European Sacred Heritage

Very few buildings, only 38 in total, bear the European Heritage Label. This label was created by the European Commission in 2007 to celebrate places of remembrance, witnesses of European history and heritage. The following places are or include places of worship, underlining their importance in European heritage.


Cluny Abbey, France

The Abbey of Cluny, founded in the 10th century, quickly became the most important Benedictine monastery in Western Europe, triggering a revival of monastic practises on the continent. Until the 12th century, the Abbey of Cluny governed monastic life in Europe and gave birth to 1800 sites throughout western Europe. Due to its rapid growth, the buildings of the abbey were modified on numerous occasions, most notably during the reconstructions of 963 to 981 and of 1080 to 1220. The last reconstruction made the abbey the largest Christian building in the world until the construction of St Peter's Basilica (1506-1626).

Cluny Abbey
Wikimedia Commons/xkomczax

Olomouc Premyslid Castle, Czech-Republic

The Olomouc Premyslid Castle is a centre of early Christianity, a place that preserves and enhances the high level of artistic patronage of the Archbishops of Moravia, and a fine example of heritage conservation in the region. The St. Wenceslas Cathedral on-site, was founded in the 12th century in the Romanesque style and was later rebuilt in the Gothic style. At the beginning of the 16th century, a presbytery from the early Baroque period was founded. At the end of the 19th century, the church underwent a radical reconstruction in the neo-Gothic style that gave it its present appearance.

Olomouc Cathedral

The Hofburg Palace, Austria

The Imperial Palace is a complex of buildings and gardens which used to serve as the residence of the Habsburgs, the ruling family of large parts of Europe during some 700 years. The Hofburg Chapel is the oldest and primary chapel of the Hofburg Palace and the chapel of the House of Habsburg. A Romanesque chapel has existed here since the 13th century and was extended in the Gothic style from 1447 to 1449. Maria Theresa (1745-1765) ordered a Baroque reconstruction of the chapel, but the chapel regained its Gothic appearance in 1802. The chapel occasionally houses the famous Viennese Court Music Orchestra.

Hofburg Chapel
Wikimedia Commons/Guntars Mednis

Historic Ensemble of the University of Tartu, Estonia

The historic ensemble of the University of Tartu is a campus that was designed at the beginning of the nineteenth century and embodies the ideas of a university in the Age of Enlightenment. The University of Tartu Church is an old church built in 1860 behind the main classicist building of the University of Tartu, from 1809. It was used by the congregation of the University of Tartu until 1948 when the church became a study building. Part of the furniture, the altar, pulpit, pews and bells of the tower, was moved to the restored St. Nicholas' Church in Põltsamaa, where it is still in use.

University of Tartu Church
Wikimedia Commons/Laima Gūtmane

Kaunas of 1919-1940, Lithuania

During the inter-war period, the city of Kaunas became the modern, lively and dynamic cultural centre of independent Lithuania. This cultural proliferation is reflected above all in the art of architecture, which was undergoing a revolution in Europe at that time. The Church of the Resurrection, standing above every building in the town, bears witness to this period. The church was established in 1940 but was not consecrated until 2004 due to the Soviet occupation of the country (1940-1990). The avant-garde design of the church, in the New Objectivist style, dates from the 1920s, and the monumental proportions of the church were intended to celebrate the newly gained independence (1922).

Church of the Resurrection

Dohány Street Synagogue, Hungary

The synagogue on Dohany Street is the largest neologistic synagogue in Europe and a symbol for Hungarian Jews. The building was constructed between 1854 and 1859 and was one of the first synagogues to be built in the Moorish style. The synagogue was renovated in 1929-1931 and 1991-1996, after decades of neglect under the Hungarian communist regime. During the Second World War, the synagogue was located in the heart of the Budapest ghetto. The synagogue complex now includes a museum and a memorial for Hungarian Jewish soldiers of World War I. The synagogue complex is now a museum and a memorial for Hungarian Jewish soldiers of World War I. The synagogue on Dohany Street is one of the few synagogues to house an organ. It hosts classical music concerts and serves as a venue for various festivals.

Dohany Street Synagogue
Wikimedia Commons/Bojan Marušič

Javorca Church, Slovenia

The Church of the Holy Spirit was built in 1916 by the multi-ethnic soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian army, stationed on the Isonzo front, during the First World War. It was designed by the Viennese architect, then Archbishop Remigius Geyling, a friend of Gustav Klimt. It is dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the First World War, regardless of their origins and culture, as evidenced by the inscription Ultra cineres hostium ira non superest (Do not hate beyond the ashes of the dead). The church is one of the selected points on the "Path of Peace", which connects monuments and remains of the First World War in the valley of Soča.

Javorca Church
Wikimedia Commons/MMFE

Schengen, Luxembourg

The small wine-making town of Schengen, with a population of less than 5,000, is one of the proud sites listed as a European Heritage Site. It is indeed in this Luxembourg town that one of the most important treaties of the European Union, establishing the Schengen area, was signed. If you visit the city, do not miss a visit to its castle and its parish church. The Church of the Redeemer of Schengen was first mentioned in 1608 as a chapel. When Schengen was granted parish status in 1807, the chapel became a church and was later enlarged in 1870. Completely destroyed by fire in 1947, the church was rebuilt in its present form from 1949 to 1950 according to plans by Etienne Galowich.

Church of the Redeemer