Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Canada’s Choicest Churches

Cathedral Church of St. James, TorontoBy 2029, an estimated 9,000 religious spaces in Canada will be lost—victims of harsh weather, evaporating congregations, abandonment, deterioration, and deliberate razing. That’s nearly one-third of all the ecclesiastical buildings in the entire country, so you better hurry if you want to see some irreplaceable structures before they’re gone forever. Fortunately, my favorites (except one) seem pretty secure…for now. Read about the top five churches in Canada >


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Bourbon on Saturday, Church on Sunday

Georgetown Baptist Church, KentuckyKentucky produces approximately 95 percent of the world’s bourbon. That’s a lot of booze. And perhaps if Kentuckians imbibe a bit in what they don’t export, it may explain why, at last count, there are 5,011 churches in the Bluegrass State. That’s a lot of worshipping. And people in Kentucky are doing it in all sorts of structures, from what is barely more than a cabin to what could pass for an old Holiday Inn to cathedrals that easily rival anything in Europe. Read about the top five churches in Kentucky >


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Missouri’s Best Religious Buildings

St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, MissouriOne has the largest collection of mosaics in the world. Another has some of the finest stained-glass windows in the United States. Still a third has a reredos that knocked my socks off. What are they? They’re some of the most beautiful churches in Missouri. Read more about them >


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Argentina’s Most Beautiful Churches

Cathedral of St. Francis, San Salvador de Jujuy, ArgentinaFour intranational flights in Argentina took me from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú to Salta to Mendoza and back to the capital. It was a whirlwind trip around the northern part of the country during which I hiked around one of the world’s top waterfalls and around the tallest mountain in the Americas, experienced both Latin and Native American cultures, ate llama cutlets and sucked on coca leaves to stave off altitude sickness, and roamed through some of the country’s best cities, filled with beautiful (and often crumbling) architecture, including fantastic houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Argentina >


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Denmark’s Five Best Churches

Holmen Church, Copenhagen, DenmarkWhen it comes to castles, Denmark is one of my favorite European nations, whether they’re watching over the coastline or dropped smack in the middle of the capital city. When it comes to churches, however, Denmark has some serious competition from its European neighbors. Despite that, this little nation of just under six million people has constructed some spectacular churches. Too bad only 3 percent of the population regularly attends services; they’re missing out on surrounding themselves with beauty. Read about the top five churches in Denmark >


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Croatia’s Choicest Churches

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Varazdin, CroatiaAs I traveled around this Balkan nation, I continuously noted domes and bell towers rising above their shorter neighbors. These telltale signs of religious buildings beckoned me, with their beautiful architecture and their centuries of history, art, legend, lore — and the occasional miracle or two. Read about the top five churches in Croatia >


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Crossing Paths With Swiss Crosses

Lausanne Cathedral, SwitzerlandAlthough freedom of religion is a fundamental right in Switzerland, enshrined in its constitution, the number of people employing that freedom continues to plummet. More than one-quarter of all Swiss have no religious affiliation (compared to a negligible 1 percent in 1970). Those who do, no matter what their denomination, have strayed from regularly attending services today. Yet they can still look back at what their more devout ancestors left behind—a legacy of beautiful churches that used to be the core of their societies. Read about the top five churches in Switzerland >


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The Eternally Beautiful Churches of Rome

Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles, RomeRome and religion are intrinsically intertwined. Completely surrounding the Catholic mini-state of the Vatican City, the Italian capital has been influenced by the church, and vice versa, for centuries. Italians still go pazzo for Il Papa, and a papal Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter is an unforgettable experience (at least, from what I’ve heard). Of course, getting into one takes a lot of doing, so most of us will have to be satisfied with just popping into a regular run-of-the-mill church that a pope may or may not have visited at some point. But in Rome, that means you inevitably step into a dazzling place that could stand on its own against most museums. Filled with long histories, incredible architecture, and art by some of Italy’s heavyweights, the churches of Rome — and there are many of them — rank among the most beautiful in the world. The first one I entered was so sublime that I needed no further motivation to visit every other one I came across. Read about the top five churches in Rome >


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Divinity in Providence

First Uniterian Church of ProvidenceI was attending a conference for editors in downtown Providence, and in between sessions I had ample opportunity to explore this historic American city. Settled in 1636 by Roger Williams, who named it in honor of “God’s merciful Providence,” the capital of Rhode Island has not always been under this divine protection. Through nearly four centuries of history, it has seen catastrophic floods, alarming crime rates, slavery, and cholera outbreaks. But it has also been an industrial powerhouse, one of the richest cities in the United States, the jewelry manufacturing capital of the world, an educational leader with such institutions as Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, and the Rhode Island School of Design, and a beacon for religious tolerance, still acknowledged in street names like Benefit, Benevolent, and Hope. That religious tradition can also be seen in its dozens and dozens of churches. Read about the top five churches in Providence >


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Philadelphia’s Old Churches Always Offer Something New

Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaWith so many historic sites to see in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ranging from Benjamin Franklin’s gravesite to the massive food mecca inside Reading Terminal Market (one of the world’s best indoor markets) to the oldest residential street in the United States, it’s hard to pick which ones to head to when you have only three days in the city. My recommendation is to sprinkle visits to some beautiful churches into your itinerary; you’ll be rewarded with artistic beauty and some fascinating tales. Read about the top five churches in Philadelphia >