Sometimes it feels like if you’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve seen them all. But these stunners from around the world might just cure your religious building fatigue.
Glass Galore: Sainte-Chapelle (Paris, France)
If you love colors, there’s nothing like the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, which is wrapped in stained glass on all four sides. In fact, no fewer than 1,113 Old and New Testament scenes are spread across its fifteen windows -- adding up to more than 6,400 square feet of glass. Though the modestly sized chapel is just 118 feet long by 56 feet wide, there’s no arguing that it packs a big, rainbow-colored punch.
All the Opulence: Metropolitan Cathedral (Mexico City, Mexico)
Where France has Versailles, Mexico has the Metropolitan Cathedral. Step into this landmark and find almost completely gilded altars and walls swathed in brilliantly colored murals. Still, for all its ornate splendor, the cathedral is free to enter and enjoy. Two fun facts: The cathedral is visibly sinking on one side, to the point where visitors have to take stairs down to the entrance; and, because it took nearly 250 years to build, the cathedral boasts not one but three architectural styles (Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical).
A New Perspective: Lincoln Cathedral (Lincoln, England)
In Northern England, this cathedral, built in 1092, will have you looking at religious buildings in a different way -- literally. Lincoln Cathedral’s four premium tours afford visitors the rare chance to traverse the second-level gallery that runs along the cathedral’s aisle; get a closer look at the stained glass and vaulted ceilings; access the roof; or climb the highest tower for 360-degree views of Lincoln. (A floor tour is covered in the entrance charge.)
Location, Location, Location: Las Lajas Sanctuary (Narino, Colombia)
Near the border of Colombia and Ecuador, the Gothic revival Las Lajas Sanctuary is perched delicately over the side of a canyon, 330 feet above the Guáitara River. You don't have to be an architecture aficionado to admire how a cave wall has been incorporated into the altar, or to appreciate the elevated views, which are best enjoyed on the church’s outdoor plaza. Access the church via a 160-foot-long pedestrian bridge across the river.
Pattern Heaven: Siena Duomo (Siena, Italy)
Come with your phone fully charged. This Tuscan cathedral is held up by pillars of black-and-white striped marble that are, at the very least, Instagram-worthy. The handful of ceiling and wall frescos that boast intricate patterns and brushwork are not to be missed, either. Pro tip: The cathedral's 14,000-square-foot floor, inlaid with marble mosaics that date from the 14th to 16th centuries, is usually covered for protection -- with the exception of a few months in the fall. Time your visit accordingly.