The 10 Largest Churches in the World

March 20, 2024

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Dome of St Peter's Basilicia

Technically, a church is a building that’s used for Christian worship, but sometimes the word ‘church’ is used to describe the buildings of other religions, for example, mosques and synagogues.

The buildings included in this list of the world’s largest churches all currently function as churches. The entries in this list also meet the criteria of being built for the purpose of being a church, which is why Spain’s Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba — which was originally built as a mosque but now operates as a church — has not been included. They are also all still standing, and they are not shrines, temples, or any other structures that function separately from churches.

Continue reading to find out what the world’s largest churches are and learn more about each one.

1. St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica at twilight
Interior size: 15,160 m²
Location: Vatican City
Built: 1506–1626

The largest — and arguably the most famous — church in the world is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It has an interior area of 15,160 square meters, and it can accommodate up to 60,000 standing people at once.

St. Peter’s Basilica was originally built by Emperor Constantine in 320 AD but was redesigned and enlarged by Pope Nicolas V from 1506 to 1626, resulting in the magnificent cathedral that exists today. 

One of the church’s most notable features is its central dome, which rises 136 meters high and was designed by the notorious artist Michelangelo. It also contains 140 statues of saints and 100 tombs, including those of Roman emperor Otto II and Swedish Queen Christina.

Did you know?

St. Peter’s Basilica is the most important church of the Roman Catholic faith, and it is one of the world’s most-visited religious sites.

2. Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida

Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida
Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Interior size: 12,000 m²
Location: Aparecida, Brazil
Built: 1955–1980

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil has a capacity of 45,000, and it is the destination of the most important Marian pilgrimage in Brazil.

The original church was built between 1834 and 1888 on the spot of a shrine to the Virgin Mary in the municipality of Aparecida. Construction of the church that exists today began in 1955, and it was declared sacred in 1980.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida was built in the style of Romanesque Revival, with towers that rise 102 meters high and a dome that rises 70 meters high. 

Did you know?

Worshippers from all over Brazil visit the basilica because they believe that the statue inside will grant any favor they ask for.

3. Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral
Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)
Interior size: 11,700 m²
Location: Milan, Italy
Built: 1386–1965

With a floor area of 11,700 square meters, Milan Cathedral can house up to 40,000 worshippers at a time, and it is one of Italy’s most famous landmarks.

Amazingly, this church took almost six centuries to build, with construction starting in 1386 and finishing in 1965.

One of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture, it features 135 spires, the tallest of which has a height of 109 meters. The building’s spires are adorned with statues depicting famous figures, including the Virgin Mary. As well as the 3,400 statues, the cathedral houses numerous paintings and Europe’s second-largest pipe organ.

Did you know?

Visitors are allowed to climb up to the roof of Milan Cathedral for a birds-eye view of the city below.

4. Seville Cathedral

Seville Cathedral
Aerial view of Seville Cathedral
Interior size: 11,500 m²
Location: Seville, Spain
Built: 1401–1528

Seville Cathdral has an interior area of 11,500 square meters, and its central nave stands 42 meters high. This impressive building was constructed between 1401 and 1528 to celebrate the wealth and power of the city of Seville.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its interior is decorated with gold, and it houses 45 wooden carvings depicting the life of Jesus Christ, which make up the largest altarpiece in the world.

Did you know?

Seville Cathedral is the final resting place of the famous explorer Christopher Columbus. 

5. Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

Interior size: 11,241 m²
Location: New York City, United States
Built: 1892–present

Sometimes referred to as ‘St. John the Unfinished’, only two-thirds of the church has been completed. Construction began in 1892 by American architects Christopher Grant Lafarge and George Heins but was taken over by new architects following the death of Heins in 1907. Building work was put on hold during World War II, and today, the church remains unfinished due to incomplete restoration efforts after a fire in 2001.

