When it comes to majestic Romanesque basilicas and towering Gothic cathedrals, nothing beats Europe. But thanks to the creativity, ingenuity, and incredible talent of American architects, our nation boasts its own spectacular houses of worship.
Here are some of the most beautiful sacred structures in America. You would never guess that these architectural marvels only date back a century or two!
1. Cathedral Of Saint John The Baptist, Savannah, Georgia
In the historic cobblestone part of beautiful Savannah, Georgia, you’ll find the equally beautiful Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. The striking façade of gold and white, the rich interior color scheme of red and blue, and the stained glass above the high altar are simply divine. The giant pipe organ fills the nave with glorious music at Sunday Mass, and on any other day, you can wander in and enjoy the quiet majesty of the sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The church was dedicated on the site in 1876, though a fire in 1898 destroyed much of the original structure. It was rebuilt quickly and opened again just two years later. Ever since, it has served as a reminder of the rich history and spiritual heritage of the area.
2. Memorial Presbyterian Church, Saint Augustine, Florida
Memorial Presbyterian Church of Saint Augustine, Florida, is famous for its stunning domes and intricate design work. The grounds feature the swaying palms you’d expect to see on the Florida coast, but the church itself looks like it belongs in another place and time — in Venice, perhaps.
The Tiffany-style stained glass, marble mausoleum, and soaring domes make this underrated cathedral a glorious place to visit and rest a while. Though it’s located in one of the Sunshine State’s tourist hot spots, it sees fewer crowds than other more famous churches in the U.S.
3. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City, New York
In the heart of Manhattan sits Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, a neo-Gothic church that’s been around since 1858. The cathedral is situated on one full block of prime real estate in the city. At the time of its construction, Archbishop John Hughes was criticized for deciding to build the church so far away from the city’s borders. Of course, it proved to be a wise decision, since the city soon expanded well beyond those mid-19th-century borders.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral features spires that rise 330 feet into the air. The gorgeous stained glass windows were crafted in Boston, England, and France, and the cathedral also houses a Pietà three times the size of Michelangelo’s work.
4. Saint Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio
In the underrated city of Cleveland, Ohio, is Saint Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral. The cathedral is one of the most impressive and unique in the country due to its Russian-inspired design. In fact, the structure is considered one of the best examples of Russian sacred architecture in America.
The church is adorned with distinctive murals painted by Andrej Bicenko; they cover every wall of the church and depict religious figures in rich hues of red, blue, and gold. The murals darkened over time due to the smoke from area steel mills billowing into the church, but they were restored a few decades ago and are as vibrant and beautiful as ever.
Fans of the Romanov family of Russia will be interested to know that the church was partially funded by Czar Nicholas II’s missionary fund. And movie buffs might recognize the church from The Deer Hunter — parts of the movie were filmed in the church, and the priest serving the church at the time was cast as the priest in the film.
5. Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
Perhaps the most famous cathedral in the United States is the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The Episcopal church is a much-visited landmark in the nation’s capital, a place where congregants and tourists alike go to marvel at the breathtaking views and sounds.
The idea for the church was first conceived by the Founding Fathers in the late 1700s. A century later, Congress granted a charter for such a church to be built. Construction began in 1907, and over the next decade, the church that now stands in the heart of Washington, D.C., took shape.
6. Cathedral Basilica Of Saint Louis, Saint Louis, Missouri
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in New Orleans is perhaps more famous, but the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in Saint Louis, Missouri, is a uniquely glorious church that you’ll hardly believe is in America and not in Vatican City. The massive domes, the interior Byzantine and Italian-style mosaics, the luminous rose windows, and the statuary are all jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
The 41.5 million glass tesserae pieces in more than 7,000 colors were laid by several generations of the same family. The breathtakingly beautiful Chapel of the Blessed Virgin and Chapel of All Saints were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, as were the two rose windows. The monumental structure was not completely finished until 1988, and while many hands contributed to its creation, the basilica exhibits remarkable unity.
Hour-long guided tours of this spectacular structure are available most days of the week. When you walk through the doors of this incredible place, you’ll truly feel that you’ve arrived at the gate of Heaven.
7. Saint Mary Of The Angels Catholic Church, Chicago, Illinois
Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic Church in the eclectic Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago was established by Polish immigrants in 1897. The construction of the church was put on hold for years due to various factors, including World War I taking both manpower and materials, but it was finally completed in 1920.
Inside and outside, the cathedral gives an enormously divine impression. The Italian Romanesque-style church seats about 2,000 in its cruciform shape, and the exterior features twin bell towers, a large central dome, and 9-foot angel statues. The interior boasts a vast collection of paintings, statues, and stained glass windows. The church’s lovely pale blue and pink color scheme honors the church’s patroness, the mother of Jesus.
8. Cathedral Of Saint Paul, Saint Paul, Minnesota
The Cathedral of Saint Paul in Saint Paul, Minnesota, opened in 1915. It’s impressive in more ways than one: Not only is it the third largest completed church in the United States, but it’s also the fourth tallest. The cathedral’s exterior walls are made of ornate granite, while the interior is made of American travertine. Seven bronze grilles surround the marble altar, and a beautiful Resurrection window faces the east. The many domes, arches, and carefully placed lines make the church as eye-catching as the old cathedrals of Europe.
9. The Painted Churches, Schulenburg, Texas
Near Schulenburg, Texas, you’ll find the Painted Churches, a collection of charming, elaborately decorated churches built by 19th-century German, Austrian, and Czech immigrants to the area.
Dubbed “the Queen of the Painted Churches,” Saint Mary Catholic Church in High Hill, Texas, is perhaps the grandest of them all. It has remained relatively unchanged since its construction in 1876. The church’s colorful stenciling and 18 stained glass windows add to the beauty of the sanctuary.
Another beautiful church in the area is Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in Dubina, Texas. While it was whitewashed in the 1950s, the original artwork was later recovered by the congregation. The paintings feature delicate flowers and vines on sky-blue walls dotted with metallic stars.