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Must visit destinations – Discover 4 Imposing Churches from Natural Stone

publicat in: General // Publicata pe 19.06.2019

A life focused on property is balanced only by faith for moving on. In spite of living with it for thousands of years, we might feel the need to highlight our faith as an example for future generations.


Designed for revealing the connection of humanity with God, in time churches have turned into points of interest for design and architecture fans. The most famous and beautiful churches of the world were always made from natural stone, a definition of durability and things made to last. And even though this area evolved in time, today we use the same building materials such as marble, travertine and splitface cladding.


#generatinginspiration and faithful to our slogan, we have 4 travel destinations, highlighted by imposing churches and decoration projects for interior or exterior with natural stone.


1. Sacré-Coeur Basilica, Paris travertine

A project designed and initiated by French architect Paul Abadie, Sacré-Coeur needed 6 more architects for completion. Overlooking Paris Montmartre Hill, the works on Sacré-Coeur extended over 39 years (between 1875 and 1914), using travertine quarried from Souppes-sur-Loing, known as "Château-Landon". This is a very rough travertine with fine texture and high content of calcite, which leads to a white color stone when subjected to water (rain, etc.), hence the name "white stone”.


photo source: frenchmoments.eu


Other interesting details that make Sacré-Coeur fascinating:

  • architecture inspired by famous churches (Saint Sophia – Constantinople or St. Mark's Basilica – Venice)
  • Paris’ second highest point (83 m), only surpassed by Eiffel tower.
  • 11.5 million visitors / year – 2nd most visited behind Notre-Dame cathedral. 
  • designed to expiate the crimes during the Franco-Prussian War (July 1870 – January 1871), that ended with Paris under Prussian domination. This was always blamed on a “sinful” Paris, hence the inspiration for Sacré-Coeur.
  • Paris magnificent view over a 50 km range area.
  • Savoyarde, biggest & heaviest bell in France: 3 m diameter and approx. 19 tonnes in weight.

2. Sagrada Familía Basilica, Barcelonasandstone and partially granite

Gaudí's masterpiece in Art Nouveau style (Modernisme in Catalan), the works for Sagrada Familía started in 1882 and still continue today. In fact, the initial architect Francisco de Paula del Villar resigned in 1883, when the project was assumed by Antoni Gaudi, turning into such  amazing shapes we all know today. Gaudí always considered Sagrada Familía a spiritual project, striving for completing it until his tragic death in 1926, when basilica was 15 – 25% complete.


photo source: tiqets.com


Built with sandstone quarried from the Magic Mountain of Montjuic, Sagrada Familía highlights some interesting details:

  • an accurate depiction of Gaudi vision, due to a 1:10 scale model erected by the architect.
  • granite quarried from Galicia.
  • 18 towers with a strong religious symbolism, representing as follows: the 12 Apostles, the Four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ (the tallest tower). Currently, only 8 of the 18 towers are completed.
  • 3 facades: Nativity façade – facing East and dedicated to the birth of Jesus, Passion façade –facing West and dedicated to the Passion of Christ during crucifixion and Glory façade – the main façade facing South, dedicated to Jesus’s death and Resurrection, apart from the present and future glory.
  • exterior Gallery with 7 columns – symbolizing the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • funding obtained only from donations and entry tickets, an explanation for the delays on construction project.
  • projected height of 170 m, 1 m below Montjuic, because Gaudí always felt that his work should not exceed any Lord's creation.

Often compared to a sand castle and filled with symbolism, Sagrada Familia Basilica is described by architecture critic Paul Goldberger as "the most extraordinary and personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages".


3. Blue Mosque, Istanbul – marble

Built from marble during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I by architect Mehmet Aga, Blue Mosque appeared from sultan's desire to eclipse the major mosque at that time, Hagia Sophia. Turkey’s National Mosque and nation’s symbol, Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616.


photo source: surahotels.com


This construction was very controversial at the time, due to a couple of interesting details:

  • 5 main domes, 6 minarets and 8 secondary domes.
  • 20,000 Iznik Blue tiles, hand-painted for interior decoration, hence its name (exterior is NOT blue!).
  • impressive interior columns, painted ceiling with Islamic motifs and austere space (Islamic religion prohibits the veneration of images).
  • heavy iron chain hanging at the Western entrance, imagined so that the Sultan (the only person allowed to enter the Blue Mosque on horseback) would need to lower his head for avoiding to be hit and thus never forgetting to be humble.
  • a hospital, a caravanserai, a religious school and a free cafeteria accommodated by the mosque.
  • 6 minarets controversy (the first mosque to feature 6 minarets). The architect understood "six" ("alti" in Turkish) minarets as Sultan ordered, when he actually wanted minarets from "gold" ("altin" in Turkish). Muslim experts were offended by a mosque design resembling those of Mecca’s Holy Mosque (also with 6 minarets). The situation was solved by adding a seventh minaret to Mecca’s Mosque.

4. Kukulkan Pyramid, Chichen Itza, Mexicolimestone

A temple dedicated to Kukulkan – the Feathered Serpent, a Mesoamerican serpent deity – also called El Castillo ("castle" in Spanish); built from limestone by the pre-Colombian Maya civilization, between the 9th and the 12th century AD. El Castillo is a reference of the pre-Columbian Mexican civilization, shaped as a pyramid with a series of square terraces and stairs along its 4 sides.


photo source: elpais.com


Details of this unique construction:

  • number 365 corresponding to Haab' (days in a Mayan solar calendar). This is obtained by adding the 91 steps from every side of the pyramid and adding 1 for the top platform, as the last "step".
  • throughout the spring and autumn equinox, afternoon sun produces a series of triangular shadows, when touching the Northwest corner of the pyramid, creating the feeling of a "snake" "dripping“ down the pyramid.
  • feathered snakes sculptures going down the sides of the Northern railing of the pyramid.
  • a theory that places El Castillo as axis mundi at the crossroads of 4 cenotes (freshwater filled cavities from steppe regions, positioned over loess): the Sacred, Xtoloc, Kanjuyum and Holtún.
  • ancient pyramid found below El Castillo, dating back to 800 AD and built by Mayans, before Toltecs and Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent – their supreme deity).
  • "The Voice" of Quetzal bird, heard while clapping hands over pyramid’s northern steps.

Regardless of your plans for holiday this summer, we recommend you these 4 places of worship – spiritual "journeys" to fascinating universes. To find inspiration for your decoration projects with natural stone, we invite you to visit our website and get in touch with our sales team at export@piatraonline.com or by phone at +40318.222.333

Must visit destinations – Discover 4 Imposing Churches from Natural Stone
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