Simanaitis Says

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HAVING RECENTLY CELEBRATED architectural minimalism, let’s explore the other extreme. The Discoverer Blog is an entertaining website, with lots of helpful information on travel (whether real or of the armchair variety).  The Discoverer’s “The Most Ornate Buildings in the World” offers examples, several familiar, others more serendipitous finds. Here are tidbits about the article, together with my own ornate musings.

La Sagrada Família, Barcelona. Antoni Gaudi started this giant basilica in 1882 and, The Discoverer observes, it’s “not likely to be fully completed until 2026.”

La Sagrada Família. Image by Luciano Mortula—LGM/Shutterstock from The Discoverer.

In visits to Barcelona, I’ve admired Gaudi’s love of curved surfaces. The immensity of La Sagrada Família is breathtaking. The gentleness of La Pedrera apartments is a special favorite of mine; this, despite its lack of ornamentation. 

La Pedrera. Image from

St. Basil Cathedral, Moscow. The Discoverer notes, “Ivan the Terrible commissioned this church, officially known as the Intercession Cathedral, to commemorate his 1552 victory over the Tartar stronghold of Kazan on the Feast of the Intercession.” 

St. Basil Cathedral. Image by yulenochekk/iStock from The Discoverer.

I’ve never actually visited Moscow, only virtually by way of Microsoft Flight Simulator. 

My GMax Antonov AN-2 buzzes St. Basil.

The Kölner Dom, Cologne, Germany. The Discoverer notes that Kölner Dom is “one of the most stunning Gothic cathedrals in Europe…. Its soaring twin spires dominate the skyline of beautiful Cologne while keeping watch over the Rhine River.” 

The Kölner Dom. Image by Kerrick/iStock from The Discoverer.

In my first transatlantic travels back in the 1970s, I recall those flights would often go to Cologne, with transfers there to other German cities. I suspect that I would have viewed Kölner Dom from the air. 

The Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg. The Discoverer writes, “The complex is part palace, part park, and displays all the magnificent beauty of its Russian Baroque style.” 

The Catherine Palace. Image by konstantinks/iStock from The Discoverer. 

I visited St. Petersburg just about the time it was reverting from its Leningrad moniker. Though I never visited the Catherine Palace, I’ve vicariously enjoyed Catherine II’s Winter Palace via Alexander Sokurov’s 2002 Russian Ark. This movie is renowned among film buffs for having been shot in a single sequence.

Other Ornate Musings. I’d put Milan Cathedral on the list. Its origin dates from a baptistry established in 335; the Duomo’s construction began in 1386. Wikipedia notes that last details were added in 1965, with subsequent renovation following into this century.

Image from Britannica.

A more modest example comes to mind: Wells Cathedral, in Wells, Somerset, England. Wikipedia cites historian John Harvey seeing it “as Europe’s first truly Gothic structure, breaking the last constraints of Romanesque.” 

Image by Diliff from Wikipedia.

Wells Cathedral was built between 1176 and 1450. Rob Walker’s wife Betty told us that, with its 300 medieval carvings, it’s known as the prayerbook of the poor. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021  


  1. Bob
    August 31, 2021

    In the simplest town or even in undeveloped parts of the world, beauty and devotion can be found in the most modest church or crudest shrine. Striving for beauty and devotion to a power beyond ourselves is a human distinction, and it’s the spark that has reached its height with Gaudi and all the religious buildings and art.

  2. sabresoftware
    September 1, 2021

    The Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, Ontario is a scaled copy (7/8 I believe) of Cologne Cathedral.

  3. Jack Albrecht
    September 2, 2021

    IIRC La Pedrera was one of the first buildings to not use the facade as a load-bearing element, allowing for the very large windows. Also IIRC it has convection air conditioning that draws hot air from the flats to the roof, keeping temps livable even in Barcelona’s sweltering summers.

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