Blog, Destinations, The US, Travel Tips

November 19, 2023

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When you think about the world’s most beautiful churches, cathedrals, and religious buildings, you probably don’t think about California. Say ‘cathedrals’ and the mind turns to Notre Dame in Paris, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, St Paul’s in London, or St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

But California has some truly stunning cathedrals and should not be overlooked by travelers who want to discover the rich, soaring beauty that religious architecture can inspire. From the Gothic Revival churches in San Francisco to the remarkable glass and crystal structure of Christ’s Cathedral in Garden Grove, there are some genuinely breathtaking examples to be found on the West Coast.

So when California cruising is back in full swing, next time you are on a California road trip, or just when you have a few days spare and fancy a more spiritual kind of vacation, why not stay in one of the Golden State’s beautiful cities, and explore these magnificent Californian cathedrals.

St Peter and St Paul, North Beach

Image by Wilkinsbenjamin from Pixabay

Looking like it has been plucked straight from Florence or Milan, the church of St Peter and St Paul in North Beach, San Francisco revels in its nickname of ‘the Italian Cathedral of the West. Its iconic twin towers feature exquisite decoration and beautiful bell towers, while the gorgeous Italian Gothic interior is a wonderful sight to behold. One of the more picturesque aspects of the San Francisco skyline, it has formed the backdrop to a host of blockbuster movies over the years, from Dirty Harry to Deadpool.

Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland

Photo by Ronan Furuta on Unsplash

From Gothic Revival to something a little more up-to-the-minute, the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland is an eye-catching example of modern religious architecture. It was the first cathedral in the world to be built entirely in the 21st century, and features an abstract, modernist style that has been compared to the design of a bishop’s mitre, shaped by steel and filled with glass frit. The wood and glass vault of the main worship space was inspired by the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.

Holy Virgin Cathedral, Richmond

Image by Egor Shitikov from Pixabay

The marvelous golden onion domes of the Holy Virgin Cathedral in Richmond stand in stark, wonderful contrast to the pretty, restrained pastels of the rest of the architecture in this San Francisco neighborhood. It holds the crown of being the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral outside of Russia, and its gold leaf exterior and brightly-colored mosaics inside make it a feast for the eyes, whatever your faith.

California boasts some of the most beautiful and fascinating places of worship in the US, and exploring these magnificent buildings can be a real treat. Next time you are in California, check out the three cathedrals above and discover the sumptuous majesty of West Coast religious architecture.

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