hill, Rome
A wealthy but childless Roman couple, John and his wife decided to leave their fortune to the Church. They often prayed to the Virgin asking for guidance on how their wealth could be put to use. The Virgin appeared to them on the night of August 4th, 358 A.D. and told them that she wished a basilica to be constructed on the Esquiline Hill. She would miraculously leave snow in the middle of the hot month of August on the precise area in which she wanted the church. The next morning John and his wife and Pope Liberius went to the top of the Equiline Hill which had been covered with snow. Pope Liberius immediately called for the construction of the Basilica. St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) was completed in 360 A.D. Until 1969 the feast was known as Dedicatio Sanctæ Mariæ ad Nives (Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows), a name that had become popular for the Basilica in the fourteenth century in connection with a legend about its origin. Pope Sixtus III (432-40) decided to build a new and more magnificent structure near (if not on) the site of Liberius' former Marian Church. In 1741, a congregation set up by Pope Benedict XIV proposed that the reading of the legend be removed from the Roman Breviary and that the original name, "Dedicatio Sanctæ Mariæ", be restored. This recommendation was implemented only in 1969.
The Structure
Interior - St. Mary Major
The monumental effect is due to the structure of the basilica and the harmony that reigns among the principal architectural elements. The basilica is divided into a nave and two side aisles by two rows of precious columns. Above these columns runs the skillfully wrought entablature, interrupted at the transept by the grand arches erected for the building of the Sistine and Pauline chapels. The area between the columns and the ceiling was once punctuated by large windows, half of which still remain, while the other half have been covered over by a wall. Over the walled windows, today one can admire frescos showing stories from the life of the Virgin. Above the window and frescos, a wooden frieze adorned with an exquisite inlay of cupid-like figures riding bulls unites the cornice with the ceiling. The bulls are the symbol of the Borgia family; and the coat of arms of Callixtus III and Alexander VI, the Borgia popes, stand out at the center of the ceiling. The coffered ceiling was designed by Giuliano Sangallo and later completed by his brother Antonio.
In the crypt under the high altar lies the celebrated relic known as the Holy Crib. A statue of Pope Pius IX kneeling before the ancient wooden pieces of the manger serves as an example to the faithful who come to see the first humble crib of the Savior.

Famous Churches - The Churches of Peace at Jawor (Jauer) and Swidnica (Schweidnitz)

The Thirty Years' War in Europe ended with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which upheld the principle of cuius regio eius religio( the faith professed by the ruler was obligatory for his subjects). At that time Silesia was a part of the Catholic Habsburg monarchy.
Wooden Church in Swidnica, Poland
In most of the province Protestants were persecuted and deprived of the right and possibility to practice their faith. Through the activity of the Lutheran king of Sweden, the Emperor finally allowed (1651-52) the erection of three churches, hereafter known as the Churches of Peace, in Silesian principalities under direct Habsburg rule in Glogow (Glogau), which ceased to exist in the 18th century, Jawor (Jauer), and Swidnica (Schweidnitz) in the south-west part of present-day Poland. The churches had to be built exclusively of perishable materials (wood and clay), located outside city walls, and built in a limited period of time. These restrictions, together with the need to provide adequate space for large crowds of worshippers, forced the architect, Albrecht von Sabisch (1610-88), a prominent master-builder and fortification designer active in Wroclaw, to implement pioneering constructional and architectural solutions of a scale and complexity unknown ever before or since in wooden architecture. The timber-framed structures of enormous scale and complexity were assembled.
  • The first permit was given to Glogow (1651) and the site was located 300m outside the city walls. Building started quickly and the first service was held in October 1652, but the church was destroyed by a violent storm in the summer of 1654. A new church was built the following year, but this burnt down in 1758 and was then replaced by a brick building.
  • Church of Jawor. The permit for the other two churches was given in 1652; the Church of Jawor was built in 1654-55. The church itself is of a large size, he walls and ceiling are totally covered with white and blue ornaments. The floor of the church in Jawor is completely filled with rows and rows of wooden benches: it has room for 6000 people. There are no less than 143 biblical scenes painted on the walls, and an ornate high altar. A wonderfully preserved and original site, and still in use.
  • Church of Swidnica.
    Church of Peace at Jawor, Poland
    In Swidnica a temporary structure (Gotteshüttlein, God's Hut) was built in 1652 and the actual construction was able to take place in 1656-57, thanks to the donation of Count Hans Heinrich von Hochberg and support from the Lutheran magistrate of Swidnica. A new sacristy was erected in 1695 and private pews were built by noble families in the early 18th century. Several auxiliary buildings were added to the ensemble, including the residences of the pastor and the vicars, a Latin school, and a German school. During the Silesian War, Swidnica was under siege on several occasions, and the hostilities resulted in the destruction of the sacristy and structural damage to the northern wall. All the damage was repaired by 1763.

