Although Switzerland has no official religion, Christianity is adhered to by more than half the Swiss population, with most being Catholics and Swiss Protestants. As such, they have built many churches in the country, with some incredibly beautiful ones. In this article, let’s have a look at ten of the most famous churches in Switzerland.
So without further ado, here are ten of the most famous churches in Switzerland.
1. Einsiedeln Abbey
Einsiedeln Abbey is the largest baroque masterpiece and the most important Roman Catholic pilgrimage site in Switzerland. Saint Meinrad, a Benedictine monk, founded it around 835 CE. Located in Einsiedeln, Canton Schwyz, this is one of Switzerland’s most impressive monastic structures.
Einsiedeln Abbey is fronted by a semicircular, large courtyard. It has a fountain built in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 1466, the Black Madonna made of limewood arrived at the holy chapel. You will find the Black Madonna at the rear of the church, holding a child in her left hand. It has been a Marian devotion site for more than a thousand years.
If you would like to read more about the Einsiedeln Abbey, check out our article A Quick Guide to Einsiedeln Abbey and the Black Madonna.
2. Cathedral of Notre Dame, Lausanne
The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Lausanne is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful Gothic buildings. Consecrated in 1275, it sits on Cité Hill and is one of Lausanne’s main attractions.
On the southern wall of the nave, painted portals were added between 1225 and 1235. The detail and quality of the sculpture make this painted portal one of the most important heritage sites in the country.
A rose window with a diameter of 8.05 meters dominates the south transept. Along with Notre Dame in Paris and Chartres, it’s one of the most famous rose windows in Europe. Pierre d’Arras is credited with creating it. However, Edouard Hosch restored the rose window in 1894, and it now bears his mark.
3. Madonna del Sasso, Orselina
Sacred Mount Madonna del Sasso is a historical and religious landmark in Ticino. A vision of the Virgin Mary is said to have happened here. The church was consecrated in 1487.
There’s no better way to get into or out of the church than with a view of the lake and mountains in the background. The Locarno-Madonna del Sasso funicular makes it easy to get there. Furthermore, it’s close to the cable car base station for Orselina-Cardada-Cimetta.
It is open from 7:00 AM to 6:30 PM.
4. Romainmôtier Priory
The Romainmôtier Priory is one such location where you can discover ancient architecture in Switzerland. The current church was built on top of an older abbey from 990 to 1028, which itself dates back nearly 500 years ago. Located in the municipality of Romainmôtier-Envy in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland, it was a former Cluniac priory.
The Romainmôtier Priory was founded by Saint Romanus of Condat, after whom it got its name.
The historical priory has been a place of worship for centuries. It reached its peak at the end of the 14th century and attracted many followers. A century later, the priory church began to decline in importance during the Protestant Reformation. Today, the priory is a historic building that has been restored to its former splendor.
5. Abbey of Saint Gall, St. Gallen
The Cathedral of Saint Gall is a Catholic Church from the Carolingian era that’s been here since 719. As part of the Abbey of St. Gall, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. The abbey precinct, with its magnificent Baroque cathedral, forms a unique historical ensemble.
Located in St. Gallen, the church is decorated with frescoes mostly by Josef Wannenmacher and has the most complete set of historic bells in Switzerland. This is one of the most beautiful churches in Switzerland.
Nearby is the Abbey Library containing Switzerland’s most beautiful non-ecclesiastical hall. It houses 170,000 books.
If you would like to read more about the Abbey of Saint Gall, check out our article Abbey of Saint Gall: UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
6. Basel Minster
The Basel Minster (in German Basler Münster) is a fascinating example of how history can be told through architecture and can be found in Switzerland. The former Catholic church, built between the years 1019 and 1500 in Romanesque and Gothic styles, is nowadays a Reformed Protestant Church.
Prior to the Reformation, Basel Minster was the church of the bishop and the main church of the Diocese of Basel, whose metropolitan bishop was the Archbishop of Besançon. Today, you can still go to church here on Sundays. There’s also a chance to climb the towers for a beautiful view of Basel and the Rhine.
