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Church of Our Lady of Remedies, Cholula, Mexico

It’s impossible to miss the bright yellow exterior of the Church of Our Lady of Remedies, located on top of the Tlachihualtepetl pyramid in the Mexican city of Cholula, in the state of Puebla. Built between 1574 and 1575, it was a tribute paid by the Spanish to the pre-existing Great Pyramid of Tlachihualtepetl, a pre-Hispanic worship site.

Church of Our Lady of Remedies, Interior View

The church was constructed using brada stone and 24-carat gilded panels and shims. Its domes are decorated with white, yellow and green tiles, adding to the brightness of the design. Inside, the church features a statue of “Our Lady of Our Remedies,” which was transported from the Basque region of Spain by Captain Juan Rodríguez de Villafuerte.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

The Sagrada Familia basilica was never finished by Spanish artist Antoni Gaudí, yet it stands as one of most iconic landmarks of Barcelona. The overall impression when seeing the imposing 300-foot-high building is of being in front of of a giant sand castle church.

A view of Sagrada Familia

The majority of the structure is built with Montjuïc stones, a local type of sandstone known for its chromatic variance. When assembled together, Montjuïc stones give a warm aura of reds, browns and beiges.

The Nativity facade of Sagrada Familia

For this project the artist designed three grand facades. Two of them, the Nativity facade and the Passion facade, have been completed, while the third one, the Glory facade, is still under construction. The Nativity facade is dedicated to the birth of Jesus and features rich decorations of natural motifs and statues depicting nature in its various forms. Gaudi originally imagined it as a polychrome structure with painted ornaments and statues, but eventually left them in their natural color. The Passion facade contrasts with the rich design of the Nativity facade for its austere and plain look. Its ample bare stones were arranged to resembles the structure of a skeleton. Gaudi aimed to further stress Christ's sacrifice with a chiaroscuro effect due to the shadow play of the supporting pillars.

Florence's Duomo

St. Mary of the Flowers, known as Florence's Duomo, is one of the most iconic symbols of Italian renaissance architecture. However, its facade was completed only in the 19th century, when Emilio de Fabris won a design competition that had been called to complete the church’s facade. De Fabris opted for a Neo-Gothic style featuring polychrome marble from Carrara, Prato and Siena.

Florence's Duomo, Dome

But the facade is not the only colorful note of St. Mary of the Flowers. Its red brick dome is the largest brick dome ever constructed. It lends a warm aura to the entire building that is best appreciated from Michelangelo Hill, on the south bank of the Arno river.

The Facade of Florence's Cathedral

In De Fabris' plan for the facade of St. Mary of the Flowers, the colorful stones were positioned to create a visual rhythm reminiscent of that of the nearby Baptistery of Saint John.

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

Built between 1555 to 1561 by order of Ivan the Terrible, Moscow’s St. Basil's Cathedral is one of the most iconic symbols of Russian architecture. According to a local legend, two architects came up with its idiosyncratic design, Barma and Postnik, but no official attribution was ever achieved. All we know is that its nine-church structure has no precedent in Russian architecture, where large basilicas usually featured eight churches structured around a core basilica.

St. Basil's Cathedral, Detail

The church was initially built with white stone and red bricks, and its bright colors were a later addition (1680-1848). Colors are displayed so as to recreate the “Heavenly City” described in the Book of Revelation.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington D.C., USA

Built in 1920, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in the United States. Its neoclassical interiors feature as many as 70 chapels honoring Mary and many mosaics inspired by St. Mark’s Church in Venice. Its facade was built in the style of medieval churches, using masonry walls and columns. But what perhaps steals the scene when looking at it from outside is the blue and gold “Trinity” dome, completed in 2017.

St. Andres Xecul Church, Totonicapan, Guatemala

Located in the small village of Totonicapan, in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, this church looks a lot like the huipils, colorful dresses typical of this region. Its western facade was painted with bright yellow and features around 200 painted sculptures of human figures, monkeys, and fruits as well as more sacred images like angels. Built between 1900 and 1901, it features an idiosyncratic ball-like dome painted in bright blue, pink and yellow. If there was a prize for most colorful church, St. Andres Xecul would probably place among the finalists.