Our last visit to Paris was in June 2017, and the spire and roof in our photo below are now gone, destroyed in this weeks fire at Notre Dame, along with many precious artifacts.
This last Sunday we had visited St Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue in New York City for the first time and marveled at the great restoration work that had taken 3 years and was completed in 2015. I fear it may take a lot longer than that to restore Notre Dame, and just a little bit of its soul will forever be lost. Over 850 years, the Cathedral's towers, stained glass, and famous gargoyles have loomed large over Paris. The outpouring of grief and financial promises of support are real and meaningful, but the question should be asked...do we take historical and architectural masterpieces for granted?
Churches, temples, mosques and cathedrals are often the heart of any country's identity and can encapsulate so much beauty and history.
Go see these marvels of the world, just in case they're gone one day...
Top 5 Religious Marvels of the World
1. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain (above and below)
The only building in the world that has brought tears to my eyes, it is that remarkable.
Our photos can't do the epic scale of Gaudi's vision justice. It's been "under construction" since 1882 and there is finally an anticipated completion date for 2026 which will mark the centenary of Gaudi's death. But don't wait until then to go visit and make sure to purchase skip-the-line tickets ahead of your departure, or better still arrange a tour guide, which will make a hugely positive difference to your experience.
2. Ise Jingu, Ise, Japan (below)
As much about the outdoors as the various shrines on the complex, there are nearly 14,000 acres of this Shinto site seen as a "divine forest" of Japanese cypress, and the trees were worshipped here long before temple construction began in the third century. The Japanese government has designated Ise Jingu as a National Treasure and there are over 8 million visitors a year. Three museums covering the local history, agriculture, and fine arts are on a hill near the center of Ise Jingu which is roughly 60 miles east of Osaka.
3. St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome (below)
One of the holiest of Catholic sites, the basilica is covered everywhere it seems, with ornate gold, marble columns, paintings of angels, iconic statues, and works created by a very long list of Renaissance artists including Brunelleschi, Bernini, Raphael, and of course Michelangelo, who sculpted the marble Pietà and designed the basilica’s massive dome.
Top Tip - again, book a tour for early morning to avoid the crowds.
4. Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel (below)
The Western Wall is the last remaining section of the retaining wall surrounding the courtyard of the Temple Mount begun by King Herod in 20 B.C. and destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 and this is one of the holiest sites in Judaism. Jerusalem is a fascinating hub of complicated religious relationships and I intend to visit soon as my memories of the city as an 11 year old are fairly sparse.
Top Tip - wear modest clothing if you intend to visit the Wall.
5. Bodh Gaya, India (below)
Located in the very northeast of India, Bodh Gaya is the most holiest site for Buddhists. This is where Gautama Buddha attained unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment. The Maha Bodhi Temple is the historical place at which the Enlightenment took place and has become a place of pilgrimage, and the other sacred site on the complex is the Bodhi Tree where for seven days after the Enlightenment, the Buddha continued to meditate without moving from his seat. The present tree is believed to be a descendant of the original tree.
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