Aleteia

Take a virtual tour of 4 of the most beautiful churches in the world

Sagrada Familia
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Use Google Earth to travel inside and out of these iconic Catholic churches, from the comfort of your own home.

Technology has a way of opening new doors to opportunities that hadn’t been imagined before. Now, technology is opening the doors to some of the most iconic Catholic churches around the world. This time of the year invites us all to dive deeper into our faith and to dedicate a special time to prayer. Although visiting a church in person is not an option at the moment, we now have a chance to do it virtually. 

Google Earth is Google’s tool to view places around the world in a 3D representation, thanks to a combination of satellite images and aerial photography. You can virtually fly over any city, watching it from above, find landmarks in 3D and discover buildings up close. However, there are some sites you can explore also from the inside. Aside from viewing their magnificent exteriors, several churches have opened their doors for digital visitors, allowing them to enter and “walk” through their corridors as they would in real life.

The following churches and monasteries are free for virtual visits. All of them are rich in history and in beauty; they are considered UNESCO World Heritage sites and they represent a unique moment in time.

To visit them it’s necessary to use Google Chrome and open earth.google.com. At the top right corner click on “Launch Earth” and then look for these places by clicking on the magnifying glass icon.

Once you have “entered” each site there’ll be a knowledge card with more information. Click on the arrows over the image and walk freely. You can also click on the image with your mouse and move it to see what’s behind and above (some places will want you to look up!). 

Basílica de la Sagrada Familia  – Barcelona, Spain

This Roman Catholic church was conceived by the legendary architect Antoni Gaudí in 1883 and, because of the complexity of the project, it’s still under construction. Five generations have passed since the first stone was laid and it’s expected to be finished by 2026. Although the Catalan architect couldn’t see its completion, he left behind specific instructions to create a masterpiece for the Catholic Church. Ten years ago, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica. 

sagrada familia
Google Earth
Sagrada Familia as seen from above

The idea behind the creation of the Sagrada Familia dates back to 1866, when the Spiritual Association of the Devotees of Saint Joseph was founded. The association wanted to create an expiatory shrine dedicated to the Holy Family. It took them seven years to get the funds needed to purchase the land where this church would be constructed. In 1882 they laid the cornerstone during the feast of St. Joseph. Although the church is known to be Gaudí’s creation, he wasn’t the first architect in charge of it. The project was originally entrusted to the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. However, due to differences with the developers he stepped down. It was then when Gaudí transformed the construction into a combination of Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. About 70% of the Basilica is already constructed, which is why Masses are held here and people are allowed to visit. The remaining 30% is mostly six central towers which are meant to be taller than the bell towers.        

SAGRADA FAMILIA
Google Earth
Interior of Sagrada Familia