Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Fourteen Stops Around a Christian Church

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaOne of the religious highlights of the Lenten season is walking the Stations of the Cross. Christians can follow Jesus’ last hours on earth via 14 stations, from His condemnation to death through His march to Calvary and ultimately His body being placed in the tomb. In Christian churches around the world, these images line the walls, often with seven on one side of the church and seven on the other. Regardless of their simplicity or complexity, they are all works of art. Read about the world’s best Stations of the Cross >


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Scotland’s Spectacular Churches

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, ScotlandSome are so ancient, you can almost hear the ghosts of worshippers from nearly a millennium ago. The churches of Scotland, like much of the nation’s architectural inventory, are astoundingly sturdy-looking, as if nothing could ever destroy them. They’re also exquisitely beautiful, with the most delicate details that often belie their bulk. They continually impressed me as I made my two-week loop around this irresistible land. Read about the top five churches in Scotland >


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The Superior Structures of Salzburg, Austria

High Salzburg FortressJulie Andrews’ romp through Salzburg, Austria, in The Sound of Music while singing “I Have Confidence” and toting her luggage and guitar case is unarguably one of the city’s best unintentional promotion pieces ever produced. How could it not be? Fountains, a gorgeous Alpine backdrop, and the mountaintop fortress are all on full display, tempting you to immerse yourself in this most Austrian of cities. You’ll certainly come here for the music, whether it’s the campy Sound of Music singalongs or the higher-echelon concerts of Salzburg native Mozart. But you’ll also come here for the architecture, much of which miraculously survived the bombings during World War II. Read about the top five buildings in Salzburg >


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Tallinn’s Top Churches

Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin, Tallinn, EstoniaWithin, and just outside, the walls of the Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia, you’ll find an abundance of fascinating sights, from resistance and architecture museums, to archery demonstrations, to medieval towers, to fantastic restaurants serving traditional Estonian meals. There’s also an extraordinary concentration of churches that stretch over a long range of centuries. You could see a good dozen of them all within a day, thanks to their close proximity to one another. But, of course, that would mean rushing through these outstanding structures. Instead, choose two or three per day, and you’ll get the full experience of Estonian spirituality. Read about the top five churches in Tallinn>


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Tiny Valletta’s Big Churches

Parish Church of St. Augustine, Valletta, MaltaOne of Europe’s smallest countries in terms of both size and population, the island nation of Malta has a disproportionately large abundance of everything from striking architecture to a complex and outstanding cuisine. Its deep history has seen a seemingly endless parade of foreign powers attacking, invading, and controlling it over the centuries. At its heart, the capital of Valletta houses only about 6,000 people. This fantastic walled peninsula city, surrounded on three sides by blue bays and harbors of the Mediterranean Sea, is crammed with a hefty number of gorgeous churches, maybe for all those who were trying to pray away the latest conquerors. Read about the top five churches in Valletta >


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Kraków’s Divine Churches

Church of the Transfiguration, Krakow, PolandKraków, like most other major cities in Poland, has lived through a tumultuous history. From glory days as the nation’s capital to a widespread conflagration that burned it to the ground, from being shunted aside under the Austrian Empire to resurgent pride when its most famous resident, Karol Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II, from intense air pollution from Soviet-built steelworks to its role as the country’s leading tourist destination, Kraków is a survivor. And, for centuries, its sturdy citizens have steadily found courage and hope in the city’s gorgeous houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Kraków, Poland >


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In a City of Skyscrapers, Churches Still Grace Manhattan

Church of the Incarnation, New York, New YorkMore than 100 churches of most denominations pop up all over the island of Manhattan in New York City. Over the course of my life, I had been to only about five of them. That just seemed wrong, especially because some have been permanently closed, and it’s probably only a matter of time before these remarkable structures with their architectural marvels are razed. The time seemed ripe to become a traveler in my hometown, so I made it a mission to see as many as possible before they disappear. My quest proved to be an incredibly rewarding journey. Read about the top five churches in Manhattan >


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Top 5 Buildings in Nuremberg, Germany

Church of Our Lady, Nuremberg, GermanyI was spending the second day of my weeklong jaunt through the Christmas markets of Germany in Nuremberg, a city long associated with the trials of Nazi war criminals in the mid-1940s. But this wonderfully charming city with a very deep history has so much more to offer than the notoriety of that brief period, including some very impressive architecture. Read about the top five buildings in Nuremberg >


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Faith and Fun in Helsinki’s Finest Churches

Karuna Church, Helsinki, FinlandStrong incense emanating from censers in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. An organ concert in an iconic Lutheran cathedral. Utter silence in a modern chapel in a busy area of Helsinki. A wedding in a church built into a rock. A chorale by Finland’s most famous composer ringing from the bell tower of an Art Nouveau church. My experiences in the city’s churches continually surprised me, surpassing mere architecture, history, and religious tradition (although all of those abound in Helsinki’s houses or worship), and visiting them became one long series of unexpected delights. Read about the top five churches in Helsinki >


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The Churches of Pittsburgh: Very Diverse, All Beautiful

From the top of Mount Washington, I took in the fantastic view of the skyline of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of the best urban views in the United States. Connected to the land across the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers by its iconic yellow bridges, this pie-shaped section of the city rises heavenward with its shiny skyscrapers, which (unfortunately) effectively hide one of the city’s lower-rise assets: its gorgeous houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Pittsburgh >