I have always been a seeker and somewhat of a spiritual tourist. World religions and the spiritual path have fascinated me for as long as I remember. I attended numerous denominations of Christian churches when I was young and even went to a Methodist college, The University Of The Pacific. I was totally awakened after taking a class on Oriental philosophy. My world view expanded after learning about Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Everything changed for me!
We seek enlightenment, inner truths, and the divine, in many ways. It may be in personal meditation, quiet reflection, or in a traditional church or temple. Marla opens up to an "Energy Vortex" at Bell Rock in Sedona.
Even if one is not a Catholic there is something spiritually majestic when visiting iconic religious buildings like Notre Dame in Paris. There is a mysterious power which emanates from these places. Notre Dame began construction in 1145 and was completed in 1345.
I attended a wedding at the Abbey of Saint-Remi in Reims, France. It was built in the Romanesque style in 1049. It made me marvel at what man is capable of creatively.
Pilgrims and non-believers alike have flocked to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi for centuries. I was on a bike tour of Umbria and Tuscany and stopped to visit this amazing spiritual place. Saint Francis founded the Franciscan religious order in 1208.
On almost every visit to San Francisco we go to a Sunday service at the Glide Memorial Church. Located in the Tenderloin District, the "Glide" is unique among all the Christian churches I have visited. On any given Sunday you may be sitting next to a billionaire from Nob Hill or a crackhead from the streets nearby. I always come away with what a church is, or should be about,...serving all humankind.
The "Glide Ensemble" is world famous and always leaves me joyous, often in tears, and very happy. Their song "Do Not Pass Me By" is my favorite!
Whether grand or simple, churches have always been a focal point in every European city or village. Marla and I once hosted a group of interior designers to Italy's Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Cathedral was a favorite of our group. First built in the 9th century it has been remodeled numerous times, adding Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, and Baroque elements.
While cycling through Umbria I stopped to visit "Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore" in the picturesque town of Spello. Wonderful frescos lined the walls. The nuns above were visiting from a nearby convent.
This Romanesque chapel in Villefranche Sur Mer is dedicated to Saint Peter, patron saint of fisherman. It was completely restored and decorated by Jean Cocteau in 1957.
This is one of my recent religious pilgrimages. I cycled up the very steep climb out of Lake Como to visit the "cyclist' church" of the Madonna del Ghisallo. Cyclists from around the world pay their respects to famous Italian bike racers in this tiny chapel.
Chapels come in every size and shape. I found this one in a tiny village in a hill town near Bolgheri Italy.
Shrines and chapels are found throughout the countryside in Europe, especially in Italy and France.
The oldest formerly Christian church I have visited is the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul Turkey. It was an amazing experience to enter this unique place of worship. It began as a Greek Orthodox Christian basilica and later became an Imperial Mosque. It is now a museum. Construction began in 537 AD and was completed in 1453.
The Hagia Sofia takes your breath away with it's majesty! You will see Christian frescoes along side sayings from the Koran.
Our spiritual journey takes us to the famous Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly known as the "Blue Mosque" in Istanbul. This is "Grand entrance gate" to the mosque.
The interior is amazingly beautiful and is truly a holy place of worship.
Our last stop on this spiritual journey is actually a lesson in the serendipitous joy of being completely lost while navigating the souks in Marrakech. Sometimes wonderful things happen when you explore on your own without a guide. We passed this very small mosque on our journey.
I hope you enjoyed this spiritual quest. Next we'll explore religious sites and rituals as we visit Thailand, Burma, Laos, India, China, and Bali.
Images: Dick Gentry, Top image by Gary Gentry