Cathedrals, monasteries and other sacred destinations

Travel Destinations — By on June 3, 2009 at 7:14 am

Some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world are religious sites. But you don’t have to be a pilgrim or a spiritual seeker in order to appreciate a sacred place. I’ve recently come across several articles that approach religious tourism from a variety of angles. Take a look.

For starters, the world’s most visited religious destinations. Sure, you can guess that some of the entries would be the Vatican in Rome or the city of Jerusalem in Israel. But there also destinations on the list that are more obscure, at least to Westerners. For instance, among the nine sites are:

Tomb of Imam Reza in Mashad, Iran– The name of Iran’s holiest city translates as “place of martyrdom” — after the eighth Shiite Imam, Reza, a direct descendant of Mohammed. The Imam’s tomb is the most important Shia site in Iran, and estimates of pilgrim numbers range from 12 to 18 million.

Mount Tai in Tai’an, China– Regarded as the first of China’s five sacred mountains of Taoism, Mount Tai is located just north of Tai’an City, in China’s coastal Shandong Province. The mountain served as a sacred retreat for emperors during the ancient Zhou Dynasty, and was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1987. Taishan Temple lies at the foot of the mountain, and some 7,000 stone steps lead to the Azure Clouds Temple at the top. About 7 million visitors come to the mountain each year.

Then, an interesting story on the world’s most unique monasteries and cathedrals, complete with some stunning pictures. There are 11 destinations listed, including:

Church of St. George in Ethiopia– Located in Lalibela, Ethiopia, this rock-hewn church is fascinating in that, upon approach, it appears to be an enormous cross carved down into an enormous rock. At the base, however, one can see its true purpose. It is a church. Created in the early 13th century, it is considered by some to be the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Paro Taktsang in Bhutan– Finished in 1692, this monastery was built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave, the most well known of the thirteen “tiger lair caves in which Guru Padmasambhava is believed to have meditated in the 8th century. Legend says the Guru flew to each cave on the back of a tiger, hence the name. The monastery hangs on a cliff roughly 700 meters above the valley floor.

Finally, one person’s view of the ten most beautiful cathedrals of Europe. Yes, Notre Dame of Paris and St. Basil’s of Moscow are on the list. But the eight other selections also include:

Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, Turkey– Former patriarchal basilica, a mosque and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest structures ever built. Created between 532 and 537 as a church on the orders of Justinian, emperor of the Byzantine Empire and home to many holy relics, Hagia Sophia was the Patriarchal church of Constantinople and the religious ground zero of the eastern Orthodox World for almost 1000 years…The greatest example of Byzantine architecture, Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world for 1000 years, until the completion of the Cathedral of Seville.

Sagrada Familia of Barcelona, Spain– Designed by now famous architect Antonio Gaudi, Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic cathedral still under construction in Barcelona. Work on the cathedral started in 1882 and Gaudi himself worked on it for 40 years, 15 of which he dedicated exclusively to it, until his death in 1926. When asked about the deadline of his project, now scheduled to 2026, Gaudi said “My client is not in a hurry.”

The most visited, most unique and most beautiful. A lot of ways to look at travel. What cathedrals or other sacred sites would be on your list?

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1 Comment

  1. Jaun Millalonco says:

    My first visit here, found the blog accidentally really, and I just wanted to say I’ve enjoyed my visit and had some good reads while here 🙂

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