Shana tova, guys! Yeah that's right. It's Rosh Hashanah, and I'm blogging about churches! (Don't worry Mom, I wrote this ahead of time and am probably sitting in shul with you as this goes live.)
I figured what better way to kick off the Jewish new year than to write a definitive list of my favorite churches? It's true. This Jewish girl loves her some cathedrals, basilicas, and cloisters. Which is to say...I guess I love some old-ass architecture, and churches tend to have that in droves.
Have I been in synagogues around the world? Sure. In Israel, definitely. I stumbled upon one on the Greek Isle of Santorini too. But let's face it. Shuls are much fewer and far between, and our houses of worship just don't have that...what's the word? Creepiness factor.
One of the ones Jen and I visited in Montréal had some organ music playing all day errday, like Dracula style. And what's spookier than relics? Every day is Halloween when you're looking at the imprint of Jesus's FACE on his supposed BURIAL shroud in Turin. (Sidebar: A quick Google for an example of a notable relic enlightened me to the fact that at one point, many churches claimed to have a bit of Jesus's foreskin -- how big WAS it?) Speaking of Jesus, you won't find any bleeding Jesus statues (crucifixes) in synagogues. All the talk of miracles and relics with magical powers and all that shit is honestly better than a ghost story to me.
So Jen and I came up with this idea for a post in Québec City, which -- I shit you not -- has a whopping THREE churches named Notre Dame. And the main church in Montréal is also Notre Dame. And of course, Paris's Notre Dame is Notre Dame. If you've watched any of our videos, then you know that when we're together we basically laugh at inane shit like this as if we're high (we never are), and so the many Notre Dames led us to start ranking the churches we visited in "Notre Dames," not unlike how we ranked Montréal's restaurants on a scale of one to five man buns. Since we visit at least one church per city (::praying hands emoji::), we figured why not give them the post they're due and provide a definitive* list of the world's best churches.
*Obviously these are only ones I've visited. I would not vouch for a church I have not visited, though that one in Moscow looks pretty dope. So I'll take one for the team and keep visiting the world's coolest places and tell you about them later too. Note to self: Best of: Churches Part 2, slated for 2023.
THE OBVIOUS: NOTRE DAME
Uggggh. Yasss, that's a good ugh. Like "Ugh, it's just so GREAT, like everything else in Paris." Like me, it's beautiful on the inside AND outside. The architecture is French Gothic, with flying buttresses and gargoyles and all that good shit. I hear its bell is also famous, and there is some SWEET stained glass in there. Best of all! Notre Dame has the COOLEST relics. We're talking a few mummified saints, as well as Jesus's crown of thorns, one of the "holy nails" (yes those nails), and the cross. THE cross. THAT cross. That's some morbid shit, son.
RATED FIVE OUT OF FIVE NOTRE DAMES: Like everything in Paris, it is just my favorite.
THE GOTH: MILAN CATHEDRAL
When I was looking around for a Milan picture the other day for the Hashtag Jetlag Instagram, it reminded me just how absolutely insane Milan's Duomo is. Architecture-wise, it's about as Gothic as they come; wikipedia tells me it has 135 spires! Wikipedia also tells me that aesthetically, it's had its share of critics over the years. But I think it is delightfully eerie and straight up stunning as you walk toward it. Plus, iceskating in the piazza out front is one of my favorite study abroad memories.
RATED FOUR OUT OF FIVE NOTRE DAMES: One-church point deduction because I don't actually remember what's inside, but the exterior and the iceskating keep it above average.
THE SLEEPER: STE. ANNE DE BEAUPRÉ
LA CÔTE DE BEAUPRÉ, QUÉBEC, CANADA
Ste. Anne de Beaupré is a sleeper favorite because of its pleasantly surprising quirkiness. Visiting it without expectations turned out to be one of the highlights of a day trip outside of Québec City. The zodiac mosaics were cool (will they add the 13th one?), both the interior and exterior were beautiful, and we loved the wall of crutches and canes people left for Ste. Anne to heal their disabilities.
