Attractions

Top 12 Most Stunning Mountain Churches in the World!

Written by Town & Tourist

1. Santuario Madonna della Corona

Location: FERRARA DI MONTE BALDO, ITALY

Santuario Madonna della Corona translated to English as Sanctuary of the Lady of the Crown and this really does deserve our crown! It is a stunning masterpiece which looks although it is suspended in mid-air!  This ancient Italian chapel hangs half way down the sheer cliffside of Italys Mount Baldo. Due to the churches, restricted access and remoteness, it is a true survivor of the 20th century.  Archaic but still intact!  The original church was built in 1530 as a chapel for people who wanted to pay pilgrimage and contemplate the nature of God in tranquility. 

Italian Masterpiece. Photo by: www.cai.lecco.it

Over the centuries the church grew larger and another was actually built over the original. As the 1970’s came around an Italian architect refurbished a lot of the decaying structure, being mindful to keep its artistic authenticity.  These days the once dangerous terrain of the mountain path leading to the chapel has been opened up and improved.

Fun Fact:

The church is not technically hanging on the sheer cliff face but sits on a narrow rocky shelf. The remote shelf was has been a tranquil spot for those seeks meditation and praise in peace. This hidden gem of a church is a very popular pilgrimage site for visitors wishing to lay eyes on the famous Scala Santa, a replica of the stairs to Pilate’s palace that Jesus climbed before he was sentenced to be crucified.

2. Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe

Location: Aiguilhe, Le Puy, France

This striking pinnacle church is a true wonder of France. Voted as Frances 4th best monument in the country, according to the French.  The English translation is “St.Michael on a needle” , due to the formation of rocks which resemble a needle! The architecture is reminiscent of holy buildings of Spain, such as the stone work of the famous Cordoba Cathedral. The chapel’s stone work is mighty, with stunning fresco murals and stained glass throughout!

Photo by UnusualPlaces.com

The churches stunning location magnetises travellers and pilgrims to come from all over the world! The remarkable Panoramic views offer a true delight when you reach the top, at over 279 feet high (85meters). But, where did it all begin?

History:

Built in 969AD, directly on top of a 279 foot volcanic plug! This phenomenal chapel has been a place of speculation and rumours for centuries! As some believe it has been a sacred place of worship for many years before the christian Church was built.  The christian chapel was constructed by a bishop who went by the name of “Godescalc”. He constructed the monument as a way to celebrate his return from a pilgrimage, to the shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Why is it called “Needle”?

This remarkable place has 268 steps leading up to the 279 feet high Chapel. The cliff top measures at just 187 feet (57 meters). in diameter. That is why it has the name “Needle” or “Aiguilhe”. When you enter the chapel expect a tranquil environment,  which is great for meditating and prayers.

Top Tip: The actual steps leading up the Chapel are not too difficult with, many benches acting as rest points along the journey.

Top Tip: A common practice by pilgrims is to get their walking sticks blessed in the clifftop shrine before starting their ascent up the steps.

3. Sagra di San Michele

Location: Turin, Sant’Ambrogio di Torino, Italy

Sometimes referred to as Saint Michael’s Abbey, this sensational masterpiece is built on top of Mount Pirchiriano, in the north of Italy. From on top of its towers you can admire the Piedmontese capital and stunning views of the Val di Susa. Built in the 10th century, its Byzantine influence is captured in the columns and arches of its crypt. Where in the 12th Century members of the royal family of the House of Savoy were buried!

Photo by: piemonteitalia.eu

A local legend says that the abbey was built by a hermit, named St. John Vincent. He Dedicated the construction to Archangel Michael , a true defender of the Christian people, Saint Michael’s abbey is part of a pilgrimage route stretching over 2000km from Mont Saint-Michel, France, to Monte Sant’Angelo, in Puglia.

Fun Fact: The Sangra Di San Michele was the setting for an award winning Mystery novel in the 1980’s called, “The name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco.

To reach the face of the chapel you must ascend a treacherous staircase named ““Stairway of the Dead” , as you reach the top you will see a mighty 12th-century marble gateway known as “Zodiac’s Door.”

4. Abune Yemata Guh

Location: Gheralta mountains, Ethiopia

The breath taking cave churches of Ethiopia have been something of mystery and wonder for Centuries! Forged out of the sandstone of the Gheralta mountains approximately 1,600 years ago, this array of cave churches is truely an amazing sight. The remarkable Fresco covered rocks are amazingly well preserved, offering an artistic insight back in time!

