Religion has long played a central role in the human experience. Organized religion has existed in one form or another from the very dawn of civilization. No matter what one thinks about the particular claims made by a specific faith, it is impossible to argue against religion’s importance. Billions of people today organize their lives around religious teachings and consider a variety of places around the world sacred. We’ve put together this list of the world’s most important religious sites. Though necessarily incomplete, these locations are intangible cultural treasures. These are 4 of the most important Christian sites on Earth.
Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (Catholicism)
Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is the world’s largest church. Designed in part by Michelangelo, it is the finest example of Renaissance architecture in existence. Despite not actually being the highest ranking Catholic Cathedral (a distinction held by the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome), Saint Peter’s is often regarded as the greatest church in Christendom. The magnificent artwork on display is breathtaking. Standing near Bernini’s baldachin as sunbeams appear to drop down from heaven is nothing short of aweinspring. Separate from the tour through the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, visitors can explore Saint Peter’s Basilica by itself; however, you most certainly want to see all of these extraordinary sites, plan to spend at least a full day in Vatican City.
St. Peter's Basilica - Basilica di San Pietro
Vatican Museums - Musei Vaticani
Known as the cradle of Christianity, the city of Bethlehem is an important pilgrimage destination for Christians as it contains the Church of the Nativity built on the site where Jesus was born. A silver fourteen pointed star marks the place beneath an altar. The site is especially busy at Christmas when Christians from all over converge here to celebrate Christ’s birth at the place where he was born. The 2,000-year-old city is also the birthplace of King David.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (Christianity)
Located in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is regarded by most Christian denominations to contain the faith’s two holiest sites: the place where Jesus was crucified and the tomb where he was buried and resurrected. Both locations were historically in the open, only later was the church constructed to contain them. Each year scores of pilgrims journey to the site, especially during Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. According to tradition, the last four so-called Stations of the Cross occurred within the contemporary church walls. An ornate Altar of the Crucifixion sits upon the rock where Jesus is said to have died. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is open daily. There is no admission fee; however, be prepared to wait in line if crowds are large.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
One of the prime pilgrimage sites of the Roman Catholics is Lourdes, 43km south of Pau. The grotto of the Sanctuaires Notre Dame of Lourdes is considered one of the holiest sites for Christians as it is believed that this is the place where the Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous. A spring is supposed to have sprung up where Bernadette was instructed by Our Lady to dig. This spring continues to flow today and draws many from all parts of the world to be healed physically and spiritually.
The world’s great religious sites are powerful examples of how humanity has long sought to understand the world and our place within it. Too often the source of conflict, these sights hold significance and meaning for believers and non-believers alike. You need not adhere to a single faith or creed to appreciate the beauty and majesty of these places. Whether you’re on a spiritual journey of discovery or just searching for some spectacular places to visit, the world’s most important religious sites have a lot to offer.