Religious places in Europe
The Agios Loannis lambadistis Monastery is considered one of the best of Cyprus' painted church – ten of which have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. From the outside the small monastery doesn't look like much, but when entering the dark interior, it's a different story. The whole ceiling is covered in vivid frescos from the 11th to the 15th century. Like ancient cartoons, each illustrates an episode from the bible. Getting to Agios Loannis lambadistis Monastery is almost half the fun. First by navigating the winding roads through Troodos Mountains, and then wriggle your way through the narrow lanes of the small villages of Kalopanagiotis, where the monastery lies at the bottom across the river. The villages itself could easily be a candidate for the cutest villages in Cyprus.
Denmark has some magnificent churches, but Grundtvig's Church still stands out from the crowd with its imposing expressionist architecture. The construction started 1921, but when the mastermind behind the unique design, Danish architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen Klint died in 1930, the church still wasn't finished (his urn was later sealed in one of the walls). The task was then entrusted to his son architect and designer Kaare Klint, who completed the church in 1940. Kaare Klint became even more famous than his father, particularly as a furniture designer, and the chairs he designed for Grundtvig's Church have later become a Danish design icon. The church is named after the Danish philosopher and hymn writer N. F. S. Grundtvig.
The places below will prove, every village in the Faroes has its church. Even the smallest collection of buildings will probably have a church amongst them. A very traditional and deeply religious society, religion still play a far larger role, both politically and socially, here than anywhere else in Northern Europe. The islands are therefore full of small, adorable and whitewashed churches. Faroese churches' interiors are decorated in extremely humble and minimalistic designs. Usually, with simple wooden benches, a simple altar with a painting rather than a crucifix, and sometimes a wooden ship or two hanging from the ceiling. Even the Catholic church in Tórshavn is without many of the adornments associated with Catholic churches. While many churches stay locked outside prayer times, the small and close-knit nature of life on the Faroes means that it's often possible to find the responsible priest or responsible caretaker.
In 1858 Virgin Mary occurred for a poor peasant girl, Bernadette, in a cave outside the small market town of Lourdes. The seeing of Virgin Mary continued that year and Bernadette was even told by Mary to dig a hole where holy water suddenly sprung from. The whole thing was then named "Our Lady of Lourdes" and confirmed as a miracle in 1862 by the local bishop on order from the pope. Today Lourdes is one of the major destinations for Roman Catholic pilgrimage and sick from all over the world come here for the claimed miraculous healings. The population of the town is only around 15,000, but more than 5,000,0000 pilgrims and tourist come by every year. The town can seem like a religious theme park and is adapted to the hordes of Catholic pilgrims with special lanes for the sick in wheelchairs and mobile stretches. It can be hard to understand the mania for nonbelievers, but why not join the madness and buy an "Our Lady of Lourdes"-shaped water bottles from one of the many souvenir shops and bring home a splash of holy water - you never known!
Out in the middle of nowhere, close to the border to Azerbaijan, lies a collection of cave monasteries known as Davit Gareja. You drive up to the main monastery, Lavra, which has been rebuilt to charming perfection. The hillside next to the monastery is holed like a Swiss cheese with small monk cells - which are in use and therefore cannot be visited. Above the walled complex of Lavra lie several other caves which used to be chapels and monk rooms. The view over the Georgian prairie is spectacular and you can see up to Azerbaijan from the top of the hill.
In 1914 Brother Déodat got a vision and built a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes (France). However, he wasn't happy with it, so he smashed it. His second attempt wasn't good either, as the Bishop of Portsmouth couldn't get through the doorway, so that got smashed too. Thankfully, Brother Déodat was happy with his third attempt, which is the version that stands today, though others had to complete his work. The tiny main chapel only measuring 1.4 m wide by 2.8 m long, and has room for around eight people. The chapel is decorated from floor to spire in seashells, pebbles and broken china. It's admission free, but a donation is encouraged. The pictures is of an even smaller underground chamber.
From a distance the Hill of Crosses doesn't look like much, just a small knoll with some crosses. But as you approach the collection of crosses, you will suddenly realise just how many crosses there are. The hill is literally covered in crucifixes of all sizes, materials and colours left by pilgrims through the last couple of centuries. It's estimated that there are more than 100,000 crosses - and more are coming every year.
One of the main sights in Valletta is St. Johns Co-Cathedral built by the Knights of Malta in the 16-century. From the outside the grand cathedral is rather plain, but the inside is a mind blowing mix of golden colours, vivid murals, and carved ornamentation. The whole floor is made up of about 375 tombs, each housing a dead knight and covered with a richly inlaid marble tombstone, some rather morbid with lots of skeletons, skulls, and bones. The cathedral is also rich in more traditional religious art like altars and paintings.
The painted monasteries in northeastern Romania are a collection of churches that have their exterior painted in colourful cartoon-style frescoes. The walls feature biblical stories as well as portraits of saints, which were probably meant as education for the illiterate peasants and soldiers.
Humor monastery and its frescoes date back to the 16th century and is on now UNESCO's World Heritage List. The exterior frescoes depict the Last Judgement, Holy Virgin, St. George and the besiege of Constantinople. The interior is equally colourful. Even though it lies a long walk from Gura Humorului town, it is one of the most accessible of the painted monasteries.
The monastery at Voronet is another painted monastery reachable from Gura Humorului. It is considered one of the most beautiful ones due to the detailed frescoes depicting the Last Judgement, Genesis all the way from Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel, the family tree of Jesus, along with stories of less famous saints. The monastery was built in the late 15th century, while the frescoes were added later in the 16th century. The vivid blue that was used has become so famous that it is now called Voronet blue among art historians and guidebook writers. Voronet monastery lies even further away from Gura Humorului than Humor monastery, and in the opposite direction. Voronet is also on UNESCO's Heritage List.