Photo by: Worldtravelguide.com

The Gheralta mountains are located 500 miles north of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa and just 60 miles south of the border with Eritrea. If you wish to visit, expect to make your way along narrow ledges, up rope ladders and across a rickety bridge. The church was dedicated to Abuna Yemata, one of the nine Saints that came from Syria to the ancient Kingdom of Aksum in present-day Ethiopia. Approximate figures of the construction are around the 6th century.

Orthodox monk surrounding by well preserved frescos inside Abuna Yemata Guh Church. Photo by: Agefotostock

Due to it’s remoteness and mystery to the rest of the world, some of the priests have been up in  the mountains for over 40 years!

Fun Fact: Even though the journey to the hidden cave churches is treacherous, at best. I saw many young families brining their new born babies to be baptised!

5. Jvari Monastery

Location: Mtskheta, Republic of Georgia

Jvari Monastery is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site, located on a hilltop between the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers in Georgia, eastern Europe. The site was first settled by humans around 3000-2000 BC. Who were Attracted by Its mild climate, river intersection and fertile soil.  This time capsule of Georgian architecture, was a bustling hub for Christians and Ancient trade.

Beautiful Sunset! Photo by: otg.ge

Architecture:

The tremendous Georgian architecture is a great example of the “four-apsed church with four niches,” a technique also known as “tetraconch”! Although the tetraconch architectural type did not originate in Georgia, it underwent a unique and complex development in the country.

History:

Legend has it this mysterious and sacred place is where St. Nino (A female Evangelist) built a wooden cross on a previous pagan temple this was the seed which grew the site. As many pilgrims trekked from all parts of the then Kingdom of Georgian Iberia.  The Actual Monastery was completed in 605 AD.

Inside Javi Monastery Photo by: InYourPocket.com

2006 World Monuments Watch:

Heavily deteriorated from centuries of water damage, violent regional conflicts, and inadequate maintenance, Jvari Monastery was included on the 2006 World Monuments Watch. Missing its roof, the interior mosaics and frescoes of the small church have been mostly destroyed by the elements.

Top Tip: Driving distance from Tbilisi is 19 km (20 min)

6. Saint-Marie Madeleine 

Location: France

The awe inspiring retreat of the Legendary Mary Magdalene after she fled persecution in the Holy Lands, this cave in Provence’s Massif de la Sainte Baume has exploded to become a prime pilgrimage spot from for everyone from popes to royalty! 

Awe-inspiring French Mountain Church, Photo by Alarmy

Architecture:

The building includes a nine-span nave with eight-bay collaterals to which side chapels are placed between the buttresses. 

Top Tip: Visit on Pentecost Monday to join masses who worshipping from around the world.

7. Felsenkirche

Location: Idar-Oberstein, Germany

Otherwise know as the “Chapel-in-the-Rocks” and “Crag Church,” is a rugged symbol of the city of Idar-Oberstein, Germany. This is a unique place which is actually moulded into the rocky cliff face in exquisite fashion! Originally built around (1483), as a shelter and defensive fort for the villagers. These days it attracts over 100,000 visitors annually who scale the 230-step stairway to see the remarkable site and works of art. Popular art attractions include a Gothic-style stone font, an agate crucifix and a functioning organ dating all the way back to 1756. Having only been open to tourists since 2005, this place has exploded in popularity! With weddings been a popular event here.

German Mountain Church Embedded in the Rocks! Photo by Church in the Rock. In Felsenkirche Idar-Oberstein, Germany

History:

This place has a gruesome history.  Legend has it, the a local prince named “Wyrich” killed his brother by pushing him from the top of the cliff! He then but the church as a remembrance, to help have his sin forgiven!

Restoration:

A series of costly renovations are underway due to falling rocks, weather damage and water seepage which has built up over centuries.

Top Tip:

Don’t think about just trying to drive ride up to it, as it unique location makes it inaccessible by any vehicles. Making the steps or long footpath the only way to access it.

8. Church of St John the Baptist

Location: Cappadocia, Selçuk, Turkey

This great site is an ancient relic of forgotten spiritual past! Offering hilltop views this is a fantastic place to watch the sunset! Equip with grand marble steps and a monumental gate, this is a nice spot in a remote village location. Originally built by a Byzantine Emperor named “Justinian” ( 527–565), it was mysteriously  left abandoned for many years.

Church of St John the Baptist. Cappadocia, Turkey.

