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  • jkarlson9

10 Superlative Churches

Updated: Feb 1

The Christian Church is the living, communal exercise of our obedience and praise to the Lord. It covers most of the globe in one form or another, and while not perfect, the fellowship brings us closer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we do it well. But, humanity being humanity, things get weird. Submitted for your approval are ten Christian churches that in one way or another are a unique form of our place of worship.

10. Most Perilous Church

Ethiopians go hard in the paint with their churches. Pilgrims attending the Abuna Yemata Guh chapel must climb an unprotected 650 ft cliff face barefoot to reach a rock-hewn chapel no bigger than an ATM vestibule. Kinda makes missing the 10:30 AM service weak sauce.

9. "Trashiest" Church

Few stories are as heartbreaking and inspiring as that of the Zabbaleen in modern Cairo. Coptic Christians are discriminated against when it comes to landing well-paying jobs. To survive, many have become Cairo's rubbish collectors, living in a towering, acrid city of garbage.

And church building permits? Fuhgettaboutit. So the Zabbaleen carved a church directly into nearby Mokattam mountain. Even the city pencil pushers were forced to agree that, according to Egyptian law, a cave is not a building. Now known as the Monastery of Saint Simon the Tanner, or "the Cave Church", their non-building seats 20,000 believers and is the largest Christian church in the Middle East.

8. Strangest Church

Sagrada Famí­lia is a massive Roman Catholic basilica ALWAYS under construction in Barcelona. Work began in 1882 and continues to this day, with a launch date of "when it's done".

And they're starting to cut corners.

Like, all of them: find a right angle on this building, I'll give you a hundred bucks. You think Duke Nuke'em Forever took a while? Architect Antoni Gaudí­ spent 40+ years of his career on it and then devoted the last 15 years of his life to it. He just kept saying, "My client isn't in a hurry".

In the center of this shroom-fueled motorpsycho nightmare aesthetic will be a 557 ft. tower of our Savior, topped with a giant cross. And at the rate they're going, Jesus himself may help with carpentry to keep things moving. But he's not sure when he'll clock in.

7. Saltiest Church

Just looking at this thing gives you kidney stones. Tolkien fans see it and insist we've found Moria. So what is it?

What I'm talking about is St. Kinga's chapel in Poland, which is 101 meters below ground in a 700-year-old Wieliczka salt mine. That's right, everything is made of salt, even the chandeliers. Religious miners had only one material to show their devotion and used it to a great and humbling effect. Salt of the earth in deed.

But don't let those reliefs of The Flight to Egypt, The Wedding at Cana, or the Last Supper make you think this is some crusty old museum. Church is still every Sunday and once on Christmas Eve. Just don't lick the walls. It's been done.

6. Rockiest Church

Think your church rocks because it plays Newsboys when ASCAP trolls ain't looking? Nah, fam. The 11 Lalibela cave churches in Ethiopia rock way harder.

Why? Because these churches were hewn from single rock monoliths top-down, and the Ethiopians kept it one hundo, chiseling stone doors, windows, columns, floors, and a Pepsi machine (unverified, but don't put it past them).

5. Toughest Church

Defiantly standing on St. George's Island at the South Pole, the Church of Agia Triada is the most badass church in the world. Why? Because this hard-as-nails Russian Orthodox church sits in the farthest and most inhospitable part of Antarctica. Because Russians.

Forget Australia. Antarctica's the continent that wants to kill you. With sky-high snowfalls, screaming winds, and negative temperatures rivaling US debt stats, Antarctica clearly has beef with humans. It's personal.

Yet God's house is here, too. The Agia Triada was built in 1990 in the Russian architectural style, using only Siberian wood (natch). The church seats 30 people and two couples were even married there, but each received a chilly reception (sorry. I'll see myself out...).

4. Smallest Church

It was cute at first, but this tiny house craze has gotten out of hand. I blame hipsters. While perfect for a Walking Dead hideout or Witness Protection, any church serving only 2-3 people just ain't puttin' butts in seats, pal. Sure, it's "standing room only" but...

...Cross Island Chapel is in the middle of an algae-covered pond. Go to Sunday school here, Michael, and you will row the boat ashore. Still, as Matthew 18:20 says, "wherever two or more are gathered in My name, there I am with them." Snugly.

3. Oldest Church

The Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia was consecrated in 301 AD before the Bible was even a (printed) thing. Now that's a Christian flex you won't hear Willowbrook popping off about anytime soon.

So it's no surprise the Etchmiadzin is widely believed to be the oldest Christian cathedral on Earth. It even claims to have holy relics such as the Holy Lance that pierced Christ's side, and a remnant of Noah's ark. Does it? Well, if any church was around near those times, it would be this one.

2. Most Beautiful Church

God was perfectly fine abiding with us in a desert tent. He also said all our righteous acts are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). This applies to masterpieces like the Sistine Chapel, Sainte-Chapelle, Ronchamp Chapel, and any other architectural wonder we safely worship in today.

There's nothing wrong with nice buildings per se, but God's new temple resides within the hearts of his chosen and adopted children. That's why the most beautiful church is probably an anonymous house church where believers huddle together and lipsynch hymns to avoid detection. Look for these churchgoers when the Saviour returns, they'll be near the front.

But I will say the Church of Sainte Bernadette building fell out of the fugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, landing on rakes covered in bees. On the inside, it may be cool as the other side of the pillow and fun as a Chuck E. Cheese when I was nine, but I'll never know 'cos I ain't going in that brutalist vandalism. Unless God tells me to, and that's what it's gonna take.

1. Best Church

Unpretentious AF, with no dress code (just wear something), no cliques, and straight-no-chaser preaching, City on a Hill DFW, aka, the "Hospital Church" is a great place to heal (but not to hide).

But the truth is the best church is the one you go to, as long as it's faithful to the Bible and you worship with reverence in your heart and obedience in your walk. If you take the Word seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously, you're probably on the right path. No jokes here.

Okay, one.

During Covid, the author rediscovered Post-vaccination he snuck into a service and felt zero social pressure. He's a member now and everyone knows he sucks at small talk. They don't care: it ain't that kind of church.



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