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Top Religious Sites of the World

Updated on September 17, 2008

Religion is some form or other has been around for a long time. It is hard to separate religion from for our cultural heritage in terms of art and architecture. All of the major religions: Islam, Christianity and Hinduism have created some fantastic monuments to their gods which all of us can enjoy.

Santa Sophia - Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Built originally in the 537AD as a church it was considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. For a 1000 years it was the largest cathedral in the world. After 1453, when the Ottoman Turks took Constantinople the church was converted to a mosque with the addition of minarets and the covering up of many of the Christian mosaics. In 1935 it was converted to a museum by Ataturk's secular Republic of Turkey.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Photo: RK Catch
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Photo: RK Catch

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat Is a temple near Siem Reap, Cambodia, built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation-first Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture.

The site is huge - covering Angok Wat is not just a temple though. To see the entire site can easily take a week even if you do hire a car or tuktuk to get around. The outer wall is around 1000 by 800m an ecloses 820,000 square meters (203 acres). Most of the actual city is gone as it was probably built in wood, but the impressive sandstone temples are some of the most awe inspiring in Asia.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia Photo: lissie
Angkor Wat, Cambodia Photo: lissie

Taj Mahal , Agra, India

Possibly the most romantic building on earth the famous tomb built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal The Taj Mahal (also "the Taj") is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles.

The Taj is even more impressive when you fight your weight through the busy and dirty town of Agra, in the middle of which the Taj sits. Once you enter through the gates though this is the view that you see - it really is from the prosaic to the sublime. In accordance to Islamic tradition there are no images of people in the Taj but the beautiful geometric decorations and calligraphy are a highlight.

Taj Mahal, India Photo: slaptaxi
Taj Mahal, India Photo: slaptaxi

St Paul's Cathedral, London , UK

Christopher Wren's Masterpiece. Built to replace an earlier church raised to the ground by the Great Fire of London of 1660, the dome is inspired by St Peter's Basilica in Rome, but is built in the more sober English Baroque architectural style. The cathedral is in the traditional shape of the cross with three small chapels in aisles adjoining the main nave.

Although the church is open for tours the best way to actually appreciate is to attend a service, preferably a sung evensong which are normally held in the late afternoon. You will be shut into the inner nave and have to remain for the entire service participate and not take pictures - but you will actually get a feel for real beauty of the building and hear the wonderful acoustics.

St Paul's, London Photo:grytr
St Paul's, London Photo:grytr


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    • Orchia profile image

      Mashuri Rachmad 3 years ago from Indonesia

    • infoguider profile image

      infoguider 7 years ago

      I am not a religious person, but I have been to two out of the above four listed locations and I've certainly stood in awe at those places. I don't believe it was due to a "Godly" presence, but there is something amazing about those buildings.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Yes I've been to Hagia Sofia - its an amazing building and that's in a city, Istanbul, which is full of some pretty amazing sites. Istanbul is one of my favourite European cities!

    • DavidSofia profile image

      DavidSofia 9 years ago from Sofia, Bulgaria

      Have you been to Hagia Sofia?

      Its few hours from me and I really adore the place.

      Here are my pictures and review about it and the Blue Mosque front of the Hagia , hope you enjoy it and if you havent visited them, wish you come around:)

      You can use trivago to plan your trip as well, same I do.

      Cheers, and keep moving! :)

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Unfortunately only the Angkor Wat photo is mine, although I been to all these sites - that was the first trip we had a digital camera on and I haven't got around to scanning hundreds of other photos which are now in storage in another country :-( - maybe when I get home! I have been to the other 2 though. I forgot about Egypt - I should ad in Abu Simbel in the south - it was rebuilt after the Aswan high dam - but its well worth getting there very early by taxi to avoid the crowds that arrive on the 8am flight from Cairo!

    • lavenderstreak profile image

      lavenderstreak 9 years ago from Seattle

      Lissie, beautiful pictures of your travels to these religious icons. It's true that the most remarkable architectural and even sculpural achievements around the world were inspired by religion. Have you been to Egypt? I haven't been, but it's on my short list.

      I have been to Angkor Wat. If anyone's interested, we spent 6 days there following Dawn Rooney's guidebook and I took lots of pictures. This was in 2001 before I had a digital camera - it took me 3 weeks to scan them all in. This was my first entry on my website.