You don’t have to travel to Europe to be awe-struck by glorious cathedrals and churches. The United States, Mexico, and Canada have incredible sacred landmarks with religious significance, remarkable history, stunning art, and major architectural influence. So add these 25 sites to your travel checklist or let them inspire your next road trip!
1. Washington National Cathedral – Washington, D.C.
One of the most iconic and visited cathedrals in the United States, Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., features a Neo-Gothic architectural design and 112 gargoyles. Visiting during the day to appreciate the 215 stained glass windows shining rainbow colors over the pews.
2. Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis – St. Louis, Missouri
Completed in 1914, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is known for its large, 41.5-million piece mosaic glass installation partially designed by Tiffany Studios. Visitors are enthralled by walking under the massive domes and sprawling archways throughout. The landmark was designated as a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
3. Saint Mary’s Catholic Church – High Hill, Texas
Also known as Queen of the Painted Churches, Saint Mary’s Catholic Church is full of ornate, stained-glass windows and historic, unique paintings. While many churches and cathedrals in North America are known for baroque architecture and towering domes, this church is famous for restoring and conserving each painting inside.
4. Wayfarers Chapel – Rancho Palos Verdes, California
When vacationing at California resorts near Rancho Palos Verdes, a stop at the stunning Wayfarers Chapel designed by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright is a must. You’ll be entranced by the beautiful natural scenery surrounding the area and seamlessly blended into the church. This chapel was made using redwood beams and features floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the surrounding views of the Pacific Ocean.
5. Memorial Presbyterian Church – St. Augustine, Florida
Located in America’s oldest city, the Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine displays intricate details with various stained glass pieces and yellow-gold designs across a blue dome. The Florida palm trees surrounding the church are all that give away the fact that this church is not located in Italy. St. Augustine makes for a great day trip from Orlando, so add visiting the church to your itinerary.
6. Cathedral of Saint John The Baptist – Savannah, Georgia
Another historical city in the United States, Savannah, Georgia, is also home to the Cathedral of Saint John The Baptist. While you’re wandering the charming cobblestone streets of the city, you must visit this cathedral, with stained glass windows that overlook the altar and white and gold details throughout the arches.
7. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City, New York
Right in the heart of Manhattan, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral stands out from the high-rise buildings and skyscrapers surrounding it in New York City. Neo-Gothic architecture is anything but modern and has stood in the center of the city since 1858. Instead, you’ll notice spires that tower over 300 feet into the air, with stained glass windows crafted in Boston, England, and France.
8. Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic Church – Chicago, Illinois
Established by Polish immigrants in 1897, Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic Church was built over several years and finally completed in 1920 after World War I. Designed to emulate the Roman St. Peter’s Basilica, visitors hold the church in high esteem as one of the top pieces of Roman Renaissance architecture in the United States.
9. St. Philip’s Church – Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is also known as the Holy City, and St. Philip’s Church is one of the city’s iconic landmarks. Dating back to the colonial 17th-century, St. Philip’s Church is also known for its cemetery, home to John C. Calhoun, Edward Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, and other historical figures.
10. Thorncrown Chapel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
This lesser-known chapel is a true hidden gem located in the Ozarks about an hour outside of Branson. Thorncrown Chapel has welcomed over six million people since opening in 1980 and has won many architectural awards, including the American Insitute of Architects’ top buildings of the 20th century.
11. Cathedral of Saint Paul – Saint Paul, Minnesota
Dedicated to the Apostle Paul, the Cathedral of Saint Paul opened its doors in 1915. Since then, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops named the cathedral as a national shrine. With exterior walls made of Saint Cloud Granite, an altar surrounded by seven bronze grilles, and Italian Botticino marble, you’ll be awe-struck when visiting.
12. St. Louis Cathedral – New Orleans, Louisiana
The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest church in all of North America, and it’s located in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Mass is held every day at noon, but visitors are welcome to admire the ceiling murals and iconic spires that overlook the street artists and musicians outside.
13. Chapel of the Holy Cross – Sedona, Arizona
Besides being a religious landmark, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a common attraction for millions of visitors every year. Built into the red rocks of the desert, you won’t want to miss the modern architectural marvel juxtaposed in the desert landscape.
