The human desire to build places for worship has often resulted in some of the most breathtaking architectural masterpieces in existence. From historic sites like the Pyramids of Giza or the Parthenon to modern marvels like the Lotus Temple in New Delhi or the Jubilee Synagogue in Prague, humanity has shown the best version of itself when it comes to creating spaces to honor, pray to, and worship a higher power.
While there are plenty of examples of stunning religious architecture that prove this, few fully reimagine the limits of human innovation quite like these places of worship that are built directly into nature. From a temple in Datong, China that appears to defy gravity to a hand-hewn stone church in Ethiopia, AD has scoured the globe for the 17 most inspiring, extraordinary houses of worship built into the natural world.
Church of Apostle Andrew (Priozerskiy rayon, Russia)
Just two hours north of St. Petersburg, you’ll find a small stone island in Lake Vuoksa holding the Church of Apostle Andrew. Designed by Andrei Rotinov, the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t have any scheduled masses, though it can be booked for weddings and baptisms. Accessible via a bridge, the church is named for the patron saint of fishermen.
Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona (Spiazzi, Italy)
If you’re taking a trip around Verona, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona nestled in the Baldo rocks above the Adige River. Built in 1530, the site is a popular pilgrimage location now open year-round for those who would like to meditate or pray in quiet. While it may look like the structure is dangling off the mountainside, it actually sits on a rock shelf.