Travel: 3 churches to visit in the US

The Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, a Roman Catholic cathedral in San Juan, Puerto Rico. | Dennis Lennox

Contrary to popular belief, a passport isn’t required to visit beautiful churches.

There are countless examples of notable church architecture right here in the United States. Some of them even rival Europe’s great cathedrals.

Among this columnist’s favorites are the following three churches, which are listed in no particular order.

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

One of the finest examples of Gothic revival anywhere in the U.S. is the Episcopal (Anglican) cathedral in Spokane, Washington.

The interior of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. | Dennis Lennox

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is what the acclaimed architect Augustus W.N. Pugin called true Gothic. That’s because unlike other examples of Gothic revival, the cathedral is constructed entirely of masonry in the same manner as the original medieval edifices that inspired its design.

The pointed arches aren’t merely decorative or stylistic details, which is pretty impressive considering the fact that traditional church architecture was well out of fashion by the time of its construction between 1925 and 1961.

If you go: Visits outside Sunday services are possible during normal weekday business hours. No admission is charged. Stay at the Hotel Indigo in downtown Spokane.

Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist

The oldest church in the U.S. is the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist (Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de San Juan Bautista) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The oldest part of the Roman Catholic cathedral in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a chapel that dates to the early 16th century. | Dennis Lennox

The Roman Catholic cathedral dates to the decades after Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 and Juan Ponce de León established the first colony in 1508. Located in what is today San Juan’s touristy but quaint Old Town, it was one of the first buildings erected under Ponce de León. The tomb of the conquistador, who wokists have attempted to cancel, is inside.

The oldest part of the cathedral — it was extensively altered in the 19th century — is the small chapel at the east end. Constructed out of sandstone, this vernacular adaption of medieval Gothic architecture is one of only two examples of period Gothic anywhere on U.S. soil.

If you go: Open daily, self-guided visits to the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist are free. Book a room at the Palacio Provincial Hotel.

First United Methodist Church

The Chicago Temple, as it’s unofficially called, has the distinction of being the world’s tallest church even if it actually consists of two distinct worship spaces.

The Sky Chapel at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. | Dennis Lennox

The first, accessible through the street level, is used by the First United Methodist congregation on an everyday basis. It consists of a nave in the style of what could be called art deco Gothic.

Called the Sky Chapel, the second space is located at the very top of the 23-story skyscraper. To visit, one must climb a couple flights of stairs as the building’s elevator doesn’t reach the floor.

Inside, the focal point is the ornate carved communion table or altar that depicts Jesus weeping over Chicago’s cityscape.

If you go: Tours of the Sky Chapel are offered after the two weekly Sunday services at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Among the nearby hotels is the iconic Palmer House Hilton.

Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for The Christian Post. 

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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