RATED THREE OUT OF FIVE NOTRE DAMES: As cool and beautiful as it is, it's kind of in the middle of nowhere, and the linoleum floors kinda harshed the vibe. But church-points awarded for it being original enough to be one of the few churches in Québec to not be named Notre Dame (which translates to "Our Lady of Paris," btw...)
THE ECCENTRIC GAY UNCLE: LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
Well. This church looks like NOTHING else out there. Except for maybe buildings you might find in Dr. Seuss books. It's so deliciously weird but not without being truly gorgeous. Its architecture is technically classified as modern, but I think it should have an architecture category of its own. Antoni Gaudí's design is both angular and curvy, art nouveau and gothic. And the cavernous interior is full of color and light. Oh and by the way -- IT'S STILL NOT FINISHED BEING BUILT.
RATED FIVE OUT OF FIVE NOTRE DAMES: It's a true originally and the best sight in Barcelona by far.
THE MORGUE THAT DOUBLES AS A WEDDING VENUE: WESTMINSTER ABBEY
LOLOLOL sorry but it's true. Don't get me wrong, I love it. But where else but England would you be able to find a place to visit that is both Will and Kate's wedding venue AND William Shakespeare's tomb? The place is a legit graveyard filled with monarchs, writers, musicians, prime ministers -- Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, Neville Chamberlain, Laurence Olivier, Lord Byron. No joke, I had a high school English teacher who told us she cried when she visited because she was walking amongst her "dead friends." Am I the only one who finds it super creepy that people get married, coronated, and buried all in the same place? A place where on any given day, thousands of tourists walk through taken pictures?
RATED FOUR OUT OF FIVE NOTRE DAMES: I love it, but walking over top of Charles Darwin was a true WTF moment.
THE PRETENDER: ST. PETER'S BASILICA
VATICAN CITY, ROME, ITALY
OH GOD I KNOW THIS IS PROBABLY SO OFFENSIVE IF YOU TAKE ME SERIOUSLY. It's not really a pretender. I mean, it is the largest church in the world (that might be false, but I read that it "claims" to be, and I am too lazy to fact check). And obviously the Pope does Pope stuff there (and they sell Pope lollipops there). I mean, it basically takes up nearly the whole Vatican, which is a city unto itself. So you know, do with that what you will. But I'm salty because I was going to put it on my list to praise the amazingness that is the Sistine Chapel only to discover that the Sistine Chapel isn't actually inside St. Peter's Basilica at all (I did fact-check that part). And I wanted to write about the Sistine Chapel because Michelangelo's ceiling and frescoes make it truly one of the most breathtaking, unforgettable places I've ever been. But as it happens, the Chapel is only the Pope's official residence, not a church. A chapel in and of itself is not a church, right? Or am I wrong about this? It's usually just like...a piece of a church, right? WELL NOT IN VATICAN CITY. IN VATICAN CITY, IT'S THE POPE'S CRIB. And I don't actually have much to say about St. Peter's Basilica because my strongest memory of it is waiting in line and laughing at the dress code picture of the girl in a crop top and skirt crossed out.
RATED TWO OUT OF FIVE NOTRE DAMES: Two church-points for mere proximity to the Sistine Chapel, because that's how good the Sistine Chapel is. Sorry, Popesicle (let's be real, I'm more upset about blaspheming Michelangelo, Bernini, and all the other amazing architects who worked on St. Pete's).
THE COOLEST: CATHEDRAL DI SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE
OK, so maybe not everyone would call the Florence Duomo the coolest. It might not make the other major "Top Churches" lists, but it makes mine. Looking at photos of it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling because it makes me nostalgic for my study abroad semester in Florence. The Duomo is the heart of the city; being able to see its sepia dome from anywhere in the city is how I learned my way around. The Baptistery, which almost looks like a gingerbread house, is quintessentially Florentine, and unlike the other churches, which stick to one style, the cathedral is a mix of Italian Gothic, Renaissance, and Gothic Revival. The best part is you can climb to the top of the dome and look out across beautiful Florence.
RATED FOUR OUT OF FIVE NOTRE DAMES: Not as flashy as La Sagrada Familia, not as creepy as Milan, and not as Notre Dame as Notre Dame, but il Duomo de Firenze is loaded with charm, and you don't have to look too hard to find it.
So which churches around the world have earned your Notre Dames?