Unique Churches That Don't Resemble Churches
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Unique Churches That Don't Resemble Churches

Unique churches. Churches that don't resemble churches. Unusual looking churches. Churches that dont look like churches. Modern church architecture. Cathedral of Brasilia. Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. Metropolitan Cathedral Liverpool. Pilgrimage church, Neviges.Notre Dame de Haut, Ronchamp. jubilee church, Rome.

For hundreds of years, churches have had one, stereotypical look, that was recognised by all.

In the last fifty years or so, church architecture has become as high tech and modernistic as it can get, with more unique churches that don't resemble churches, being built that at any other time.

Vast edifaces of glass, steel and concrete have been built all over the world, in a bid to be recognised in the same way as any modern, urban, masterpiece.

Many of these new, unique churches that don't resemble churches, and surprisingly a few older ones too, look nothing like we have come to expect of a church, and these are the ones I have picked for this article.

Grand buildings, which at first sight look nothing like what we have come to expect of a regular house of worship. 

Below is a selection of unique churches that don't resemble churches, from all over the world.  



It's only fitting that a country that is known the world over for being football crazy, should have the cathedral of it's capital city look surprisingly like a football stadium.

This hyperboloid, circular ribbed structure, made from 16, 90 ton concrete columns, was the brain child of architect Oscar Neimeyer.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral, completed in 1970 is a mostly underground structure with a roof made completely of stained glass.

Outside stand the statues of the four Evangelists.



Yes we're back in Brazil again, this time with a structure that looks more like an inner city block of flats.

The 75 metre high, San Sebastian Cathedral in Brazil's Rio De Janeiro was built between 1964 and 1979.

Named after the patron saint of this Brazilian city, this conical design houses four rectilinear stained glass windows that are 64 metres high.

The building was designed by Edgar Fonceca to resemble a volcano. 



American architect Richard Meier's first church design is a vast pre - cast concrete ediface built in 2003 to commemorate the great jubilee of the Roman Catholic Church, and was designed to blend in with the local high rise buildings of a Rome working class suburb.

The church is part of a large Community complex, situated six miles from the centre of the city, and regarded as quite a bold statement, for a city already bursting at the seams with world reknowned, classical churches and basilicas. 



Fredrick Gibberd's Portland Stone Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool looks more like a metal circus tent than a city church.

The modernist style, conical design was officially completed in 2002.

Originally designed by Sir Edward Lutyens in 1933, the building of this cathedral was halted during the war due to lack of funds.

In 1962 work started on the Fredrick Gibberd design, incorporating the Lutyens build which is known as the Lutyens crypt. The building was consecrated in 1967 but building work did not officially finish until 2003 with the completion of the cathedral's exterior steps, which could'nt be completed until a building that stood in it's path had been demolished.

The cathedral is unique by way of it's 2,000 ton lantern tower held aloft by way of 16 tapering pinnacles.

The building also houses the largest stained glass window in the world. 




This is something Fred Flintstone would feel at home in.

This small, 1954 concrete church pays homage to the brilliance of one of the world's greatest architects,Le Corbusier ( Charles - Edouard Jeanneret).

The most revolutionary feature of this pilgrimage church is a horizontal gap at the base of the ceiling that gives the impression that the roof is floating in mid air, looking up at it from within it's interior.

It's exterior is unique by way of dozens of small irregular windows, designed this way to stop the glaring rays of the sun from lingering in the one spot too long.

The church was built to replace a previous church that was destroyed during the second world war and is considered to be the Swiss architects career masterpiece. 



Built between 1968 and 1973, Gottfried Bohm's stark, expressionism church in Neviges, Germany, made a little known German architect into a world famous name.

Officially known as Maria koningen des friedens - sanctuary of Mary, queen of peace - the church is considered Bohm's most important creation.

The large concrete ediface was built complete with accommodation for pilgrims situated on both sides, also in the same stark style. 


                  STAVE KIRKE, NORWAY.

This beautiful, ornate wooden structure looks more like a Hindu temple.

