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10 Most Famous Temples in Asia

When you take into account how vast Asia is, and how many different cultures live there, it is easy to imagine why it is the continent with the highest number of temples in the world. The even biggest reason, however, would be the fact that many of today’s largest religions originated on Asian grounds, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, as well as dozens of smaller ones. 

Lotus Temple

The name of the temple comes from its structure which resembles the shape of a lotus flower. This majestic building the Bahá’í House of Worship and the most visited temple of this religion, as well as one of the most visited locations in Delhi. 

Ranakpur Temple

The temple in Ranakpur is dedicated to Adinatha and it is a central place of worship among the Jains. This incredible structure will leave anyone breathless, as it is situated on a hill and supported with almost 1500 marble pillars, which all differ in shape and their carvings from one another. 

Taktsang Dzong

Taktsang Dzong is considered to be a symbol of Bhutan and is also nicknamed the Tyger’s Nest. After it has been ruined by fire and reconstructed, the temple is more beautiful than ever. 

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

If you ever have an opportunity to visit Bangkok, Temple of the Emerald Buddha is something you have to experience in person. It is situated in the vicinity of the Grand Palace, so it is naturally one of the most visited and cherished temples in Bangkok. 

Temple of Heaven

This Taoist temple is one of the biggest ones in Beijing. If you ever visit it, you will be able to spot people practicing tai chi in the vast and stunning park surrounding the temple.

Golden Pavilion 

Golden Pavilion is Kyoto’s most prized possession and the most visited temples in this part of the country. It looks as if it had been built on water, which only adds to its splendor and popularity among the tourists. 

Harmandir Sahib

The Golden Temple, as it is also called, is the main place of worship for the Sikhs. The construction started in the 16th century but it has been improved even more since then so that it now has a gold exterior which makes it one of the most beautiful temples in Asia. 

Baalbek

Lebanon is home to this archaeological site, which was supposed to be the most magnificent temple in the Roman Empire. Centuries after, it still stands strong as one of the most famous Asian temples. 

Borobudur

Borobudur is the largest and most famous temple for Buddhism in Indonesia, and thousands of people go to the island of Java every year to admire its grandiose structure. Since the 14th century when it was abandoned, it stood covered with layers of volcanic ash, but that period remains a mystery. 

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century for King Suryavarman II and its grounds were deliberately raised so that the king would be on higher grounds than the rest. First, it was used as a Hindu place of worship, then as a Buddhist temple.

Should You Visit St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican?

When you think about Italy, countless examples of the finest Renaissance art come to mind. The incredibly sophisticated work of the old masters, unparalleled to this day, has survived in the form of thousands of enchantingly beautiful paintings and statues. The architecture that this historical period has left behind should not be forgotten, either –incredibly intricate designs and monumental buildings leave you amazed by the wonders people’s persistence and skill has created. One of the most beautiful examples of all things previously mentioned is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The very sight of this place of worship leaves tourists and believers breathless. This monumental building is something that is worth visiting, not only for its value in religion but also for its art and architecture. Let us get into more detail about why this basilica is such an important sight to see when visiting Italy.

About the building

As mentioned, this is a Renaissance building –its construction was started in 1506, on the location of the old basilica; it was finished in 1626, and worked on by various architects, and numerous sculptors and painters, most notably Michelangelo, whose work can be found inside the basilica. The basilica is said to be located on the spot where Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, was buried. Thus, we can see that this is a very important building for the Catholic Church; the Pope conducts service here during most of the year.

How it was built

This monumental basilica replaced the old one, today known as Old St. Peter’s Basilica, a 4th-century church built by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. The original plans included rebuilding and reconstructing the old basilica, but due to its state, it was later decided that it should be completely torn down and replaced by a new one. During its long period of construction, various plans have been enforced in order to create the church as it is today. Most notable contributors to the architecture of the church were Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo, each of whom had their own visions of how the church should look. Owing to their efforts, this church still attracts thousands of visitors each day.

What is stored inside?

If you do not visit St. Peter’s basilica only for the aesthetic appeal, i.e. if there is an element of pilgrimage in your visit, you will certainly look for more than just architecture or paintings in this church. You should definitely do so, as this church stores some of the most famous relics in Christianity, the most famous ones being Longinus’ spear, the Veil of Veronica, and a fragment of the True Cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Although the Vatican makes no official statement regarding the authenticity of these relics, they are stored and displayed each year, at precise times. Each of these objects is greatly valued by Christians around the world, and it should come as no surprise that they are kept in a monumental and significant church such as this.

To summarize, St. Peter’s Basilica is a place worth visiting. Whether you are a believer, or just interested in the intricate artwork, one thing is certain –you will never forget the experience.

St John’s Co-Cathedral – Valletta

Built by the Order of St. John and commissioned by Grand Master of the Order, Jean de la Cassière, St John’s Co-Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral situated in Valletta, the beautiful capital city of Malta. It was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and is now Malta’s most attractive and most important place of worship, as well as the most significant place when it comes to art and culture.

