Gateways of faith
Right from the earliest days of organised religion, priests and worshippers have seen the importance of having a focal point for their worship as well as presenting a symbolic monument to their faith. Many also serve as important civic places such as homeless shelters, town halls and contact centres, particularly in small or remote communities. Ancient religious natural sites and more modern raised buildings have become major tourist attractions in their own right, adding to the attractive cultural capital of a country.
Wonderful religious structures of interest abound the world over. These special places where the physical world meets the spiritual world, vary in form and style - from the sacred forests of south-east Asian animism and the Point of Sangomar (Senegal) for Serer spirit worship to the grand Christian cathedrals of Europe.
The Flexicover Team looks at a few grand places of faith that may pique your travel interest!
Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe; Le Puy-en-Velay, France
Built in 962 to celebrate the return of Bishop Godescalc from the pilgrimage of Saint James, this chapel in south-central France, is built on a volcanic rock reaching 85 metres above the surrounding town. The site itself is supposed to have been holy to the Roman god Mercury before it was rededicated to St Michael the Archangel. 268 winding steps carved into the rock bring you to the top and the stunning views its vantage position affords of the Auvergne. It’s also said that in 1429, Isabelle Romée (mother of Joan of Arc) came to the site to pray.
Wat Rong Khun; Chiang Rai, Thailand
Known as the ‘White Temple’, this beautiful complex dedicated to Lord Buddha, is a full rebuild of original structures that had fallen into disrepair. A blend of traditional Thai architecture and the surreal, the project was completely overseen and funded by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a devout Buddhist and famous religious artist. The incredibly detailed all-white exterior represents Buddha’s purity, with embedded glass and mirrors to make it sparkle in the sunlight. Completed in 2008 and opened as a meditative centre, following a 2014 earthquake, some parts are being restored but it’s still well worth a visit!
Lotus Temple; New Delhi, India
With over 3.5 million visitors a year, the award-winning Mother Temple for the Indian Subcontinent in the Baha’I Faith, is one of the region’s most popular edifices. People of all religions may worship here, though there are a few restrictions on how worship is conducted - there can be no preaching, for example. Completed in 1986, the nine-sided temple is beautifully designed in the shape of a lotus flower representing love and purity alongside a message of immortality. The white marble structure is set amongst lush green landscaped gardens. Nine pools surround the temple which light up in natural light and look wonderful at dusk when floodlit!
Tabakgasse Synagogue; Budapest, Hungary
Completed in 1859, the Great Synagogue on Dohány Street in this charming twin city is the largest Jewish temple in Europe and one of the largest in the world - seating up to 3,000! Most worshippers here are adherents of Neolog Judaism. Designed like a basilica, it showcases striking Byzantine and Moorish elements across its majestic structure. The impressive complex consists of the synagogue itself, the Heroes' Temple, the Holocaust Memorial, cemetery and the Jewish Museum.
Batu Caves; Selangor, Malaysia
Just north of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, this natural complex is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. It consists of three main caves and a number of smaller ones, attracting thousands of worshippers and tourists all year round - particularly during the annual festival of Thaipusam, when close to 800,000 devotees turn up. The limestone caves are filled with intricate carvings dedicated to Lord Murugan (Hindu god of war), whose large, golden stature stands at the entrance, with many images depicting his defeat of the demon Soorapadam.
Wherever your travels take you this year and whichever sacred site you may be lucky enough to visit, we at Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.