Musical Churches

Over the centuries, church buildings have given rise to new musical styles within them, linked to their stature and the sacred activities that take place there. Don’t miss out on visiting these churches if you would like some proof!


St. Mary's Basilica, Poland

The Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven is one of the most famous monuments in Krakow and all of Poland. It is a Gothic church built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Every hour a traditional Polish melody (Hejnał) is played by a trumpet player from the highest tower of the Basilica. Legend has it that in 1241, a city guard played the hejnał to warn the inhabitants of the Mongolian invasion, but an arrow wound prevented him from completing the melody. Since that day, the melody is brutally interrupted at the moment the arrow killed the guard in 1241.

St. Mary's Basilica
Keith Roper/Flickr

Montserrat Abbey, Spain

In 1025, Oliba, Abbot of Ripoll and Bishop of Vic, founded a new monastery at the hermitage of Santa Maria de Montserrat. In 1409 the monastery of Montserrat became an independent abbey. From 1493 to 1835 Montserrat went through a period of growth as part of the Valladolid Congregation. During the Spanish Civil War, the monastery was abandoned but the government saved Montserrat from being sacked or ruined. The monastery is now known for its boys' choir called Escolania. This children's choir was formed around the end of the eleventh century and has continued uninterrupted until the present day.

Montserrat Abbey
Andy Colebrooke/Flickr

King's College Chapel, United-Kingdom

King's College Chapel is the chapel at King's College in the University of Cambridge. It was built in phases by the kings of England from 1446 to 1515 during the Wars of the Roses in a Perpendicular Gothic English architectural style. The chapel has large stained-glass windows that were completed in 1531, and the chapel’s Renaissance rood screen was constructed from 1532 to 1536. The College Chapel is the rehearsal venue for the King's College Choir, Britain's best-known boys' choir and heir to the British choral tradition, particularly Evensong. Evensong is a form of choral music dating back to the time of the Reformation that uses elements of the old monastic Offices of Vespers and Compline.

King's College Chapel
Wikimedia Commons

Basilica of Saint Petronius, Italy

The Basilica of San Petronio is a major church in Bologna, and it is one of the largest brick Gothic buildings in the world. Although construction began in the late 14th century, the building, which was to be larger than St. Peter's Basilica, has remained largely unfinished since the 17th century. Bologna became a musical capital of Europe in the 15th century after the basilica's musical chapel was founded by Pope Eugene IV in 1436. This chapel was famous for its Renaissance-era sacred music such as polyphony. The basilica also stands out for having developed a bell ringing system, a particular form of full-circle ringing, in the Middle Ages.

Basilica of Saint Petronius
Nigel Swales/Flickr

Mechelen Cathedral, Belgium

St. Rumbold’s Cathedral was built in the thirteenth century. It was known as ‘the church of the archbishops’ because it was larger and more impressive than the other parish churches. Originally there was a triple-nave cruciform church on the site of the cathedral. Much of the interior and iconoclasms were lost to plundering during the 16th century. The cathedral is famous for its tower and the carillon it contains, used by students of the prestigious Royal Carillon School Jef Denyn, the oldest and most important carillon school in Europe. The carillon in the cathedral tower consists of no less than 49 bells.

Wikimedia Commons

Sretensky Monastery, Russia

The Sretensky Monastery is an orthodox monastery built in the 14th century. The modern monastery complex includes the Sreteniye Cathedral of the Vladimir Mother of God Icon with two chapels, galleries, a belfry, and a few service buildings. In 1918 the monastery was closed, and from 1928 to 1930, all the churches, except the Our Lady of Vladimir, and almost all the buildings were destroyed. The monastery was reopened in 1995. The monastery houses a famous choir, that has existed for more than 600 years. This world-renowned choir carries on the ancient tradition of Russian liturgical singing.

Sretensky Monastery

Rouen Cathedral, France

Notre-Dame Cathedral has been extensively modified since the 4th century, thus explaining the lack of homogeneity. The building dates mainly from the 12th and first half of the 13th century. The cathedral’s present appearance is how it looked in the last quarter of the 19th century. The cathedral of Rouen is one of the first cathedrals in the West to have had an organ, as early as the 14th century. It is the cradle of the 'French organ school', thanks to Jehan Titelouze (1563-1633), organist of the cathedral from 1588. Finally, the cathedral has a renowned boys' choir, the 'Maîtrise Saint-Evode', which also dates back to the 14th century.

Rouen Cathedral