History

Girolamo Cassar, a Maltese architect who also designed numerous famous buildings in Valletta, is the one responsible for the majestic look of the St John’s Co-Cathedral. As soon as it was finished in 1577, it became the main church in Valletta, surpassing St. Lawrence’s Church. During World War ll, the church was slightly damaged, but thankfully, all pieces of art were transferred to a safe place before that. Since then, it has undergone several reconstructions, with the last one being in 2017. Today, this majestic church is included in the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.

Exterior

The church is known for its dual nature as it has a very plain exterior and incredibly luxurious interior. Although it is plain, St John’s Co-Cathedral still looks beautiful from the outside, too. The most prominent are two large bell towers on both sides of the church as well as the open balcony from which Grand Master was able to address the people. 

Interior

The church was built with a relatively modest and plain interior; however, in the 1660s, Grand Master Raphael Cotoner wanted the church to be redecorated so that it would parallel those in Rome. The renovation of St John’s Co-Cathedral was the work of artist Mattia Preti in a very luxurious and splendid style characteristic of Baroque. This is something the majority of the visitors remember the church by, and thanks to its interior, it is often praised as the most beautiful church in Malta. The two features that stand out the most are two-dimensional paintings done in such a way that to a human eye they look completely three-dimensional, as well as the floor which is a series of tombs where important knights were buried. This adds a very strong and impressive note to the church as it brings the feeling of rich history and power.

Art

The most notable piece of art in the church is Caravaggio’s masterpiece, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. It was painted for the Oratory, and that is exactly where it stands today. Moreover, St John’s Co-Cathedral holds another one of Caravaggio’s works,  Saint Jerome Writing, which is also placed in the Oratory. There is also a museum right next to the church which holds numerous art pieces, including the paintings done by several Grand Masters. 

Visiting

It is situated in the heart of Valletta, St. John’s Co-Cathedral is very easy to find. It opens on weekdays from 09:30 to 16:30 and on Saturdays between 09:30 and 12:30. It is better to visit it earlier in the day so that you can avoid huge crowds and be able to fully experience and appreciate the beauty of this church.

As a student of sociology, I find religion to be an amazing force in our society because it has the power to shape minds and personal experiences, connect people but also affect the way we interact with each other and understand ourselves. This blog is dedicated to observing religion from an objective point of view, with the focus on the most interesting religious places of worship. Regardless of the religion they belong to, they have significant importance to all members of that faith as they connect and bring people closer together. Whether it is churches, synagogues, mosques, or temples, I find that there are so many fascinating things about these sacred places and the way people are invested in them. If you share my interest in religion, you can expect many examples of captivating stories about places of worship from all around the globe and from numerous different religions. 

5 Holy Sites in Jerusalem

 One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem has the highest concentration of sacred places compared to any other city ion the globe. Although it has been destroyed more on more than two occasions, captured and attacked countless times in the past, it is still the most famous religious city for Christian, Jewish, and Muslim people everywhere. 

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

For both Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Church of the Holy Sepulchre represents one of the holiest places on Earth. It is the place of many well-known religious events, as it is here that Jesus was crucified and buried, as well as the place of his Resurrection. The main feature of this church is the Edicule, a chapel where the sepulcher is situated. These sacred grounds are filled with tourists praying or simply visiting the famous site. If you are planning on visiting Church of the Holy Sepulchre, be prepared to wait a long time to enter into the Edicule. 

Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock

In the Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Dome of the Rock is considered to be the third holiest site for Muslims. It is also the number one most valued site in Judaism since it covers the Foundation Stone. The structure itself is majestically beautiful and large; however, because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be filled with tension. 

The Western Wall

The Western Wall or the Wailing Wall, as it is also called, is beside the Temple Mount, center site for Judaism. The wall is all that remained from Jerusalem’s Second Temple, which was destroyed. However, Jews believe that the destruction of the physical did not destroy the spirit of the Temple, and they still come from all over the world to pray and put notes of prayers in the wall. You should keep in mind that you will be expected to wear a kippah, as this is a sacred Jewish site, but that won’t be a problem as they are free of charge. Also, there is a separate area for all female visitors.  

 Mount Zion

This place is sacred to both Christians and Jews, as it was the place of many religious settings in the past. You can find the Tomb of Kind David here, as well as the Room of the Last Supper. With such locations, no wonder that Mount Zion is one of the sacred and most popular places in Jerusalem. If that wasn’t enough, you can also find Dormition Abbey here, which is the place of the Virgin Mary’s eternal sleep. One thing to keep in mind is that you won’t have any phone signal when you visit the Tomb of Kind David.

Via Dolorosa

In religious circles, Via Dolorosa is known as the path that Jesus took to reach Golgotha after Pontius Pilate’s sentence. It translates to ‘the way of sorrows’ and it is one of the most popular and sacred roads for Christians who come here from all over the world to walk the same path that Jesus once walked. Just bring a hat or some protective clothing as it can get extremely hot during summer. 

The Guardian Angel Cathedral in Las Vegas

When we think of Las Vegas, we almost exclusively think about gambling, alcohol, drugs, large casinos, huge amounts of money, and flashing signs everywhere. To be fair, that is the most significant thing that Las Vegas has to offer to the world. No one could have predicted that such an unappealing location in the desert would lure and tempt people from all corners of the planet to visit, stay and spend some money there. There are casinos and other pieces of architecture that are synonymous with Las Vegas, but one of the most remarkable buildings is not related to gambling at all –the Guardian Angel Cathedral.

