European Buddhist Heritage

The Buddhist heritage is the youngest form of religious heritage in Europe, appearing only in the 20th century. These places have the particularity of being very versatile. They often combine the function of a temple with the status of a cultural institute, which makes it possible to understand their religious function within the societies from which they originate.

Wikimedia Commons/Александр Попрыгин

Burkhan Bakshin Altan Sume, Russia

Russia has the only predominantly Buddhist region of Europe - Kalmykia. The Burkhan Bakshin Altan Sume is the largest Buddhist temple in the Kalmykia Republic. It was opened in 2005, on the anniversary of the deportation of the Kalmyks to Siberia and the Far East in 1943. The building consists of 7 levels. The first level contains a library, a museum, and a conference room. On the second level, there is a prayer room (Dugan) with a statue of Gautama Buddha.

Burkhan Bakshin Altan Sume
Wikimedia Commons/Alexandr Demidenko

Geden Sheddup Monastery, Russia

Due to the cultural repression of the Kalmykia Republic during the Soviet era, Buddhist temples have only recently reappeared there. Geden Sheddup Monastery is a monastery of Tibetan Buddhism which opened only in 1996. It is the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery to be built in the area since it became an autonomous oblast in 1920. The monastery is also the first place of Buddhist worship in the Kalmykia Republic since Joseph Stalin ordered the destruction of all Buddhist temples and monasteries during the 1930s.

Geden Sheddup Monastery
Wikimedia Commons/Robert Matthews

Kagyupa Samye Ling Monastery, UK

There are fewer than 200,000 Buddhists in the United Kingdom, yet the country is home to temples of all Buddhist traditions. One of the most famous is the Kagyupa Samye Ling Monastery, which was founded in 1967 by Tibetans Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche. The complex includes a Tibetan temple, a large stupa, and accommodation for those attending courses in Buddhism and meditation. Since the 1970s, it has also been a training centre for the technique of making thangkas, a Tibetan art.

Kagyupa Samye Ling Monastery
Wikimedia Commons

Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, Italy

The Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, founded in 1977, is one of the largest Buddhist centres in Europe. It is an international school for the study and practice of Buddhism, affiliated to the Italian Buddhist Union and the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition FPMT. The building consists of a Tuscan manor house with a tower and is surrounded by several hectares of land with a grove and olive trees. Extensive restoration work has been carried out in order to increase the occupancy of the building.

Lama Tzong Khapa Institute
Wikimedia Commons/Lecheminlu

Kagyu-Dzong Centre, France

France is home to the largest Buddhist community in Europe with more than 280,000 people, the majority of whom live in Paris. The Kagyu-Dzong Centre was established in the French capital in 1974 by Lama Gyurme. The plans for the centre's building were drawn by the architect Jean-Luc Massot on Kalu Rinpoche's directive and construction began in 1983. Inaugurated in 1985, it is a Tibetan and Bhutanese style temple located near the Vincennes Wood Pagoda, the headquarters of the International Buddhist Institute founded by Jean Sainteny.

Kagyu-Dzong Centre
Wikimedia Commons

Yeunten Ling Institute, Belgium

The Yeunten Ling Tibetan Institute is a Buddhist complex located in the Bishop's Castle of Huy since the 1980s. The complex includes a temple ("Thubten Shedrub Ling"), a library, meeting rooms, as well as about 50 studios and single rooms. The Yeunten Ling Institute has become one of the most important Dharma centres in Europe. Thousands of people gathered here for the consecration of the Buddha statue by the Dalai Lama in 2012.

Yeunten Ling Institute
Wikimedia Commons/Yacov Rosenblum

Lerab Ling, France

Lerab Ling is a Tibetan Buddhist centre founded in 1991 by the exiled lama Sogyal Rinpoche (1947-2019). The centre, affiliated to the Nyingma school, includes a three-storey temple (Palri Péma Ösel Dargyé Ling) designed and built in the style of an authentic traditional Tibetan temple, and the decorations were made by craftsmen from India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Lerab Ling
Wikimedia Commons/Ekem

Buddhist House, Germany

The Buddhist House was built in 1924, making it the oldest Buddhist temple in Western Europe. The complex was designed by Max Meyer for the physicist Paul Dahlke. The German Dharmaduta Society (GDS) acquired the property from Paul Dahlke's heirs in 1957 and transformed it into a Buddhist Vihara (monastery) with monks. Today, the "Buddhist House" is a national cultural property and is a listed building.

Buddhist House
Siristru on Polish Wikipedia

Buddhapadipa Temple, UK

The Buddhapadipa Temple is a Thai Buddhist temple built in London in the 1980s. Inside the temple hall, the walls are covered with murals by the artists Chalermchai Kositpipat and Panya Vijinthanasarn in a surrealist style. In the hall, there is also a large shrine built for the Buddha. The property also includes a house, a pond, and several bridges.

Buddhapadipa Temple
Wikimedia Commons/Zairon

Paldenshangpa La Boulaye, France

Paldenshangpa La Boulaye is a Buddhist meditation centre occupied by the Dashang Kagyu Ling religious congregation. It was founded in 1974 by French disciples of Lama Kalu Rinpoche. The Bhutanese style temple, built on the model of the Samye Monastery, was inaugurated in 1987 under the name "Temple of a Thousand Buddhas.” The complex houses "Thangkas" (paintings), statues of Gautama Buddha, Tara, Padmasambhava and since 1980, the site also includes a large stupa.

Paldenshangpa La Boulaye