Different religions call their sacred spaces different things — church, synagogue, mosque — but they are all used for the same purpose — for worship. These places of worship come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found all over the world. Some, like Notre-Dame de Paris are huge and intricate, with years of history pressed into its wood carvings. Some people worship in stadiums, at campgrounds, in home groups, in sleek and modern buildings sandwiched between apartments in crowded cities.
It can be argued that people of any faith can worship anywhere, but I wanted to take some time to highlight a few interesting worship spaces around the world.
The Stave Churches are medieval, wooden churches that once numbered in the thousands across Norway and other Scandinavian countries. Now there are barely 30 remaining. I’ve never visited a stave church, but I imagine that the simplicity of some of them — with only a nave and a small chancel — hearkens back to simpler, quieter times. I actually learned first about the stave churches because of a pin on our Jericho Pinterest account, and a little research makes me desperate for a visit.
I visited St. Oswald’s Church in Grasmere, Cumbria in England’s Lake District several years ago. St. Oswald’s is famous for being the final resting place of poet William Wordsworth. I spent a Sunday morning at St. Oswald’s, and the Anglican service was comfortable and familiar to me (I was raised Lutheran), and like the Stave churches of Norway, this tiny stone church in Grasmere made me feel like I has stepped out of the 21st Century. Add the element of poetry to the mix, and I think William Wordsworth’s home church could inspire poets the world over.
The Old-New Synagogue is Europe’s oldest surviving synagogue, and is located in Prague. According to the official Prague website, the only time the synagogue was not used for services was during the Occupation in the 1940s. It amazes me that this building wasn’t destroyed along with many synagogues during WWII.
I’ll wrap up my places of worship highlights list with the beautiful design and architecture of the Imam Mosque in Iran. The mosaics adorning the facade are seven-color, and the mosque is known for them and its beautiful calligraphy. The beauty and splendor of the architecture of many mosques, but this one in particular, make me speechless. The time and focus it must have taken to to lay all of those mosaic tiles is definitely outside of my abilities. It was built in 1611 and is registered as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Where do you worship? Take a photo of your worship space and send it to us. We’ll feature it in an upcoming blog post.