Beautiful Churches - Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko), Helsinki

Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko) in Helsinkiis also known as "Church in the Rock," this modern church is carved from rock and has a stunning copper dome.
Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko) in Helsinki
Looks like a bomb shelter from the outside, but the interior is wonderful. The Temppeliaukio/Tempelplatsen (Temple square) was selected as a location for a church in the 1930s,butit was interrupted in its early stages when the World War II began in 1939. Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko) was built in 1968-1969. If you thought you didn't like modern architecture for Churches; this will definitely change your mind. Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko) was designed by two architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, who chose a rocky outcrop as the site for their Church. Rock Church was built inside of a massive block of natural granite in the middle of Töölö, an ordinary residential square in Helsinki. The architects have built in a combination of natural and man-made features into the circular church and its features are quite striking. The walls are of bare rock, the ceiling is a giant disc made of entirely of copper wire and interior lighting is from natural light streaming through 180 vertical glass window panes that connect the dome and the wall. A solid copper-colored balcony provides a nice view of the church interior from above. The Lutheran Church is also frequently used to host classical concerts, with the raw rock walls, the acousticsare excellent.
Interior - Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko)
There are no bells at the church, and a recording of bells composed by Taneli Kuusisto is played over the loudspeakers on the exterior wall. The dark and warm interior provides a beautiful place for worship. Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko Church) is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Helsinki.
Church Timings :
Monday to Tuesday - 10:00 AM to 08:00 PM,
Wednesday                - 10:00 AM to 06:45 PM,
Thursday to Friday    - 10:00 AM to 08:00 PM,
Saturday                      - 10:00 AM to 06:00 PM,
Sunday                       - 11:45 AM to 01:45 PM & 03:30 to 06:00 PM

Beautiful Churches - The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Cave Monastery) in Ukraine

The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Cave Monastery) in Ukraine
The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Cave Monastery) was built by Kiev monks back in 1051, this striking building is the most holy place in the Ukraine. In 1051, Saint Anthony took up residence in one of the caves on this hilly outcrop. Over the centuries the Monastery took on increasing significance as a religious centre until it was considered Orthodox Christianity's equivalent of Rome or Jerusalem.
The Lavra (head monastery in Greek) is one of Byzantium's holiest sites, where Orthodox monks established their young religion until Batu Khan invaded and burned Kiev in 1274. Still magnificent with its onion-shaped spires and gold ornamentation, the Lavra is a visit to Ukraine's glorious past. It is still an active place of Orthodox worship. The caves on the property serve as burial grounds for monks. There are a complex system of underground tunnels 2 to 2.5 meters high and up to 1.5 meters wide. The tunnels accessible to visitors in the Short Caves are 228 m long, in the long Caves, 293 m long.
The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Interior)
There are three underground churches in each of the labyrinths. There are the main church and monastery areas, but there are also other museums within the compound, such as the microscopic museum with carvings of Shevshenko on the head of a pin. Underground is where the mummified monks are. The walls and towers of the monastery remaining today, date from 1698-1701. The Great Lavra Bell tower, 96.5 metres high, (1731-1745) looms over Kyiv proudly. Kyiv’s then-highest structure was built according to plans by architect Johann G. Schädel from 1731 to 1744. In 1926, Lavra was converted into a state history and culture museum, and masses stopped being celebrated. Since 1990, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 1996 the reserve was decreed a national monument.

Beautiful Churches - Saint Vitus Cathedral at Prague, Czech Republic

The Cathedral, whose original name is St Vitus, St Wenceslas and St Adalbert Cathedral, is the biggest and the most important church in the Czech Republic. It’s the seat of the Archbishop of Prague and the place where saints, kings, princes and emperors of Bohemia are buried.
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
St. Vitus Cathedral is the spiritual symbol of the Czech State and a Gothic masterpiece. The original church, also named St. Vitus, was a Romanesque rotunda founded by Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in 925 and stood at the same location as the present day cathedral. The work on the St. Vitus Cathedral was started by Charles IV. It took nearly six centuries to complete. The original church, on a rotunda plan, was founded by "Good King" St. Wenceslas (Christmas carol fame) in 925. This was replaced with a Romanesque basilica in the late 11th century. Work on the present building began in 1344. Most of it was designed by the 22-year-old German architect Peter Parler, who also designed the Charles Bridge and other Prague landmarks. The Hussite Wars and the Thirty Years' War halted construction of the cathedral for several centuries. It was not until the 20th century that the western side of the cathedral and its two towers were completed. Although modern, they were constructed according to Parler's original plans.  The interior of the cathedral is quite spacious and features a variety of intricately adorned chapels illuminated by the light going through amazingly designed stained glass windows depicting various sacred scenes.
Interior - St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
The most important square Chapel of St. Wenceslas (Svatováclavská kaple) holds a 14th century tomb with the saint's holy relics. St. Wenceslas was prince of Bohemia and the "good king" of Christmas carols fame. St. Wenceslas Chapel is decorated with frescoes and semi-precious stones. A door in the south-western corner of the chapel leads to the Crown Chamber in which the Bohemian Coronation Jewels are stored. He founded the original church of St. Vitus on this site in 925 and was killed by his brother four years later. The chapel was built by Peter Parler between 1344 and 1364.
Church Timings
Monday to Saturday                                  -9AM to 4PM
Sundays                                                      -12PM to 4PM