The Cologne cathedral became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, and rightly so. The city has been dominated by the Cathedral's gigantic pair of towers since 1880: it is today the second highest building in Cologne. Its footprint is also impressive, the building covers a total area of almost 8000 square metres. This UNESCO world heritage site is also home to the mortal remains of the Three Kings, which made the Cathedral one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe.
When you think of European architectural heritage, majestic gothic cathedrals with bright, stained-glass windows and high towers decorated with spires and pinnacles immediately come to mind. Built between the 12th and the 16th centuries, these stunning buildings emerged out of the Romanesque movement, which designed churches with thick walls, round arches, and large towers. Gothic architecture, on the other hand, developed a style of stonework building focused on height and light. Common traits include echoing halls decorated with pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses, all of which sustained a tall structure while preserving natural light. Gothic churches were designed to bring worshipers closer to God by defying architectural constraints.
Find out about our selection of 8 must-visit gothic masterpieces in Europe!
You can not think of Vienna without thinking of the St. Stephen Cathedral. This notorious religious building is well recognizable for its four towers, the tallest of which - south tower- measures 136.44 meters. 343 steps bring visitors to the tower room, from which there is a breathtaking view across Vienna. Besides the beautiful altars and side chapels, the cathedral is also home to a vast treasury, which includes relics decorated with gold and precious stones, liturgical books and vestments.
Our Lady of Burgos (Catedral de Santa María; Catedral de Burgos) is a Gothic cathedral situated in northern Spain. Although it is predominantly Gothic, this UNESCO World Heritage site also displays other artistic styles, given that it was built over a period lasting from the 13th century to the 16th century. The building is home to a unique collection of works of art, including paintings, choir stalls, sculptures, tombs and stained-glass windows and is an extraordinary summary of European Gothic style.
Notre Dame is one of the most eminent churches in the world, and the symbol of the city of Paris. It has become the theatre to some of the most notorious novels in literature, celebrated by writers and artists including Victor Hugo. The cathedral was built by the meanderings of the river Seine- in the Île de la Cité- in the early days of the gothic era. Although the monument is a great example of early gothic style, the influence of the Romanesque school is still visible.
Found in the heart of the historic city of Rouen, the cathedral is one of the most iconographic Gothic pieces of art in Europe. After its destruction during the Viking invasions in 841, and again by allied bombardments in 1944, the cathedral has been evolving again and again over time. The cathedral is also known for its 19th century cast iron spire – the highest in France- and the adjoining archiepiscopal palace still occupied by an archbishop today. The choir contains the tombs of the Dukes of Normandy and the heart of Richard the Lionheart, King of England and Duke of Normandy.
The cathedral, named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo, is one of the most remarkable symbols of the city of Florence. The vast Gothic structure was built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt. The magnificent dome was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and the more recent multicolor façade was completed in 1887 in the neo-Gothic style.
Built in 1194, after a fire that destroyed the old cathedral, the Chartes Cathedral marks the highest point of the French Gothic art. This UNESCO World Heritage site is in remarkable condition—known for the astonishing color of the beautiful stained-glass windows, called blue of Chartres.
Unlike most Gothic cathedrals, which have two towers in front, Milan cathedral's silhouette has a unique shape, being covered in many small pinnacles. With about 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures, there are more statues on this cathedral than any other building in the world. By climbing the stairs up to the rooftop you’ll experience a breathtaking view of the city of Milan and, on sunny days, the gigantic Alps. Visitors can also see the gold-colored statue of the Virgin Mary standing on the cathedral’s highest spire, also called La Madonnina.