St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
Photograph by Kenneth GarrettOn the bones of St. Peter, tradition holds, the world's largest church took shape in the hands of Italy's great Renaissance and baroque artists. Bernini created the altar's towering bronze baldachin, along with much of the basilica's breathtaking decoration. The travertine-stone cathedral—mother church to all Roman Catholics—can hold 50,000 worshipers.
Photograph by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty ImagesBishops and cardinals prepare themselves as Pope Benedict XVI leads Mass from underneath the high altar’s 95-foot-tall (29-meter-tall) bronze canopy in St. Peter's Basilica.
Basílica del Voto Nacional, Ecuador
Photograph by Loren Groeneweg, My ShotModeled after the grand Notre Dame in Paris, construction on La Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito began in the late 19th century and is still ongoing.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, London
Photograph by Stacy GoldAt more than 350 feet (100 meters) high, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the largest in the world and, placed on the highest spot in London, offers a panoramic view of the city.
Washington National Cathedral
Photograph by Justin Gowen, My ShotA worshiper lights a votive inside the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Originally envisioned by architect Pierre L’Enfant in the 18th century, the church was finally finished in September 1990—exactly 83 years after President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the foundation stone, saying, “God speed the work begun this noon!”
Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal
Photograph by Arun Viswanathan, My ShotStanding in contrast to its humble beginnings as a small Jesuit chapel, the Notre Dame Basilica is now one of the largest churches in North America, with soaring towers and a grandiose altar.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Photograph by PCL/AlamyBoasting some of the most recognizable Gothic architecture and religious art in Europe, Paris’s Notre Dame is a stronghold of the city’s cultural life. The west facade of the cathedral features a rose window measuring 31 feet (9.5 meters) wide with a statue of the Virgin and Child at its center.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Photograph by Corbis Corp./National Geographic StockThe City of Lights stretches out beneath one of Notre Dame's many gargoyles and chimeras. The difference? Gargoyles drain water away from the cathedral's facade, and chimeras are simple—though fantastic—decorations.
Cathedral of San Cristobal, Guatemala
Photograph by Saskia Bunge, My ShotThe Cathedral of San Cristobal in El Progreso, Guatemala, stands out among rolling hills of green. About half of the country's population is Roman Catholic, and churches and cathedrals dot its countryside.
St. Andrews Cathedral, Scotland
Photograph by Theodora Dimakopoulou, My ShotOriginally built in the mid-12th century, much of St. Andrews Cathedral in St. Andrews now stands in ruins, marking the territory of what was once Scotland’s largest place of worship.
Cathedral of Brasília, Brazil
Photograph by Ingolf Pompe/Photo LibraryDesigned by the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Cathedral of Brasília rises like a tepee in the middle of Brazil’s capital city.
La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Photograph by Michael MedfordWhen Antoni Gaudí received a commission in 1882 for a cathedral that would be Barcelona’s crowning glory, he said, “My client is in no hurry.” True to his word, the fantastic La Sagrada Familia is still under construction nearly a century after Gaudí’s death in 1926.
Salt Cathedral, Colombia
Photograph by Russell Fuller, My ShotDelivering just what its name promises, the Catedral de Sal, or Salt Cathedral, in Zipaquirá is an underground cathedral made entirely of salt, including the 17-ton altar.
Cathedral of St. Paul, Macau
Photograph by Justin GuarigliaOriginally built by Jesuits, the 400-year-old ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral are now one of Macau's most popular tourist attractions. Only the facade of the building remains.
Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco
Photograph by Alex Mizuno, My ShotThe intricately detailed interior of the Holy Virgin Russian Orthodox Cathedral in San Francisco draws worshipers and tourists alike. Consecrated in 1977, the cathedral was the site of the canonization of St. Herman of Alaska and St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.