About the cathedral

Since 1995, and the creation of the Diocese of Las Vegas, the Guardian Angel Cathedral has been the seat of the bishop. Nevada is one of the last states to acquire its own diocese, and until 1995, it was a part of the Diocese of Reno, which was established in 1931, as one of the largest ones in the United States. Over time, the name of this diocese was changed to the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas, until Nevada got its own, and the Guardian Angel Cathedral became the seat of the bishop of Las Vegas. This was made possible by the tremendous growth in the number of people who visited the church in Las Vegas. From the start, the diocese developed with the help and advice from clergy members, as well as believers outside the church.

It is argued that precisely this way of development allowed the Diocese of Las Vegas to attract such a great number of followers, even in the time when the reputation of the Church is attacked by the media.

About the building

One of the most striking things about this cathedral is certainly its appearance and architecture. Usually, when we think about churches and cathedrals, we have a somewhat distinct image in our mind, and this building may not be the first thing that comes to mind, especially to European tourists in Nevada. However, it might be argued that this architectural style was the key element that provided the cathedral with authentic American expression, and attracted such a number of people to it. People can sometimes be intimidated by large towering cathedrals or too intricate artwork; sometimes, a simply designed, honest appearance does the trick. This work of the architect Paul R. Williams combines the tradition of the Church with the original and modern American image; by doing this, this place of worship was rejuvenated, and its place in the contemporary world secured. The interior is decorated by the famous Los Angeles artists of Hungarian origin, Isabel and Edith Piczek, including the stained glass windows of the church.

In conclusion

This cathedral is definitely something that tourists, both American and international, need to keep in mind when paying Nevada a visit. Modern works of art and the millennia-old traditions of the Catholic Church here joined to make a truly breathtaking building and institution that is one of the defining landmarks of the United States.

Ten Breathtaking South African Temples to Visit

When traveling, some countries just prove to be a treat, when you consider all the historical and cultural variations that affected them. South Africa is no exception –this country has a rich and diverse cultural heritage, which is best reflected in the monumental temples that leave visitors amazed and breathless.

Madhya Kailash Temple in Midrand

This Hindu temple with vibrant colors is dedicated to the god Shiva, the destroyer, who is supposed to annihilate all the evils of the world. The temple is based around a Hindu sect that believes Shiva to be timeless and spaceless.

Hare Krishna Temple, Chatsworth

This is another Hindu temple, located within a predominantly Indian part of Chatsworth. Its unusual outside architecture with white towers attracts tourists and leaves long-lasting impressions. This temple is dedicated to the colorful Hindu god Krishna.

Durban Hindu Temple

This is yet another Hindu temple, although this one is believed to be the oldest one in the country, which is why it has been protected as a national treasure for almost 40 years. It was founded by some of the first Indian immigrants to the country in the late 19th century. This temple complex has three parts, each of them dedicated to a different Hindu god: Shiva, Draupadi, and Mariamman.

The Melrose Temple

This Hindu temple also has a long history that dates back to its construction, more than 130 years ago. This temple is believed to be the oldest temple in the Johannesburg area, and it is dedicated to the Hindi deities of Lord Vinayaka and Lord Parameswara.

Shree Ayyappa Kshetram Centurion

It is very difficult to miss this temple for several reasons –the first and the most obvious one being its size, and the second, but certainly not any less obvious, its intricately decorated exterior. Hundreds of figures and thousands of colorful ornaments decorate this temple dedicated to the Southern Indian god Ayyappan, the son of Shiva, who is believed to be the bringer of good luck and prosperity. Even if you are not a religious person, you will be enchanted by the vibrant and colorful appearance of this temple.

ISKCON Cultural Center in Pietermaritzburg

This is one of the most recently opened temples by the Iskcon, but it is by no means less important because of it. Dedicated to the god Krishna, this temple, opened in 2017, was followed by the opening ceremony where followers from around the world came to join in the celebration and joy of opening a new temple. 

Clairwood Shree Siva Soobramoniar Temple

This temple with a bright golden exterior dates back to the end of the 19th century. Indians, who live in South Africa, visit this temple to worship the deity Muruga. Aside from that, this temple is well known for its Thaipusam Kavadi festivities that take place each year.

Mariamman Temple Pretoria

This is another temple that visitors cannot help but marvel over, due to its exterior decorated with incredibly lifelike statues of people. It is also one of the oldest Hindu temples in South Africa, established in 1905 and dedicated to the goddess Mariamman.

Lam Rim Buddhist Center in Johannesburg

The first temple on this list that is not a Hindu temple is the Lam Rim center. This Buddhist temple has equipment for reaching devotees all around the world via the Internet and is known for often screening Buddhism-themed movies.

The Kagyu Samye Dzong Buddhist center in Cape Town

This is one of the main Buddhist centers in South Africa and is very significant as it attracts a great number of devotees from all around the country, who seek peace, mindfulness, and happiness.