I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a long time. After the fire at Notre Dame, on Monday, I started looking back at my photographs. When I travel with my friend, Amy, we go into every church that we possibly can. I often say that, “I haven’t met a church that I didn’t like.” Maybe I don’t say it that often, but I say it a lot while I’m traveling. Unfortunately, in the United States, if it’s not Sunday or time for mass, most churches are locked. Luckily, many other countries, allow you to visit some of their churches, as a tourist. One would think that it would only be true for popular destinations, but in general, when I tug on the the front door, it opens.
I always try to be respectful, although I do usually take pictures, which is frowned upon, by some cultures. I try to show up before or after service, so that I don’t disturb anyone, that is trying to worship. Every so often, I get lucky and have a place all to myself. Even better, is when I woke up early, and got to enjoy mass at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, before any of the crowds showed up.
In no particular order, here are some of my favorites.
Gol Stave Church • Oslo, Norway
Gol Stave Church, in Oslo, Norway. is amazing. Although, it was taken apart in Gol, then rebuilt in Oslo, for a museum, it is a beautiful work of art inside and out. If it looks familiar, and you haven’t been to Oslo, it might be that you have seen a replica, at the Norway pavilion, in EPCOT Center. I grew up visiting Walt Disney World, and the Norway pavilion, was always my favorite. When I first found out that I was going to travel to Norway, this church is one of the first things that I added to my list. The artwork, on the inside of the church, of the Last Supper, is breathtaking. I have read that it’s a painting, but it has a very burnt wood quality to it. There really isn’t a whole lot on the internet to help me figure it out though.
Sacré-Cœur • Paris, France
Paris, and France as a whole, have some of my favorite churches and cathedrals. Sacré-Cœur, in Montmartre, is one of the prettiest cathedrals, in the world. I just read that someone said, “Why couldn’t it be Sacré-Cœur?,” referring to the Notre Dame fire. Like children, I don’t know how anyone could pick a favorite.
The light in Sacré-Cœur, is simply amazing. If I could, I would spend days there, photographing the changing light. From the outside, the building is gorgeous, but it is tourist central. Living statues, pick pockets and the best views of Paris, are right at it’s steps.
Metropolitan Cathedral • Athens, Greece
I woke up at sunrise, and headed out of my $20 Air BnB, to take a walk around the city of Athens. I used the Rick Steve’s audio app, which is free and has walking tours included. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, and it’s smaller brother, Little Metropolis, are right by each other. I had woken up so early that the main Cathedral, was just opening, and Little Metropolis remained closed. The only real light I had, was streaming in through the windows and one open door.
They say that the walls, were built from the remnants of 72 other churches, which had been demolished. I assume it’s all real, but the amount of gold and marble, is pretty astonishing.
Eyvindarstofa Blönduósi • Blonduos, Iceland
I wish that I had more pictures of this church, but I only visited once, and it was not open. Up in Northern, Iceland, I stayed at a sheep farm, which was marvelous. The town of Blonduos, was the closest town. The town has this church, that reminds me of Space Mountain, a gas station and a few other conveniences for the traveler. I wish that I could have seen what the inside looks like. From the outside, I’m going to stick to my theory that Jesus and George Lucas built a church together.
Het kerkje van Etersheim • Etersheim, Netherlands
If any church, has stolen my heart more than another, it’s Het kerkje van Etersheim. No longer a church, but a lovely family, has converted it into their house, with a room upstairs, for rent. I stayed their for 3-4 days, over the summer and it was such a marvelous experience. While this won’t make anyone else’s Top 10 Church Lists, and there aren’t any gargoyles or crucifixes, this is a memory that I will cherish. Situated on a canal, with the Markermeer lake, outside of my third story bedroom, I woke up daily to the most beautiful sunrises. This is also where I developed my eternal love for soft boiled eggs, at breakfast.
Sainte-Chapelle • Paris, France
After leaving mass, at Notre Dame, I stopped at Sainte-Chapelle. It was free with my museum pass…so why not? It was one of the best decisions that I have made in my life. I could look at those windows forever, following along with stories from the bible, kings and queens. I almost always take photographs of the ceiling, when I visit a church, and Sainte-Chapelle’s is one of the finest.
Frederiksborg Castle Chapel
From the outside, I prefer Versailles or Neuschwanstein, but from the inside, my favorite is Frederiksborg Castle, in Denmark. The castle has it’s own chapel, because…well why wouldn’t it? I really dig the organ, that is pictured below. They spared no expense, when building the chapel. On the day that I was there, we weren’t able to goto the ground floor, and it was almost too crowded to take pictures. Like I said earlier, look up!
Notre Dame Cathedral • Paris, France
The first time that I visited Paris, I headed to Notre Dame, right before Sunset. I didn’t stay all of the way through sunset, because I was exhausted, and didn’t want to walk in a new city, in the dark. On the other hand, I stayed long enough to take this first photograph, before heading back to my hotel. The next morning, I took an Uber, first thing, and got to watch Sunday morning mass, before all of the tourists lined up. It’s an odd site to see the front of Notre Dame, without hordes of tourists. I went back again, a year later, and I’m so glad that I did. It’s been a little over a year now, and after the fire, it really makes me appreciate the little chances that we get in life. Many times, I would sleep in or make excuses, instead of getting off of my ass, and exploring. Now, I always pick adventure over everything else.
Luckily, we still have Notre Dame. If you ever get the chance, it’s way better than the Eiffel Tower.
Rouen Cathedral • Normandy, France
After seeing such amazing Churches in Paris, I wasn’t really expecting to be blown away by other churches, as I traveled through France. Boy…was I wrong! I might not ever pick a favorite, but Rouen is certainly up there. If you like early gothic…Notre-Dame de l’Assomption de Rouen is at it’s pointy best! While you’re in Rouen, stop by and see where, Joan of Arc may or may not be buried. If you’re really lucky, there will be a lovely little food cart serving amazing crepes, right by the Joan of Arc statue.
Vincentiuskerk Church • Volendam, Netherlands
If you’re stopping in Volendam, it’s worth it, to take an hour and walk the back streets, off of the main tourist street. It’s probably worth it, to do that anywhere. If it’s open, Vincentiuskerk Church, is a great example of a Catholicism, in the Netherlands. It’s also the church, with the most references to Jesus Christ, that I have ever seen. Unlike many Catholic churches, that have paintings and statues of saints, Vincentiuskerk is covered wall to wall with depictions of Jesus. Even if the church isn’t open, check out the little graveyard they have behind the it.