Europe’s largest Orthodox cathedrals and churches

Sacred sites are magnificent works of art, and their grandeur is often hard to ignore. In some cases, the grandeur of these buildings is determined not only by their unique features but also by their dimensions. The following Orthodox cathedrals and churches are excellent examples of this.

Wikimedia Commons/Turgidson

People’s Salvation Cathedral, Romania

Bucharest seems to have developed a taste for large buildings. Just behind the second-largest administrative building in the world, stands the massive People's Salvation Cathedral. It is the tallest and largest Eastern Orthodox church building by volume in the world. The first mass celebrated at the cathedral's consecration was attended by 55,000 people. There are two underground galleries utilised for the display of sacred objects and the celebration of the Holy Liturgy. Another surprising fact is that Cathedral bells are the world’s largest free-swinging bells and can be heard from up to 20 km away.

People’s Salvation Cathedral
Wikimedia Commons/Orjen

St Sava Church, Serbia

Its massive proportions have earned the Saint Sava Church a place on the list of Belgrade's landmarks. Its construction began in 1935 but was not completed until 2004 due to the Second World War and the difficult political and economic situation that followed in the country. The most sacred religious site of the Serbian people stands out for the pyramidal structure of its façade, inspired by another magnificent temple: Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Marble and granite adorn the interior of this enormous church, which can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers.

St Sava Church
Flickr/Marco Verch Professional Photographer

Church of Saint Panteleimon, Greece

With a length of 63 m and a width of 48 m, the Church of Saint Panteleimon of Acharnai is one of the largest Orthodox churches in Greece and the Balkans. It can accommodate more than 10,000 worshipers and its dome is almost as big as the dome of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Its construction began in 1910 being one of the first buildings in Greece made of concrete. In addition to its imposing marble columns, floors, and windows, this building has beautiful frescoes executed by Greek painter Giannis Karouzos over a 23-year period.

Church of Saint Panteleimon
Wikimedia Commons/Alexostrov

Transfiguration Cathedral, Odesa, Ukraine

The present Odessa Cathedral is a perfect 1999 reconstruction of the former 19th-century cathedral which was blown up by the Bolsheviks. It was at that moment the largest church of the Russian Empire. As if nothing had ever happened, the beauty and grandeur of the current building amaze locals and visitors alike, being one of the main landmarks in this Ukrainian city. It has a capacity for 9,000 people and its belfry tower is the largest in the country.

Transfiguration Cathedral
Wikimedia Commons/Mel2211

Saint Isaac's Cathedral, Russia

Situated in a prime location in St. Petersburg, St. Isaac's Cathedral is a magnificent neoclassical structure 105 metres long and 93 metres wide. It was commissioned by Tsar Alexander I and designed by French-born architect Auguste Montferrand. Its construction was completed in 1858 and at that time it was one of the largest religious structures in St. Petersburg. To this day, it is still the religious building with the most extensive ground floor in Europe. Since 1931 it has been operating as a museum hosting church services occasionally.

Saint Isaac's Cathedral
Wikimedia Commons/Adam Jones

Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

Another awe-inspiring Orthodox temple is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. It was built in 1882 to a design by architect Alexander Pomerantsev in the Neo-Byzantine style. The interior decoration was an exemplary collaboration of different European cultures. It involved Bulgarian, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and other European artists. It can hold up to 5,000 people inside.

Alexander Nevski Cathedral
Wikimedia Commons/Radosław Botev

Cathedral of the Resurrection, Albania

Since its inauguration in 2012 Tirana’s Resurrection of Christ Cathedral has become a major attraction in Albania´s capital. It is not only one of the largest Cathedral structures in Europe but a larger complex for the promotion of the Orthodox Church that comprises the Cathedral itself, the residence of the Holy Synod, two smaller chapels, a library, a museum and a cultural centre in its underground levels with conference rooms to host events. The bell tower reaches 46 metres.

Cathedral of the Resurrection
Wikimedia Commons/Zairon

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn was built in the 19th century in a Russian Revival style. The cathedral was about to be demolished in 1924 because for Estonians it was a symbol of Russian oppression of their country, but the demolition was never carried out due to the sheer size of the buildings and the great cost it would have entailed. After years of deterioration, the building was restored after Estonia gained independence for the second time in 1991. It has five onion domes and eleven bells that were raised with ropes with the help of 500 soldiers. Among these bells is the largest Estonian bell, which weighs no less than 15 tonnes.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Wikimedia Commons/Zairon

Saints Boris and Gleb Cathedral, Latvia

The Saints Boris and Gleb Cathedral was built in 1866 to provide a place of worship for the local garrison in Daugavpils, Latvia’s second-largest city. The building was financed by a military department dealing with the religious affairs of the army. Today, it is the largest Orthodox Church in Latvia and a fine example of Russian Revival architecture.

Ss Boris and Gleb Orthodox Cathedral
Wikimedia Commons/Diego Delso

Uspenski Cathedral, Finland

Uspenski stands out with its copper cupolas and redbrick facades on a small hill on the Katajanokka Peninsula. It is the main Cathedral of the Finnish Orthodox Church and it was built in 1862 to meet the needs of the Orthodox community of Helsinki a few decades after the city became the capital of the country. Its construction was financed mostly by donations. The cathedral was designed by Russian architect Aleksey Gornostayev and is one of the most prominent symbols of Russian influence on Finnish history.

Uspenski Cathedral