14. Trinity Church – Boston, Massachusetts
This iconic church in Boston’s Copley Square is designated a National Historic Landmark because of its distinct architecture and beauty. Trinity Church is also considered one of the nation’s top ten buildings by members of the American Association of Architects, so don’t miss it on your next trip to Boston.
15. The Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel – Colorado Springs, Colorado
The 150-feet-tall Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel is a striking structure with 17 glass and aluminum spires and serves as a place of worship for student cadets. In addition, there are distinct chappels for Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist people and an All-Faiths Room. So while you’re on vacation at the best Colorado ski resorts, a visit to the Air Force Academy grounds and its chapel should be on your list, especially after their 2022 -2023 upgrade projects.
16. Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel – Montreal, Québec
Translated to “Our Lady of Good Help,” the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours is located in the district of Old Montreal in Quebec. The original chapel was constructed in 1678 but burned down later in 1754. The chapel that stands today is still one of the oldest in the city and was reconstructed in 1771. You can also visit the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum at the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, which is dedicated to the life of St. Bourgeoys.
17. Notre-Dame Basilica – Montreal, Québec
The oldest church in Canada, the Notre-Dame Basilica, is the church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec. It has been rebuilt three times after being twice destroyed by fire. Upon the 350th anniversary, a holy door was added to the structure. It’s the second holy door ever constructed outside of Europe and the eighth in the entire world.
18. Basilica of Notre-Dame-du-Cap – Trois-Rivières, Québec
The Basilica of Note-Dame-du-Cap is Canada’s national shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is one of only five national shrines in all of Canada. It’s visited by thousands of Catholic pilgrims every year and overlooks the St. Lawrence River.
19. Church of Cooks Creek – Manitoba
Also known as The Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Church of Cooks Creek in Manitoba began construction in 1930 and was finished in 1952. The multi-story domed structure displays traditional baroque architecture and stands out with gold/yellow painted stones decorating the exterior.
20. Drumheller’s Little Church – Alberta
Ornate mantels, intricate naves, towering archways, and stained glass windows are not featured at Drumheller’s Little Church in Alberta—but it’s still one of the most famous structures in Canada. Drumheller’s Little Church only fits six people at a time and was built in 1968. So if you’re looking for a minimal wedding or celebration in Canada, this could be your spot.
21. Catedral Metropolitana – Mexico City
Without a doubt, the most notable cathedral in all of Mexico is the Catedral Metropolitana. It’s the largest cathedral in Latin America and is influenced by Baroque, Neo-Classic, and Neo-Renaissance architecture. Besides its religious influence, conquistador Hernán Cortés is also said to have laid the first stone of the building.
22. Catedral Basílica de Zacatecas – Zacatecas City
While visiting Zacatecas, you’ll notice how many buildings are built from a beautiful pink quarry stone. The Catedral Basílica de Zacatecas towers over the city in a Baroque style and was constructed in 1729. The ornate main doors and Chhurriguieresque influence are some of the main draws of this lesser-visited Mexico town.
23. Basílica de Guadalupe – Mexico City
As the second most-visited holy place in the world, the Basílica de Guadalupe features two basilicas. Unfortunately, the original basilica became so sunken into the ground that it became a safety hazard that had to be restored. The newer basilica has its own museum and library and the cloak of Saint Juana Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin with its beloved image of Our Lady Guadalupe.
24. Iglesia La Profesa – Mexico City
Built in 1720 by the famed architect Pedro de Arrieta, the Iglesia La Profesa is constructed with influences of baroque and neoclassical styles. It’s known for being a symbol of the culture and history of Mexico, with intricate artwork throughout the church.
25. Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción – Matehuala, San Luis Potosí
The Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción in Matehuala is most well known for its beautiful, ornate rose window that allows light to flood through and illuminate the cathedral’s nave. While it lacks the typical ornamentation seen in most baroque cathedrals, its simple natural stone keeps the structure classic and straightforward.
This article was originally published on Savoteur.
Mia Reid is a University of Central Florida graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English – Creative Writing. She specializes in writing, editing, search engine optimization, as well as graphic design, and digital marketing.