The Gothic building’s standout features include stone engravings of famous Bible verses and a stained glass window consisting of 10,000 pieces of multicolored glass. This stained glass window is the largest in the US and the fifth-largest in the world.

Did you know?

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine has hosted numerous notable funerals and memorials, including those for Eleanor Roosevelt, James Baldwin, and Duke Ellington.

6. Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen

The Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen
The Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen, Poland’s largest church
Interior size: 10,090 m²
Location: Licheń Stary, Poland
Built: 1994–2004

The Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen can accommodate up to 7,000 people. At 141.5 meters high, it is one of the world’s tallest churches.

Unlike many of the other churches on this list, the Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen was built fairly recently. Construction began in 1994 and was finished in 2004.

The church’s features have been well-thought-out, with 33 steps leading to the entrance to represent the early life of Christ, 365 windows and 52 doors to represent the number of days and weeks in a year, and 12 columns to symbolize the 12 Apostles.  

Did you know?

The Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen was partially funded by donations from pilgrims.

7. Liverpool Cathedral

Liverpool Cathedral
Liverpool Cathedral
Interior size: 9,687 m²
Location: Liverpool, United Kingdom
Built: 1904–1978

Liverpool Cathedral in the United Kingdom has a floor area of 9,687 square meters, putting it seventh on the list of the world’s largest churches. With an external length of 188.7 meters, it is also the fourth-longest church building in the world, and it has an exceptionally high tower which measures 101 meters.

Also known as the ‘Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King’, Liverpool Cathedral was built between 1904 and 1978 and was designed by the then 22-year-old Giles Gilbert Scott, who won a competition out of more than 100 entries.

Did you know?

With 10,268 pipes, the organ inside Liverpool Cathedral is one of the largest musical instruments in the world.

8. Basilica of the Holy Trinity

Basilica of the Holy Trinity
Aerial view of the Basilica of the Holy Trinity
Interior size: 8,700 m²
Location: Fátima, Portugal
Built: 2004–2007

The Basilica of the Holy Trinity — which is located in the Fátima municipality of Portugal — has an interior space of 8,700 square meters and can accommodate up to 9,000 people.

The church was constructed by Greek architect Alexandros Tombazis between 2004 and 2007 to commemorate the Virgin Mary’s apparition to three shepherd children in 1917. In contrast to the other churches on this list, the building has a modern design and has been built in a circular shape. It contains 44 confessionaries, as well as several chapels. 

Did you know?

In 2009, the Basilica of the Holy Trinity won the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering’s Outstanding Structure Award.

9. Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
Courtyard of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
Image credit: Flickr, ctj71081, CC BY-NC 2.0
Interior size: 8,515 m²
Location: Rome, Italy
Built: 4th–5th century; rebuilt 1825–1929

The church was constructed between the fourth and fifth centuries in honor of Paul the Apostle, who was believed to have been buried in the area. In 1823, the church was significantly damaged in a fire. However, between 1825 and 1929, it was rebuilt using the materials that survived the fire. 

Some of the building’s most notable features include the tomb of the Apostle, the beautiful cloister, marble columns, and intricate mosaics.

Did you know?

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is one of the four most highly-ranked basilicas in Rome. The others are St Peter’s Basilica, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, and the Papal Basilica of St Mary Major.

10. Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
Interior size: 8,318 m²
Location: Zaragoza, Spain
Built: 1681–1872

Rounding off this list is the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, which has an interior floor space measuring 8,318 square meters. Located in the city of Zaragoza, it is one of the most-visited religious sites in Spain.

According to local tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared before the Apostle Saint James and gave him a statue of herself, instructing him to build a church in her honor. He did as she asked and built the first chapel in the first century. The current version of the church was built between 1681 and 1872 and renovated in the 18th century. The church was finally completed in the 20th century.

The Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar consists of four towers, eleven domes, and a 15-inch-tall statue of the Virgin Mary in the holy chapel.

Did you know?

The Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is the world’s first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

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