I love visiting old churches. Even more than strolling through galleries full of French Impressionist paintings or Flemish masterpieces. I could spend my entire Europe trip just meandering through the old churches of Europe. Now, I'll admit I'm not a very religious person. I am not a regular church goer. But I love visiting the churches of Europe.

Outside a church is the cacophony of the hundreds of cars and thousands of tourists, but once you step into a church, the atmosphere becomes so tranquil. There is just something about walking into the quietude of a church, sitting down in a chair or pew at the far back of the church and just admiring in silence the beauty of this house of worship. No photos taken yet. That I will do in a few minutes. But for the first few minutes, I just sit and gaze in appreciation of the effort of the artisans who toiled to decorate this church. The masterpiece paintings, frescoes and mosaics decorating the walls and dome ceilings. The Cosmatesque and opus sectile floors. The marble statues of saints and disciples. The detailed woodcarving in the pulpits, pews and choir stalls.

The marble and lapis lazuli embellishments. The myriad of architecture styles--Gothic, High Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, Baroque.

But what it is I truly love to see in churches? The stained glass. I love everything about stained glass. The expert craftsmanship, the intricate detailing, the vivid colors, the design, the story that a window of colored glass can tell. To see an old church made of stone that is hundreds of years old which has darkened over the centuries, but placed in between that stone is a brilliance of color:

Cathédrale des St. Michel et Ste. Gudule, Brussels, dating from around 1225.


The spectacular stained glass windows of the Oudekerk, Delft, built around 1246.

Or the starkness of white painted walls of a church which is broken up by a dozen stained glass windows:

The spectacular stained glass windows of the Oudekerk, Delft, built around 1246.

Of course, many churches in Europe are famous for their stained glass:

The stained glass windows of Saint Chapelle in Paris:

Chartres Cathedral: Photo by AdrienneSerra

However, on your next trip to Europe, you may want to add these churches to your itinerary:

St. Severin, Paris:
Located in the middle of the Latin Quarter, this church is one of the oldest in Paris. The upper stained glass windows date from the 14th and 15th centuries,
But these contemporary abstract windows in the apse chapels were created by Jean Bazaine in 1970:

St. Eustache, Paris:
Located in the 1st Arrondissement, this church was built between 1532 and 1632. It is considered a masterpiece of late-Gothic architecture with its over 110-foot high vaulted ceiling. Its organ is reputed to be the largest in France with over 8,000 pipes, surpassing St. Sulpice and Notre Dame. 

The stained glass windows also date from 1632.

Sint-Jacobskerk, Brugge:
At one time, this church was the most affluent of the parish churches in Brugge. In the mid 15th-century, the church that was built in the 13th century was enlarged to reflect the increasing wealth and prestige of its parishioners which by then included the household of the nearby Prinsenhof Palace where the Duke of Burgundy lived when he was in Brugge.

For more great photos of stained glass in Europe's churches, please visit the Flickr group I started many months ago called Stained Glass in the Churches of Europe. We have currently 154 members and nearly 13,000 photos.

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