Europe, as a whole, is made up of people from many different faiths. However, many of the spiritual attractions pre-date religion as we know it, dating back to Pagan times. Stonehenge, for example, was built long before any religion was founded but has become a site of worship famous throughout the world.
Many of the cathedrals throughout the continent date back to medieval times and are steeped in history, making them appealing not only to those seeking religious sanctuary but also history buffs interested in the heritage of the buildings.
Pilgrims would spend months trying to reach some of these destinations, traveling from all across the world, but today with the abundance of flights available, they can be reached in a matter of hours.
Lourdes, France: In the last 150 years, Lourdes has become the most visited pilgrimage site in the Christian world. Up to six million people visit every year in the hope they will witness a vision of the Virgin Mary and to bathe in the pools, which are believed to have healing powers.
Vatican City, Italy: Vatican City is a landlocked sovereign city-state within the city of Rome. It is home to the Pope as well as two of the most important buildings in the Catholic world: St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
Stonehenge, England: Stonehenge is a circle of upright stones which dates back to prehistoric times. The mysterious intention of Stonehenge attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year although it is widely assumed that the stones were once a place of worship. The age of Stonehenge predates any known religion, but the site has become a place of worship for Druids and other pagans. The best time to visit is either summer or winter solstice.
Parthenon, Greece: This ancient temple was built for the goddess Athena who is the patroness of Athens. She is the representation of complete spiritual development, purity and wisdom and many people visit the site to try and find inner peace.
Durham and York cathedrals, England: These two cathedrals are visited by thousands of tourists every year and were two of the most famous pilgrimage cathedrals in medieval times. They make for a great day trip if you are in the north of England.
St Declan’s Well, Ireland: This famous and religiously important well can be found in county Waterford. It was founded along with the monastery at Ardmore by St Declan who is, by some, regarded of being the father or Christianity in Ireland. It was a place of healing during Pagan times and today is a very peaceful location where people come to get away from it all.
Avila, Spain: This walled town was once the sacred place of the ancient Celtiberian culture. It was a site where pilgrims came to pray and is home to the church and home of St Theresa. The town itself is an ideal destination for those looking for peace.
The Abbey of St Gall, Switzerland: For a number of centuries, this abbey was one of the most important in Europe. It was founded in 613 AD and actually became an independent principality in the 13th century. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 and has since attracted many visitors.
Our Lady of Flanders’ Cathedral of Tournai, Belgium: This is one of the most important buildings in the whole country as it actually divides the city of Tournai into two equal halves. It makes for an excellent day trip if you are in the area.
Maulbronn Abbey, Germany : This is one of the best conserved medieval monasteries in the world. It is separated from the town by walls and is the perfect place to visit for total calm, and somewhere people retreat to in order to get away from the stresses of everyday life.