Fifty Extraordinary Churches
May 11, 2010 3:48 PM   Subscribe

My god, it's full of HDR.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:53 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Skimmed, didn't see Hagia Sophia, grimaced, closed tab
posted by Copronymus at 3:55 PM on May 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

Interesting and thank you. I tend to divide churches into two categories, those that glorify God and those that glorify the architect. Probably confirmation bias (or perhaps just garden variety bias) on my part, but I seem to get more of the latter the later the church.

Mind you, hard to compete with the likes of Chartres or even the stripped down New England congregational church 'n' spire.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:58 PM on May 11, 2010

The best thing I can say for this is that at least they're all on one page.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 3:59 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

some of these are extraordinarily cool. The salt mines church! The church covered in ivy! Church on top of a volcano! Thanks for this.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:01 PM on May 11, 2010

Wow, I've only been to one of these (Sagrada Familia). Though I went to a different stave church than the one they chose (the one in Vik), and that was amazing.

I may not have much use for what goes on in churches, but I do love me some beautiful, large-scale architecture.
posted by gurple at 4:04 PM on May 11, 2010

1. Read first entry:

It took incredibly long to build it (38 years!) Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986.

2. Thought, "Here is someone who doesn't know much about how long it takes to build a cathedral.'

3. Oh, wait.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:05 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

> 11. Church in Stykkishólmur (Iceland)

My wife and I spent a day and night in Stykkishólmur and fell in love with the place.

Also, every church we saw in Iceland looked like the Space Shuttle.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:05 PM on May 11, 2010

The Church of Hallgrímur reminded me disturbingly of the flying pipe organ that takes off to battle Frankenstein-Hitler at the end of Lisztomania. Only with much less Ken Russell. Extraordinany churches, indeed!
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:11 PM on May 11, 2010

Lalibela's monolithic churches should be much, much higher than 36. The Device to Root Out Evil is ugly, and is not a church. They also left Étretat's Notre Dame de la Garde.

How can you compile such a list and not include more European cathedrals? Cologne? Chartres? Amiens?
posted by Dia Nomou Nomo Apethanon at 4:12 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to admit to finding Hallgrímur to be a little dull (in RL). The US Academy chapel looks cool though, broodingly science fiction-y! What more could one ask?
posted by biffa at 4:15 PM on May 11, 2010

The walls are made from a special cement, which contain titanium dioxide, so it destroys air pollution.

"Riiiiiiight," I thought.

And then I looked it up.
* TIO2 as photocatalyst in concrete (pdf)
* Photocatalysts, Self-Cleaning Concrete
* Industry scrambles to find a 'greener' concrete
* It Slices, It Dices: Pollution Eating Concrete

That's pretty cool!
posted by zarq at 4:17 PM on May 11, 2010

I've been to the church in Eureka Springs, the Thorncrown Chapel. It's lovely, as is Eureka Springs (which actually has a really nice Catholic chapel as well).

There's a cool little chapel down near Fisherman's Wharf here in San Francisco as well, built right on the dock itself. It's not much larger than a public restroom, really, and is a 'Fisherman's Chapel.' As such, it has the names of fishermen who've died working the local waters on it. I went to see it with my father, who is a Presbyterian minister, and he was totally enchanted by it, small as it was.

It strikes me that churches are so often a beautiful testament to what a group of people who are utterly committed to a single, clear goal can accomplish together. It also strikes me that there are innumerable other things that that effort might be more practically expended upon.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:17 PM on May 11, 2010

The Cathedral in the Wieliczka Salt Mines in Poland is so amazing, and sadly not included here.
posted by aclevername at 4:18 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

How many of the pastors/priests/leaders of those churches feel really misunderstood, or constantly frustrated, I wonder? I mean, the tourist-to-actual-new-convert ratio must be pretty depressing.
posted by circular at 4:20 PM on May 11, 2010

Why is the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel straight out of The Venture Bros??
posted by GuyZero at 4:21 PM on May 11, 2010

