6 Unique Religious Sites in Europe

6 Unique Religious Sites in Europe

We’ve rounded up Europe’s must-visit places of worship By: Camille Frigillana
<p>St. Petersburg Mosque // © 2017 iStock</p><p>Feature image (above): Finland’s Temppeliaukio // © 2017 iStock</p>

St. Petersburg Mosque // © 2017 iStock

Feature image (above): Finland’s Temppeliaukio // © 2017 iStock


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There are some 4,200 religions in the world, each with a different story to tell. It may be impossible to learn about all of them, but a good way to start is by visiting places around the globe impacted by these belief systems. Europe's extensive and ever-changing history makes it a great destination to find some of the world's unique places of worship. Following are six of the must-see holy sites of the continent.

St. Petersburg Mosque, Russia
Known to locals as the Tatar Mosque, the St. Petersburg Mosque was the largest of its kind in Europe outside Turkey when it opened in 1913, accommodating up to 5,000 worshippers at a time. In line with traditional Islamic architecture, the three-story mosque includes a nearly 130-foot main dome, with minarets that stand at some 160 feet. The main dome, minarets and entrance portal are lined with multicolored mosaic tiles that make up a complex geometric pattern, a design that contrasts with the gray stone exterior.

In addition to being a place of worship, the mosque also serves as the city's educational center for Muslims of all ages. The first floor is dedicated for male worship and the second floor for female worship. The third floor is for children's Sunday school lessons, as well as classes in Islam and the Arabic and Tatar languages.

Temppeliaukio, Finland
To the unassuming eye, the exterior of southern Finland's Temppeliaukio church simply looks like a glass dome surrounded by a wall of rocks. But once inside, guests are greeted by sunlight that enters through the spaceship-like dome and a sizeable area that can seat up to 750 people. Commonly called the "Rock Church," the structure has walls made entirely out of the rugged rock found underground here, which produces stellar acoustics — making this church a favorite local concert venue.

As visitors walk the polished concrete floor, they will find an altar made of smooth granite and an organ featuring 3,001 pipes.

www.helsinginkirkot.fi

Meteora Monasteries, Greece
Atop the rocky formations of Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Greece, sit six 14th-century monasteries that are home to Greek Orthodox Christian monks. Of the 24 original monasteries that were built here, only six have lasted throughout the ages and are still in operation today. The Great Meteoron monastery — the largest and oldest, located on the highest peak of Meteora — contains preserved Byzantine frescoes. The Holy Trinity monastery is the hardest to get to; visitors must climb 140 steep steps to view this spiritual landmark. James Bond fans may recognize Holy Trinity, as it was used in scenes for the 1981 film "For Your Eyes Only."

www.visitmeteora.travel

Photos & Videos
The St. Petersburg Mosque in Russia, which features traditional Islamic architecture, is one of Europe’s many unique places of worship. // © 2017 iStock

The St. Petersburg Mosque in Russia, which features traditional Islamic architecture, is one of Europe’s many unique places of worship. // © 2017 iStock

The 14th-century Meteora Monasteries in Greece are home to Greek Orthodox Christian monks. // © 2017 iStock

The 14th-century Meteora Monasteries in Greece are home to Greek Orthodox Christian monks. // © 2017 iStock

The Hungarian Jewish Museum is located at Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest. // © 2017 iStock

The Hungarian Jewish Museum is located at Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest. // © 2017 iStock

Finland’s Temppeliaukio church is commonly called the “Rock Church” because its walls are made entirely out of the rugged rock found underground in the area. // © 2017 iStock

Finland’s Temppeliaukio church is commonly called the “Rock Church” because its walls are made entirely out of the rugged rock found underground in the area. // © 2017 iStock

The Lerab Ling Tibetan Buddhist center in France houses a 23-foot high golden Buddha statue, which has been blessed twice by the Dalai Lama. // © 2017 Stefi1232

The Lerab Ling Tibetan Buddhist center in France houses a 23-foot high golden Buddha statue, which has been blessed twice by the Dalai Lama. // © 2017 Stefi1232

Scotland’s Kagyu Samye Ling is the first Tibetan Buddhist center to be established in the Western world. // © 2017 Iain Harper

Scotland’s Kagyu Samye Ling is the first Tibetan Buddhist center to be established in the Western world. // © 2017 Iain Harper

Dohany Street Synagogue, Hungary
The largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world, Dohany Street Synagogue is also known as the Great Synagogue. The Budapest, Hungary, structure can seat 3,000 people, with additional standing room for 2,000. The Hungarian Jewish Museum is located here, which is home to more than 1,000 cultural relics associated with Jewish history, faith and culture. The Heroes Temple and cemetery, also located in the synagogue complex, pay tribute to those who lived in the Budapest Ghetto during World War II, many of whom are buried in mass graves in the cemetery.

www.greatsynagogue.hu

Lerab Ling, France
About an hour drive from Montpellier, France, is Lerab Ling, one of Europe's leading Tibetan Buddhist cultural and learning centers. The temple, which houses a 23-foot high golden Buddha statue, has been blessed twice by the Dalai Lama (in 2000 and 2008). Throughout the year, the complex — part of Rigpa, a network of Buddhist centers and groups — hosts various conferences and events, such as meditation workshops and programs made specifically for children and teenagers. Those seeking a spiritual getaway can book a personal retreat and stay on-site for at least two nights. During a stay, guests can seek spiritual guidance from a Rigpa instructor and utilize temple shrine rooms for personal meditation.

www.lerabling.org

Kagyu Samye Ling, Scotland
Named after the first monastery established in Tibet, Kagyu Samye Ling is the first Tibetan Buddhist center to be established in the Western world. Beyond its monastery, the center, which is located in southwest Scotland, is also home to a community of about 60 volunteers, who are both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. Visitors can attend prayer sessions and partake in guided meditation, as well as stay overnight in one of six guesthouses or at on-site campsites, with three vegetarian meals per day included. Throughout the year, Kagyu Samye Ling holds special workshops on various topics, from meditation and mindfulness to tai chi and yoga.

www.samyeling.org

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