Ten spectacular contemporary churches [slideshow]

German building-information provider Emporis compiles a photographic tour of inspirational spaces.

December 20, 2013 |
Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida, Braslia, is one of 10 contempor

Hamburg, Germany – Angular, asymmetrical, colorful and just plain extraordinary, there are modern churches that will have one looking in vain for a traditional steeple. All around the world, architects are designing ever more eye-catching houses of worship – chapels and synagogues whose shapes and colors will be impressing visitors long after the upcoming holiday season has passed. Emporis, the international provider of building information, has now compiled a selection of the world's most spectacular churches, as summarized in the table below:

One of the most recent examples, the Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue) in the German city of Mainz, is reminiscent at first sight of building blocks in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, piled on top of one another and interspersed by slanting triangular and rectangular windows. In actual fact, this Jewish place of worship, completed in 2010, is intended to represent an outsized version of the Hebrew word Kedushah, meaning blessing. The architects of Iglesia Parroquial en Rivas Vaciamadrid in Madrid, Vicens + Ramos, also make strong use of corners and edges, with finger-like protuberances projecting like truncated pyramids out of the north side of the church. The building is also notable for its rust- colored facade, which sets it apart from other churches in terms of color. 

With fewer angles, but all the more rotund instead, are the Cathe?drale de la Re?surrection in E?vry, France, and the Leaf Chapel in Hokuto, Japan. The former catches the attention with its circular footprint and the trees ringing its steep rooftop like a crown. The Leaf Chapel, on the other hand, is reminiscent of a cupola nestling against a slope. Its two-part shape consists of a glass half that is stationary and a second half made of steel that can be pushed up over the other. In favorable weather conditions, the indoor chapel can quickly be made into a location for an open-air wedding.

A harmonious combination of rectangular and round elements is displayed by the Jubilee Church in Rome, Italy. While the right-hand half is composed of rectangular blocks that house the various rooms and a bell tower, the left-hand side is characterized by three semi-circular layers that grow smaller as you move outward, and which lean over the other parts of the building like a cocoon. Especially for the "Eternal City" Rome with its countless Christian churches from two millennia of history, this asymmetrical house of worship does not just represent a feat of daring, but also a singular architectural highlight.

Wherever one looks, church architecture is undergoing a process of upheaval. Outstanding designs are making modern houses of worship stylish works of art. Whether this modernization of the appearance will benefit the image of church as an institution and lead to more people attending services, will remain to be seen. One thing, however, is already certain: These ten spectacular churches are unique architectural masterpieces. 

1. Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida


Brasília, Brazil; Oscar Niemeyer, Architect


2. Cathédrale de la Résurrection


Évry, France; Mario Botta Architetto, architect


3. Chapel of the Holy Cross


Sedona, Arizona, U.S.; Anshen + Allen, architect




4. Hallgrímskirkja


Reykjavík, Iceland; Guðjón Samúelsson, architect


5. Iglesia Parroquial en Rivas Vaciamadrid


Madrid, Spain; Vicens + Ramos, architect


6. Jubilee Church


Rome, Italy; Richard Meier & Partners


7. Leaf Chapel


Hokuto, Japan; Klein Dythim architecture, architect


8. Neue Synagoge Mainz


Mainz, Germany; Manuel Herz Architects


9. Temppeliaukio Church


Helsinki, Finland; Timo & Tuomo Suomalainen, architects


10. U.S. Air Force Cadet Academy Chapel


Colorado Springs, Colorado; SOM, architect


About Emporis

Emporis is a leading database of information about building and construction projects, based in Germany. For over a decade Emporis has helped companies, organizations and individuals stay informed about the building industry. The Emporis Skyscraper Award is the world’s most renowned prize for high-rise architecture. 


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