5 of the World's Most Impressive Religious Sites to Visit
Inspired by new three-part BBC One series Sacred Wonders, Sarah Marshall recommends iconic places of worship
12 August 2019
All credits: PA
Fuelled by passion and boundless faith, it’s no surprise religious monuments constitute some of our world’s greatest architectural feats. An unthinkable amount of time and money has been invested in these buildings.
New BBC One series Sacred Wonders looks at the motivation for visiting some of the world’s best-known places of pilgrimage; some come seeking quiet contemplation, others are directed by devotion, and many simply want to marvel at both the historical structures and the extraordinary religious practices taking place within their walls.
Whatever your religious beliefs, it’s fair to say these man-made wonders are nothing short of divine.
Kumano Nachi Taisha, Japan
Part of a pilgrimage route in Japan’s Kii Mountain Range, this Shinto shrine sits in front of the tallest waterfall in Japan and is surrounded by ancient emerald forests. Arrive from the valley floor via a cobblestone staircase lined with Japanese cedars, camphor trees and bamboo groves. Although the grounds are free to enter, there’s an entry fee for accessing the viewpoints (300Yen/£2.40).
Golden Temple in Amritsar, India
A shimmering treasure plated with gold, this Sikh site of pilgrimage is also a symbol of equality; the four entrances – each from a different direction – indicate people from all creeds and casts are welcome. Devotees come to bathe in the sacred waters of a tank that surrounds the central shrine. Open 24 hours, the site is free to enter.
Shaolin Temple, China
Founded in the 5th century, this Chan Buddhist temple in China’s Henan province is famous for its acrobatic monks. Along with pilgrims seeking Zen, martial arts students from across the world come here to witness impressive performances. (A show at the temple is included in the entrance fee of 100CNY/£30.50.) Located at the foot of Mount Songshan, the temple is also linked to many hiking paths.
The three-part series Sacred Wonders starts on BBC One on Wednesday, August 7.