Related AskMe I posed last July - lots and lots of interesting churches listed by MeFites, though the images aren't all on one page.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:22 PM on May 11, 2010

More Than A Building is a blog about beautiful churches that are about to be destroyed, or have been recently destroyed and the shame of it all.
posted by Faze at 4:26 PM on May 11, 2010

While the outside doesn't stand out, the Sedlec Ossuary (Church of Bones) in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic is fuckin' amazing.
posted by gman at 4:27 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Everything after #2 was sort of anticlimactic because what could be more awesome than that.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:32 PM on May 11, 2010

Oh, yeah, Sedlec. Take off the birdhouse or the non-church sculpture and add Sedlec.
posted by gurple at 4:40 PM on May 11, 2010

Here is a somewhat better shot of #18 (self link). The whole region looks amazing and these carved out dwellings are everywhere.
posted by MillMan at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2010

I agree - Church #2 is pretty spectacular. Church #3 used to located right outside my offices - more art piece than church really.

My favorite church? Tadao Ando's Church of Light. Very human scaled and deeply contemplative. The cross is made up of intersecting panes of glass - evoking the notion that God is everywhere, yet nowhere in a strikingly elegant way.
posted by helmutdog at 4:44 PM on May 11, 2010

Here is a better link to the Church of Light
posted by helmutdog at 4:46 PM on May 11, 2010

It would have been nice if the writing, research and list compilation hadn't been so half assed.

(seriously, the last one is a bird house?)
posted by piratebowling at 4:50 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

These beautiful amazing buildings inspire in me the desire to imagine them full of monsters and traps and secret passages and loot. Who says D&D is unholy??
posted by The otter lady at 4:54 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here are a couple of MA churches;
In Burlington
The photo only hints at the Jetsons quality of the thing.
In Waltham
That glass is sea-green.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:56 PM on May 11, 2010

Iceland's #1! Iceland's #1! We're #1! We're also #11!

Don't mind me, it's just that these days we don't have that much going for us. Also, I got confirmed in Hallgrímskirkja. Some people don't like it, but I do. It's weird and odd in imposing ways. That architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, was the Icelandic government's main architect for a good chunk of the 20th Century. I think this particular building is his masterpiece, though I also quite like his National Theatre. He was somewhat obsessed with hexagonal columns, taking the form from columnar basalt, which is not uncommon in Iceland but fairly rare everywhere else.

Incidentally, Hallgrímskirkja is named after Hallgrímur Pétursson, a great religious poet of the 17th Century, whose Passion Hymns are beautiful expressions of Lutheran orthodoxy (even to an Atheist such as myself).

As to why Icelandic churches look so odd, one reason I've heard is that grand public buildings were rare in Iceland for most of its history (and in the 20th Century most were designed by Guðjón Samúelsson) so architects got few chances, so they'd put all their thought and effort into the churches.
posted by Kattullus at 4:57 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is beautiful. Thanks for the post : )
posted by puny human at 5:06 PM on May 11, 2010

If "extraordinary" means unusual, OK. That covers the church with the Shell logo, etc.

But if "extraordinary" means, knocks your socks off, blows your mind, then I would disqualify numbers 5, 7, 9, 27 (absent further explanation, at least), and 50.

And at Sagrada Familia, what are those, cash machines out front?
posted by beagle at 5:18 PM on May 11, 2010

Greg Nog, you could find it on google street view if you want
posted by Think_Long at 5:23 PM on May 11, 2010

Skipped to Sagrada Família. Threw up in my mouth and swallowed it in penance for exposing my eyes to such wretchedness.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:33 PM on May 11, 2010

Hmm. So churches were not spared architecture's cruel turns in the 60's and 70's.

