STUNNING SACRED PLACES
Discover the magic that draws devotees
1 KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE, VARANASI, INDIA
Positioned on the banks of the holy River Ganga, in the holy city of Varanasi, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is doubly holy and, as such, is literally the most sacred place for Hindus.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, every Hindu is supposed to visit the site at least once, so unsurprisingly it receives upwards of 21 million visitors annually from all over the world.
Up there with the world’s great pilgrimage destinations, the goldendomed temple sees devotees pray before bathing in the sacred river alongside, in an attempt to cleanse their souls and thus reduce the need to be reincarnated.
2 WESTERN WALL AND CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE, JERUSALEM, ISRAEL
Sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jewish people, Jerusalem has enticed devotees from the three faiths for centuries. According to the Old Testament, King David created the city as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel, and his son, King Solomon, commissioned its first temple. In the New Testament, the city was the scene for the Last Supper, and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. While in the Quran, it’s here that Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven and spoken with God.
Two of the city’s most important places of pilgrimage are the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The latter is said to be built on the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial, while the former, the holiest of Jewish sites, is the last remaining part of a temple built by King Herod.
3 BLUE MOSQUE, ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Dominating Istanbul’s main square, the Sultanahmet Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, is a place of wonder for Muslims and tourists alike. Multiple domes marry with six unique minarets alongside endless rows of intricately patterned blue and white ceramic tiles, and hundreds of stained glass windows, making it a photographer’s dream.
Attracting five million visitors each year, the early 17th-century structure still serves as a place of worship and is closed during the daily prayers.
4 VATICAN CITY, ROME, ITALY
The sprawling centre of the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican City is both one of the world’s largest sacred sites, and the holiest of Catholic sacred places.
An independent state since 1929, it has been the home of the Pope since 1378. Indeed, the on-site St Peter’s Basilica houses the tomb of the first Pope, the apostle Saint Peter, who was crucified and buried there.
Decorated with works by the likes of Raphael and Michelangelo, the artwork in the Basilica is reason enough to visit. Other famed structures within the complex include the Vatican Gardens and Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel.
5 LOURDES, PYRENEES, FRANCE
A small market town in the MidiPyrenees region of southwestern France, Lourdes first gained fame in 1858 when the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared 18 times to a local 14-yearold girl in a cavern. Miraculous cures have been associated with the place ever since and now Lourdes has become the largest Catholic pilgrimage destination in France, and one of the most popular Catholic shrines in the world.
CHURCH OF HOLY SEPULCHRE