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Friday, December 17, 2010
Places of Spiritual Importance
Notre Dame Cathedral
During the 19th century, Notre Dame de Paris was in such a state of disrepair that city planners considered tearing it down. Novelist Victor Hugo, an admirer of the French Gothic structure, wrote “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to help draw attention to the cathedral’s plight. Success of the book sparked renewed interest in the building and led to a fundraising campaign that financed the cathedral’s 1845 restoration.
Designed by noted architect James Renwick Jr. in the Gothic Revival style, this New York City cathedral is built of white marble and has an altar designed by Tiffany & Co. The cathedral’s hallmark spires rise 330 feet from the ground. Construction on St. Patrick’s began in 1858; work was halted during the Civil War, resumed in 1865 and was completed in 1878. When the building was dedicated in 1879, its huge proportions dominated the midtown Manhattan of that era.
Famous for its massive dome, the Hagia Sophia is widely considered the best example of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral in the world for almost 1,000 years until the completion of Spain’s Seville Cathedral in 1520. Originally built as a church between 532 and 537 A.D., Hagia Sophia later became a patriarchal basilica, then a mosque, and is now a museum with rich interior details, including intricate mosaics and marble floor decorations and pillars.
Traditionally the place of coronation and burial for the English monarchy, the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, Westminster, more commonly known as Westminster Abbey, is a mostly Gothic-style church located to the west of the Houses of Parliament. In 1998, Queen Elizabeth II unveiled statues of ten 20th-century Christian martyrs from around the world who are depicted above the abbey’s Great West Door. Among those honored is Nobel Prize-winner the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.