I like how the Church of Christ in D.C. is captioned as ugly, unwelcoming, and expensive to maintain.
posted by Atreides at 5:37 PM on May 11, 2010

Number twenty-seven is a fake place; please change the link to forty-nine!
posted by Hoenikker at 5:58 PM on May 11, 2010

Outside the Sagrada Familia? Those would be Japanese people ;)
posted by puny human at 6:03 PM on May 11, 2010

I really love Hallgrímskirkja. About ten years ago, I was up in the clocktower with a couple of friends of mine, taking photos of Reykjavik. Suddenly, the bells struck a truly deafening 12, and for a minute it was the climax to Vertigo. I thought about getting one of them to shove the other off the roof, but I didn't want too much verisimilitude.
posted by Len at 6:32 PM on May 11, 2010

Some of these really are extraordinary. Thanks for posting this.
posted by homunculus at 6:34 PM on May 11, 2010

Also, no love for Marcel Breuer's totally wiggy but ace St John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota?
posted by Len at 6:42 PM on May 11, 2010

Wow. There are a bunch of obnoxious HDRs there.

I find it hard to believe that no one in the planning or construction of #7 noticed that they were creating a pack of enormous penises?
posted by Locobot at 6:47 PM on May 11, 2010

I cant believe it took them 38 years to build that first one!
posted by Versatile at 6:51 PM on May 11, 2010

Forty-Nine Extraordinary Churches:

48.Third Church of Christ, Scientist (Washington, DC, USA)
posted by Pollomacho at 6:58 PM on May 11, 2010

weird Lost reference.
posted by lunit at 7:30 PM on May 11, 2010

Skimmed, didn't see Hagia Sophia, grimaced, closed tab

Technically not a church, but yeah. In a different but related vein, the Mezquita Cathedral (self-link) in Cordoba used to be a Mosque and is breathtaking.

That Air Force Academy Chapel is clearly a Cylon resurrection ship.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 7:55 PM on May 11, 2010

Some nice churches, but I find myself longing for isolated mountaintop monasteries...
posted by kozad at 8:10 PM on May 11, 2010

yeah, me too. But some of these places seem truly serene.

Perhaps the 'omg hdr' folks need to visit a quiet place - such as this.
posted by archivist at 9:08 PM on May 11, 2010

Ugly churches of our time
posted by milkrate at 10:22 PM on May 11, 2010

A glaring omission: The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, whose construction allegedly doubled the national debt of the Ivory Coast.
posted by Ljubljana at 12:07 AM on May 12, 2010

Versatile: I cant believe it took them 38 years to build that first one!

Iceland was a really poor country. At the beginning of the 20th Century, most of the population was living in houses made of turf and sod.
posted by Kattullus at 1:48 AM on May 12, 2010

Yay. Don Justo and his self built Cathedral (#31)
posted by adamvasco at 4:42 AM on May 12, 2010

Sainte Chapelle in Paris is extraordinary and unfortunately not represented here. Interior
posted by dabug at 4:58 AM on May 12, 2010

Hey, where's the Hundertwasser church? It's the coolest church ever: it has arches representing all major world religions (including Islam, Hinduism, Animism etc.) and one for atheism too!

What could top a church that says "hey, other ways of believing in the world are OK!"?
posted by Tom-B at 6:29 AM on May 12, 2010

My employer insures churches, so I find this interesting on an aesthetic and professional level. The reinsurance involved for some of those beasts must be amazing.

Still, I'd have ditched both the bizarre Lost reference and some of the others mentioned here in favor of Mont St. Michel in France and the Crystal Cathedral in California. The latter may represent the worst of the excesses of American Evangelicalism, but it's still an impressive building.
posted by valkyryn at 8:05 AM on May 12, 2010

Wayfarer's Chapel - Designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright). Beautiful church, beautiful setting on the coast in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
posted by rjc3000 at 10:16 AM on May 12, 2010

The Church of Hallgrímur?

That just SOUNDS amazing. Don't need to see the pic1; it's the CHURCH of HALLGRÍMUR. Get a pew near Thor!

1 Although, the church *does* look badass.
posted by grubi at 11:25 AM on May 12, 2010

I lived in Scotland for a while and really enjoyed visiting Rosslyn Chapel, which you may recognize if you are one of the millions of people who read the Da Vinci Code. It is actually very small and understated in person, but simply beautiful.
posted by nbaseman at 12:18 PM on May 12, 2010

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