Bascillca of Church of St John the Bapptist. Cappadocia, Turkey, Photo by www.peraair.com/basilica-of-saint-john

9. Chapel on the Rock

Location: Colorado, Denver, United States

The “chapel on the rock” is a fully functioning Catholic Church and popular tourist landmark of Colorado!  Originally named “St. Catherine of Siena Chapel” this lovely venue is located on the grounds of the Saint Malo Retreat and Spiritual Center, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park near Allenspark.

Chapel on the Rock! Colorado, Denver. Photo by Jean Hutchinson, Source: Pixels

Origins from out of space!

Originally built in 1936, it was constructed by Monsignor Joseph Bosetti who in 1916 stumbled upon the cliff while attempting to locate the impact site of a meteorite. Legend goes that upon laying eyes on the rock formation Joesph was reminded of  Matthew 16:18, which reads: “Upon this rock I’ll build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Over a period of 20 years, he transformed his vision to a reality.  With help from local landowners (“Mr. and Mrs. Malo”) who donated the land and a great design by Denver architect Jacques Benedict.

Fun Fact:

In 1993 Pope John Paul II visited the chapel as part of his trip to Denver to attend World Youth Day. He had some fun hiking in the nearby trails of Camp St. Malo, which were later named John Paul II Trail in his honor.

10. Symmes Chapel “Pretty Place”

Location: Cedar Mountain, North Carolina, United States.

The open air chapel at the YMCA Camp Greenville, nicknamed “Pretty Place,” delivers an awe inspiring view from the top of Standing Stone Mountain. Expect a peaceful, serene setting. Perfect for thought and prayer.  Numerous weddings are also held at this fantastic venue.

Symmes Chapel “Pretty Place”, North Carolina. Mountain top Church!

Top Tip: The chapel faces east so sunrise is an amazing time to be here.

This all year round operation serves as a Summer Camp, Environmental Education Center, Group & Conference Center, and of course a wedding venue.

Top Tip: Check the website before driving up the mountain to be sure no events are scheduled that would close the chapel to the public. The drive up is eye catching and magical.

Sunset at Symmes Chapel “Pretty Place”, North Carolina. Mountain top Church! Photo by : YMCA Camp Greenville

11. St Samaan Church Egypt

Location: Cliffs Manshiet Nasser, Cairo, Egypt

This is one of Middle East’s largest churches, features a 20,000-capacity amphitheatre! Named after Coptic Orthodox saint Simon the Tanner, who was credited with moving nearby Mokattam Mountain.  H. H. Pope Shenouda III visited the church annually  on the feast of Saint Samaan the Tanner from 1978 till 1980.

The water miracle (construction)

After buying the building materials, namely gravel, cement, steel, and bricks, work could still not begin due to the need for water. This was especially so in that desert area whose inhabitants could not find water for their necessary needs at that time.

St Samaan Church Cairo, Egypt

Legend has it…

“Fervent prayers were lifted up and the miracle took place. One evening when the minister was returning, he found at the edge of the paved road leading up to the Mokattam City a tractor pulling a huge water container. He asked the driver to provide him with the water necessary for the building of the church. The man agreed on the spot with no hesitation. This was the assistance of heaven! “

Fun Fact: Hundreds of people flock here for a weekly exorcism!

St Samaan Church Cairo, Egypt. Photo by: Cairo 360

To learn more or to arrange a visit, check out their website. SamaanChurch.

12. Mountain Top Church

Location: Cisco, Texas. U.S.A

Although not technically a “Mountain church”, we included this due to the name and also the great community aspect. This wins our:

Town and Tourist award for Best community church 2019

(As voted by our independent review board). 

Started as a little countryside church, the ever growing congregation now fills a huge sanctuary!

A Modern church, full of great community spirit. Mountain Top Church.

This place includes a vast variety of facilities from a Community Center, Fitness centre (4000 square foot) , Gymansium (5600 square foot), Offices, kitchen/restaurant area and even Child Care areas for nursing mothers and young kids.  According to Pastor Phil Green on further expansion There has been a tremendous need for this expansion to accommodate our future plans for serving the community and the congregation.”

We also like the Morals at mountain top church (MTC) , here is a statement from their website.

At MTC, you come as you are. No pretenses. Honesty and authenticity create an atmosphere of acceptance. MTC wants to provide a safe place for people to experience grace and truth in a way that we experience God’s love for us. Mountain Top Church fulfills the scriptures through Worshiping God, Loving Others, and Serving Community.”

For more info see: Mymtc. 

If this article inspired you! Why not share with a Friend on Facebook? Hit the Button below.

About the author

Town & Tourist

A travel resource guide that has been carefully crafted and curated by travel bloggers to help you find the best places to travel to in the USA.