Take the following ten unusual church buildings, which are all refreshingly different, unconventional, and both visually and stylistically captivating. Although each one is unique – different in its own way – all ten challenge conventions and push the boundaries of what a church should look like. Read on to find out more about these fascinating places of worship and the architects behind them.
Harajuku Church – Tokyo, Japan
Completed in 2006, the strikingly modern church stands out from the surrounding buildings thanks to its impressive façade, which features tongue-like alcoves. The interior, meanwhile, is made up of sweeping curves, and the building’s expansive windows bathe the church with natural light, for a light and airy feel. Pastor Tsuchihashi said, “The church offers a time and a place for people to be with God in an open atmosphere.”
Parish Church of Santa Monica – Rivas-Vaciamadrid, Spain
The abstract design looks a bit like a hand with a finger pointing up towards the sky, or perhaps an explosion frozen in midair. According to the architects, they wanted to “search ways in which to unite earth and sky, matter and light, the summit of the sacred.” The skylights at the tips of each of the “fingers” soften the digits’ abrupt lines and draw light into the interior. Meanwhile, the inside of the building is noteworthy for its black granite floors, which contrast sharply with the pale walls and ceiling. Contemporary sculptors and artists created artwork and furnishings for the church, which was completed in 2009.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia – Brasilia, Brazil
Construction of the building began in 1958, and the project was completed in 1960 – although it was not dedicated until 1970. Several sculptures add to the artistic quality of the Catedral, which is visited by around one million people every year.
Donau City Church – Vienna, Austria
Interestingly, while the exterior of the church appears dense and severe, the inside is quite the opposite. The walls and ceiling are paneled in light-colored birch, and the windows provide light, creating a bright, warm and luminescent atmosphere. Donau City Church was designed by Austrian architect Heinz Tesar and was consecrated by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn on November 26, 2000.
Sunset Chapel – Acapulco, Mexico
In order to take appropriate advantage of the view – which was blocked by a boulder and some tall trees – the edifice had to be raised by some 16 feet. The base takes up less than half the floor area of the upper story, and a curving stairway leads to the chapel space at the top of the building. The upper floor is framed by vertical columns and illuminated by beautiful light as the sun goes down. Construction of Sunset Chapel was completed in February 2011.
Thorncrown Chapel – Arkansas, USA
This chapel was the brainchild of landowner Jim Reed and was designed by architect E. Fay Jones, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Construction was completed in 1980, and Thorncrown Chapel opened on July 10 that year. The building has since been visited by more than six million people and has won a lot of architectural prizes. Most notably, though, in 2000 it was put on the National Register of Historic Places, which is an extremely rare distinction for buildings under 50 years old.
Santuario della Madonna Lacrime – Sicily, Italy
The interior of the Santuario is a massive space and is surrounded by a series of small chapels. Although architects and websites have criticized the concrete building, inside it is quite striking, and the ceiling is particularly impressive. One online reviewer wrote, “You might get dizzy looking up at the vertical windows stretching skyward to the apex of the roof.”
United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel – Colorado, USA
The main floor section of the structure is dedicated to the Protestant chapel, but a Catholic chapel, a Buddhist room and a Jewish chapel are also housed inside the building. What’s more, the Cadet Chapel also has space for Islamic services. In 1996, this architectural masterpiece was awarded the Twenty-five Year Award, and it was proclaimed a National Historic Landmark in 2004.
Cathedral of Maringá – Paraná, Brazil
Architect José Augusto Bellucci designed the modernist structure, apparently taking inspiration from the Soviet sputnik satellites. This impressive church took almost 13 years to build and was finally opened in May 1972. The building is made up of two cones, the smaller one sitting inside the larger. Inverted triangular columns within the church are decorated with artwork, while jewel-like beams of light flood the interior via huge triangular sections of stained glass. A 598-step staircase also weaves its way between the two cones, passing through an observatory on the 14th floor, where visitors can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding city.