Tired of Visiting Cathedrals? 7 Reasons to Take Another Look

Cultural Travel

By Jessica Voigts

When visiting cathedrals, have you ever been “cathedral’d” out?

Visting Cathedrals might make you sleepy
You might need a nap, like this Greek marble statue from the Louvre

You know what I mean – traveling around Europe, and seeing every single cathedral there ever was? After a while, it gets tiresome. After all, one cathedral sort of  looks like  the next. The first few you see are stunning – and you take hundreds of photos, amazed by the architecture, history, and purpose. Then, you get cathedral fatigue.

They all start to look the same. You’d rather sit in a café with a coffee and croissant than tour one more. But I’ve got a shift in mindset for you. Instead of seeing visiting cathedrals and great churches for the usual reasons (religion and architecture), why not explore them for unusual reasons? Take a look…

Visiting Cathedrals: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
  • Visiting Cathedrals for Great Art
    • Besides famous paintings and sculptures located in cathedrals (think Tintoretto and Titian in Venice), you can also see tapestries when you’re visiting cathedrals.
    • Head to Angers Cathedral to see one of the most famous collections of medieval tapestries in Europe.
    • If you’re in London, be sure to visit Westminster Abbey and explore the Cosmati pavement – imagine how many people have walked on that beautiful floor!
    • I like to look for small details – I especially love misericords , small carvings that can be really funny, and are definitely fascinating. If you’re in a cathedral and you see someone staring off into space, I bet they’re looking at misericords, somewhere in the interior.
Visiting Cathedrals: Bayeux Cathedral
Bayeux Cathedral Labyrinth

 

  • Visiting cathedrals to understand history.

    • At Westminster Abbey, there is an ancient door, thought to be covered in human skin. Recent revelations  have shown history to be a little less gruesome.
    • In Florence, there are two really cool things to see and learn about – the Cupola’s fallen ball, and the story of the Bull and the Baker. When you find small pieces of really interesting history, the cathedrals come alive, somehow.
    • In the Orkney Islands, Scotland, you can even see the only cathedral with a dungeon, at St. Magnus. Of course, there’s a story to go along with that…
Bayeux Cathedral Interior
Cathedral of Notre Dame, Bayeux, Interior
  • Visiting cathedrals to see extraordinary, influential architecture. Yes, many cathedrals look the same – soaring interiors, flying buttresses, plenty of stained glass windows to let in the light, tall spires reaching toward heaven. But remember – these were new at one time! Think back to medieval times, when houses were not very large, and were definitely dark inside. Can you imagine the joy of being inside a cathedral? More recently, look to newer cathedrals for architectural influences. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona was designed by the famous architect Gaudi. His work, throughout Barcelona, is revered as a cultural treasure.

Visiting Cathedrals: Peru
Peru Cathedral with Last Supper of Guinea Pig Photo from Flickr
  • Visiting cathedrals for… food? The cathedral in Cuzco, Peru, has an amazing piece of art – the Last Supper. It shows Jesus and his disciples dining on a cultural delicacy in Peru – guinea pig.  When you’re wandering through great cathedrals, take a look around. You might find more cultural clues than you expect.

  • Visiting cathedrals for celebrations and community. The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, in Podgorica, Montenegro, has an incredible celebration for Orthodox Christmas . You’ll need to bundle up, but you can see fireworks, participate in a huge bonfire, and see, firsthand, the importance of the cathedral to the community.

  • Visiting cathedrals for the view.If you’re lucky, you’ll get some gargoyles in the process (think Notre Dame). Many cathedrals and great churches have viewing platforms up high – worth the hike for the incredible views.

Visiting Cathedrals: Notre Dame Paris
Carvings, Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris

 

  • Visiting cathedrals for the bones (or lack thereof). Many famous people are interred in cathedrals.

    • You can see the tomb of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in Canterbury Cathedral;
    • the tomb holding the heart of Richard I (the Lion-Heart) at the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen;
    • or the tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides.
    • You might also see an empty tomb – Florence and Ravenna have an ages-old dispute over the remains of Dante. If you’re in Florence, you can see an empty tomb reserved for Dante (hope springs eternal – I bet Ravenna will not give up those remains!).

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

8 thoughts on “Tired of Visiting Cathedrals? 7 Reasons to Take Another Look

  1. All wonderful reasons. I also enjoy listening to music in cathedrals (since cathedrals only refer to the seat of a bishop) and other churches.

    Besides music related to worship, some churches serve as a performance space for small ensembles or feature organ recitals.

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