I love churches and cathedrals! Whenever I walk into one, I feel the peace and serenity wash all over me. Each time I go to a new city, somehow I always find myself in front of one, open to visitors. I walk in, and usually there is a mass going on … in German, French, Arabic, English, Konkani …
Maybe its their unique classic architecture and history that grabs me. In New York city, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is beautiful with its Gothic style architecture in the middle of bustling 5th Avenue, dominating it for over 150 years. It’s brimming with visitors, but still beautiful nevertheless.
In Beirut, the Mar Maroun church sits in the middle of Downtown Beirut, right next to an equally beautiful Rafik Hariri mosque (also known as Mohammad Al Amin Mosque). In a country where they have fought civil wars over religion, its amazing to see the two structures coexisting peacefully right next to each other. A friend of mine got married in a really small quaintly beautiful church up in the mountains called Church of Ascencion in Daroun, Harissa. Very striking.
The most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen is in Koln, Germany. You walk out of the central train station, and right in front of you is the Cologne Cathedral. It simply takes your breath away. You just stand there in awe, staring at the phenomenally beautiful Gothic architecture, and no matter how long you stare at it, you find something new in the architecture every minute more stunning than the minute before. History says it took over 600 years to completely build the Cathedral! Apparently it was hit by aerial bombs during World War 2, but it stood tall even when the city around it was destroyed. I spent hours there, roaming through the Cathedral, lost in the romance of the whole experience.
But the Cathedral I love visiting the most is St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Standing there since 1710 (after it’s predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London), it’s Renaissance beauty is serene and radiantly gorgeous. Even though it’s teeming with tourists, it’s still so quiet and peaceful inside. Another Cathedral to have withstood World War 2 bombing. To me, this particular Cathedral holds a very special place in my life. Years ago, when I was having my rebellion, complaints and grief with God, I walked into that Cathedral with no faith. A priest found me sitting there distraught and angry. He spoke to me with his quiet love and kindness and I ended up blurting out all my junk to a complete stranger, and cried my eyes out. Funnily enough, once I said what was making me so mad, he made me realise how trivial it sounded out in the open, how the crappiest of things are happening for the betterment of me – even if in that moment of time I was unable to see it.
I walked out of the Cathedral that day with my faith back, stronger than ever, knowing that someone up there will take care of me. I cannot go to London and not go into the Cathedral to light a candle. 🙂
What are your favorite churches and cathedrals? Go ahead … share your stories!