Europe's Most Iconic Churches

Iconic churches of Europe. Famous churches of Europe. definition of an abbey. definition of a basilica. definition of a cathedral. definition of a minster. definition of a priory.Frauenkirche Dresden.Notre Dame Paris. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. St Basil's Moscow. St Paul's, London. St Peter's, Vatican City. Westminster Abbey, London.

A church is a place of worship for the Christian faith.There are several titles attributed to these places of worship so I will endevour to explain these words before going on to tell you a little about Europe's most iconic churches.


An abbey is a church run by an order of monks which is under the supervision of their superior, the abbot or abbess. Famous abbey's in Europe are Westminster Abbey in England and Mont Saint - Michel in France.


A basilica is an obselete word in Latin that means a royal palace of ancient Rome and has been attributed to large catholic churches, first thoughout Italy, but now worldwide.Famous basilicas around Europe would be The Basilica of St Peter in The Vatican and the Basilica at Lourdes in France.


A cathedral is the main, central church of a diocese that also contains the seat of the Bishop and the episcopal throne.Most major cities throughout Europe have a cathedral most of which are famous either within the country of it's location or worldwide.


A minster is an honourary title attributed to a church run by an order of monks or a monastary which does not contain the abbot or abbess of the holy order residing there in. Famous minsters in Europe are York Minster in England and Monte Cassino in Cassino, Italy.


A priory is a religious residence or small monastery governed by a prior or prioress and generally subordinate to an abbey. Run by friars or nuns most priories were dependent on their local abbey for support, turning many of them to become self sufficient by way of running small schools or hospitals for the poor.There are many former priories that still remain a school or hospital  today,that were once run by these types of holy groups.


     Image courtesy of neopyr, wikimedia commons.



The Protestant Cathedral in Dresden, Germany is known the world over for having been destroyed during World War Two.

The church of Our Lady was originally built between 1726 - 1743 from a design by German architect George Bahr.

On the night of the 13th of February 1945 allied forces began the bombing of Dresden, completely destroying the beautiful baroque church in the process.

In 1992 a restoration plan was devised by way of donations from three organisations, The friends of Dresden, a US organisation, The Dresden Trust, a UK organisation and the Frauenkirche Foundation Dresden, a German organisation.

Architects and artistes from all over Europe began the restoration using Bahr's original plans.

The cathedral was finally completed and re - opened in 2005.




Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island on the river Seine in Paris, Our Lady of Paris is France's most visited landmark after the Eiffel Tower.

Work was begun on the Catholic cathedral in 1153 under the patronage of Childebert I during the reign of King Louis XII.

The cathedral which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary was completed in 1250 and is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.


        Image courtesy of wjh31, wikimedia commons.



The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is situated on the Carrer de Mallorca in Barcelona and is considered the most beautiful church in the world.

Originally began by a design from architect Francisco de Paula del Villar in 1877, within one year the work was taken over by architect Antoni Gaudi, whose lifes work it became.

Gaudi completly changed del Villar's former gothic style to his own brand of modernism which depicted all forms of nature.

When Gaudi died in 1926 only 1 facade, 1 tower and the crypt and apse had been completed, so intricate had Gaudi's work been.

Modern architects and artistes remain to this day working to complete Gaudi's masterpiece, which will eventually have 18 towers, all done in the intricate style Gaudi originally nurtured.


  Image courtesy of Dror Feitelson, wikimedia commons.


Situated pride of place in Moscow's Red Square the Russian Orthodox cathedral dedicated to St Basil the Blessed and commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, was built between 1555 - 1560.

The cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin in the Moat, to give it it's correct title, was built to commemorate the capture of Kazan in 1552.

The moat refers to the moat which once surrounded the Kremlin.

Built to a design by architect Postnik Yakovlev, the beautiful, ornate and colorful spires , domes and minarets were unmatched in beauty anywhere in the world.

Rumour has it that Ivan the Terrible blinded the architect upon completion of the cathedral in order that he never replicated it, but fortunately this is only folklore, as Yakovlev went on to build another cathedral in the city of Vladimir a few years later.




St Paul's is the fourth house of worship to be built on this site, with the present building dating from 1675 - 1710, when it's predecessor was destroyed during the great fire of London.

Built from plans by famous London architect Christopher Wren, the Anglican cathedral that is situated in the city of London proper, is the most iconic church in Great Britain and known the world over due to it's unusual domed roof, something not usually found on British church architecture.




The basilica dedicated to St Peter, the first Roman Catholic pope, who was crucified and buried on this very spot, was built in 1506 on the site of a previous church.

Situated on the Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City, the basilica is the largest church in the world.

The building was commisioned by Pope Julius II and finished in 1615.

The basilica's architect was Bramante, with the dome designed by Michaelangelo and the square of St Peter designed by Bernini.


     Image courtesy of ChrisO, wikimedia commons.



Westminser Abbey is a Gothic church in England's capital , London, which is a Royal Peculiar.A royal peculiar is a free church of the monarch.

It's official title is the Collegiate Church of St Peter. The church was originally founded in 960 as a Benedictine monastery and was dedicated in 1065 to King Edward the Confessor.

In 1260 King Henry III built a bigger and more magnificent church in honour of the King / saint, who is buried and entombed in the abbey.

During the years of 1546 until 1556 the abbey became a catholic cathedral, but.when Queen Elisabeth I came to power, she had the country revert back to the Church of England faith and so turned the abbey back into the hands of the English church. 

The church of England is affiliated to the Anglican denomination of churches, with the present monarch the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

The Abbey has seen 38 royal coronations, 14 royal weddings, 30 royal burials and 3 royal funerals since the first royal coronation in 1066 of both King Harold and William the Conquerer, and still remains the Royal Church of the Church of England.

                                         OTHER CHURCH ARTICLES YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 






                                                                                   © D.B.Bellamy.October, 2010.


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