7. Benedictine Convent of St. John, Müstair
You can find the historic Benedictine Convent of St. John in Müstair, Graubünden. Located in the easternmost village in Switzerland, this abbey hosts one of the best-preserved early medieval picture cycles in the world. In fact, as a result of its exceptionally well-preserved heritage of Carolingian art, it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
Restoration work in the 20th century revealed Romanesque frescoes from the 1160s.
The UNESCO hailed these as Switzerland’s greatest series of figurative murals, painted around A.D. 800, along with Romanesque frescoes and stucco work.
The convent museum is housed in the century-old fortified tower of the Planta convent. Visitors are welcome to see what was once a bustling, female-dominated religious community, residing within its stone walls 1,200 years ago. Throughout the convent museum, you’ll find not just one, but a lot of stories from different centuries. It gives insight as to why some things remain the same and why some things have changed over time.
Today, the Benedictine Convent of St. John is still inhabited by Benedictine nuns.
8. Grossmünster Church, Zurich
Zurich’s most iconic landmark is a Romanesque church with slender and striking towers – the Grossmünster Church. A beautiful church along the Limmat River, it is less than a kilometer away from Zurich’s main train station.
The house was already standing when priest Ulrich Zwingli took over in 1519. Still, it is considered the cradle of the Zwingli Reformation. This church was built between 1100 and 1250. The towers were added at the end of the 15th century.
The richly decorated interiors were stripped down during the reformation. To this day, the interior of the church is a bit plain compared to its exterior. Additionally, there are 3 windows from 1933 by Augusto Giacometti showing the Christmas Story.
One of the Church’s hidden highlights is the Karlsturm – the right-hand tower. Although you have to climb 187 steps, it’s one of Zurich’s best attractions. From above, you’ll have a great view of the city, lake, and river.
9. St. Ursus Cathedral, Solothurn
St. Ursus Cathedral in Solothurn, constructed of lightweight Jura limestone, is one of the most important early Swiss neoclassical buildings. Solothurn’s Cathedral is one of the most important and recognized Swiss treasures. It was built between 1762 and 1773 by the architects Gaetano Matteo Pisoni and Paolo Antonio Pisoni. The Cathedral took 11 years to build and is the main attraction of Solothurn.
This 66-meter-high tower offers breathtaking views of the city, surrounding area, and mountains from its 249 steps. It used to be home to a lookout. If the weather is suitable, it can be climbed from Easter to All Saints Day. You can see the old town and Aare from here.
The number 11 has been given special significance in Solothurn church. The St. Ursus Cathedral houses eleven altars and clocks, with its outer stairs divided into sections having the same count as their steps.
If you would like to read more about St. Ursus Cathedral, check out our article St. Ursus Cathedral in Solothurn, Switzerland.
10. St. Pierre Cathedral, Geneva
Atop a slight hill overlooking Geneva, St. Pierre Cathedral (or Cathédrale Saint-Pierre in French) is one of Geneva’s most important landmarks. The Protestant Reformer John Calvin preached a lot in this church. Calvin played a big role in the development of theological doctrines later known as Calvinism, including the doctrine of predestination and God’s sovereignty.
Founded in 1160, its architecture combines Gothic and Ancient styles. Originally a Roman Catholic cathedral, it became a Reformed Protestant church in the 16th century.
You can visit the north and south towers. It takes 157 steps to get to the top, but the fantastic views of Geneva are worth it.
If you would like to read more about St. Pierre Cathedral, you can check out our article here – Discover St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland.
Related Posts: Churches, Abbeys, and Cathedrals
- Abbey of Saint Gall: UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. Gallen, Switzerland
- A Quick Guide to Einsiedeln Abbey and the Black Madonna
- Lausanne Cathedral: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell
- St. Ursus Cathedral in Solothurn, Switzerland
- Discover St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland