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We pass them on street corners, we cross their thresholds for worship, but some churches are more than pews, altars and steeples. Some take religion to the extreme with odd locations and weird themes that will shock you even as they provide spiritual fulfillment.
So if you think about visiting the following eight churches, proceed with caution because you'll never know if you'll see the Virgin Mary, be frozen to death or witness the skeleton of a dead soul.
Switzerland: Church of San Giovanni Battista
You won't find stained glass windows at this church. In fact, you won't see windows or even realize this peculiar shaped architectural landmark is a place of worship. Located in the pocket-size village of Mongo, The Church of San Giovanni boasts a façade that was erected out of the Vallemaggia granite and Peccia marble of a valley, and it is also topped with a slanted roof. It strikingly stands out amid the verdant pastures of the small town, compelling many drifters to wander through its geometrical structure.
Although the church is windowless, natural light seeps through its glass roof and bounces off of the white and gray psychedelic patterns decorating its interior. And with the ability to seat about 15 people, you'll need to get here early to reserve your spot inside of this checker-coated masterpiece.
Colombia: Las Lajas Sanctuary
We've all come across a histrionically decorated cathedral that begs us to come inside. But when a church is hovering over a stream from a bridge, its reason for an elevation of 150 feet requires all eyes as well as all ears.
Las Lajas Sanctuary's story begins in 1754, when a storm left a woman and her blind and deaf daughter stranded in a gorge. Amid the howling wind, the women felt a strong force that caused them to look in the direction of the Virgin Mary who suddenly appeared in their presence, and cured the daughter.
As word spread of this miraculous event, a blind man decided to head to the area where the two women were greeted by the Virgin Mary, and he too regained his sight. With two miracles reportedly taking place in this location, it only made sense to raise a sanctuary in that very spot. Since 1949, the Catholic Church has stood strongly in Neo-gothic décor that makes even non-worshippers infatuated with its ghostly presence.
Arizona: Chapel of the Holy Cross
If you're traveling on Chapel Road and see a huge cross dangling in the red cliffs of Sedona, Arizona, don't be alarmed, because that's just the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Perched 250 feet high, the church is engraved into the auburn rocks of the rustic city with views so breathtaking it is worth the hike.
Its strange location was inspired by Marguerite Bruswig Staude who noticed that a cross can be seen in the Empire State Building from a specific angle. After searching for the perfect area throughout Europe and the U.S., she finally found the ideal spot among Sedona's rustic hills. Not only can worshippers seek religion in the buttes, but feel closer to heaven.
Russia: Saint Basil's Cathedral
This color-coated treasure of Moscow is such a dynamic architectural gem its architect was condemned to a life of blindness to prevent him from constructing a more stunning building elsewhere. But the unique beauty throughout this sacred masterpiece - from its colorful façade to its nine chapels - is enough reason to believe that this tale might actually be true.
Located in the Red Square of Moscow, Saint Basil's Cathedral, which is also known as The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat, is a symbolic treasure trove bursting in color as well as a rich history floating through its spiral staircases and narrow halls. Its colorful decor also continues inside with floral and dizzying patterns that lead to St. Basil the Blessed's casket, the bronze statue situated in the garden and many more attractions buried on its premises. Barely escaping destruction, it is able to live another day and capture the hearts of all those willing to explore its dazzling hues.
Germany: Snow Church
A church made of snow may seem too cold to fathom, but for the residents of Bavaria, Germany it is a tribute to history.
In 1911, the first snow church was raised out of the cold white powder to express the villagers' exhaustion for having to walk for about an hour and a half to reach their nearest church. So they build a snow church in the Mitterfirmiansreut village to raise awareness of their long journey. Although the modern sanctuary is less about protesting and more about the architectural feats, you'll need more than a few jackets to prevent your praises from turning into frozen words here.
France: Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe
Once again, we're taking a leap of faith from over 200 feet high to bring you one of the world's most stunning places of worship. The Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe originated as a simple shrine but transformed to a cathedral with a bell tower, nave and chapels added on as time went on.
Exhibiting a 12th century décor entirely made of stone, which is also sketched with mosaics and wonderful patterns, it will take a flight of 268 steps to see this holy antique since it is dramatically perched on a volcanic hill. And with stone heads and masks men engraved onto its landscape, the Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe is one church where you'll definitely want to give your utmost respect.
Belgium: See-through Church
Unlike most churches, the See-through church or the "Reading between the Lines" project constructed by local architects does not necessarily promote religion but delves into the perception of the mind by the way it was created. At 10 meters high and designed out of 2,000 columns constructed out of steel, the transparent look of the church creates a visual impact by appearing relatively large or quite small, depending on the way it is perceived by the viewer.
Some believe it represents the role religion plays on the onlookers' lives based on their perception of this church's size due to its abstract art or the scarcity of churchgoers in the Limburg area. But whether or not it holds spiritual significance, it is by far an ingenious artistic approach to the advancements of architecture.
Czech Republic: Sedlec Ossuary
Forget about being cremated or buried feet below the earth because at the Sedlec Ossuary human bones are proudly used as decorations. The small church that sits in a deathly silence in the Czech Republic doesn't appear like a creepy crypt from the outside. But once you step through its doors, you'll be greeted by thousands of eerie skeletons hung throughout the entire church.
Sedlec Ossuary or the Church of Bones was erected during the 15th century as an extra burial ground for the area. However, as more people requested to be buried here, the lack of room required a wood carver to be hired to organize the skeletons. He was able to make more room by decorating the church with the buried bones. If you look up you'll notice the skeletons of dead souls hanging from the chandelier. Another artistic demonstration that lurks here is the coat of arms constructed out of the bones of a local family. When you can spend your last days as art, there's no need for that over-expensive coffin.
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