This particular one, situated in Borgund, Laerdal was built between 1180 and 1250 with later additions and restorations.

There are 28 extant stave churches in Norway, now no longer used as houses of worship.

Some of these elegant buildings have been disassembled and then painstakingly re - erected in more prominant positions around Norway, in order to better preserve them and give people easier access to view them. 



Local architect Dominic O'Connor designed this Roman Catholic church to blend in with the rest of the street architecture.

The stone building which was built between 1937 and 1943 is embedded into the rest of the architecture along Washington Street, Cork.

Nothing suggests by walking past that there is a church in the vacinity,but for the large arched doorway and decorative windows, you could be walking past any ornate building.  



Built in the Ultra Modern style, Canadian architect Zenon Mazurkevych's 13 domed, St Joseph's the Betrothed Ukrainian church in Chicago, Illinois looks more like a modern hotel or office block, with the elevators built on the exterior of the building. 

Made almost exclusively from concrete and glass this unusual looking ediface completed in 1977 has also been likened to a spaceship. 


                   THE TRAILER CHURCH

The trailer church is nothing new in the poorer areas of the U.S.

Generally run by lay preachers they are an ingenious way of bringing the church to the door step of the poor and sick in areas where there is no regular church in the neighbourhood. 

Okay, so this is just a picture of any old van, but it also symbolises the use of the mobile church, something that has been with us for hundreds of years.

In days of old, the pony and cart was used to take regular Sunday services to outlying villages, today the van brings Sunday services to large farms with many employees that are situated in remote areas both in the U.S and Australia.

The mobile church is also regularly used by the armed services by many nations during war time. 



This dry - stoned, corbelled - roofed chapel is called the Gallarus Oratory and is situated on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland.

Believed to have been built betwen the 6th and the 9th century, this tiny Christian chapel with a door and one tiny window, looks more like a cow shed than a church.

it's dry stone wall with no mortar and having been built to a slight angle, has helped to keep this 1,500 year old treasure perfectly preserved over the years. 






                                                       © D.B.Bellamy.August 2010. 

                                        All images courtesy of wikimedia commons.

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Comments (13)

Excellent work, DeeBee. It's spooky, I was talking about Brasilia Cathedral and Notre Dame de Haut in lecture the other day. Le Corbusier's Notre Dame is one of the most imaginative buildings of the twentieth century. Bohm was also a great architect and I love that Expressionist church.

Ranked #1 in Europe

Thankyou Michael. Yes, some of these buildings are spectacular. I came across them whilst doing my last article and I had to find a way of showing them all off. My favourite though has to be the Stave church, I lived in Norway for a time and saw these churches, they are beautiful.

Ranked #5 in Europe

It is real amazing that these buildings are churches. I never heard of a mobile church and also the others are amazing.

Great piece! We have a church here where I live that resembles a UFO. :)

Ranked #1 in Europe

Thankyou Vera and Erik, @ Vera, wow I must have missed that one on my virtual tour. My nearest unusual church is the Met Cathedral in Liverpool, I don't like the exterior look at all, but the interior is beautiful.

It's not a popular one because it's inside a university campus. There's another one in a nearby campus that looks like an eagle origami. Do you mind if I make a localized version of this piece? I'm from the Philippines. I will definitely link back to your piece!

Ranked #26 in Europe

wow...mobile church...really unique

Ranked #1 in Europe

@ Vera, absolutely, sounds brilliant, let me know by PM when you have done it as I'm off on holiday tomorrow, so I will be able to see it when I get back.

Ranked #1 in Europe

@ Erik and Nobert, the mobile churches have been used for years, google mobile church and there are some great old pics of them.

Ranked #7 in Europe

Great article! Would love to visit some of these places especially the Pilgrimage Church and Notre Dame du Haut.

Ranked #16 in Europe

Blogged at http://www.friendsrevolution.com/ Dee Bee. The Stave Church has always been a favorite.

Spectacular! Love the caravan.

The Cathedral in Brazil and the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool are quite unique as modernized dwellings of worship. Very glitzy and eye-catching. Another very interesting article, DeeBee.