The rich history, linked religious wonder, and collapsing sacred walls attract visitors to Jerusalem. They travel to Europe in search of magnificent churches with golden trim and painted ceilings. They travel to India in search of tranquilly, finding it in the sculpted and colourful temples that dot the sacred Ganges River.
However, few people migrate to the United States in quest of such havens. After all, what religious wisdom could America, a country with a short history, have to offer?
Despite its lack of religious landmarks, the United States is home to more than simply secular municipal halls and strip malls.
Whether or not you practise a religion, these eight gorgeous and historic religious places in the United States may inspire you.
1. Wilmette, Illinois Bahá’ House of Worship
This Bahá’ House of Worship is one of just seven Bahá’ temples worldwide, and it is the only one in North America. Wilmette, Illinois is only 30 minutes north of Chicago.
The finely carved temple looks like it’s made of white lace, despite the fact that it’s constructed of a blend of quartz and cement. The round temple, like all Bahá’ halls of worship, has nine sides and is surrounded by fountain-filled gardens.
The Bahá’ faith, which was founded in 19th-century Persia and emphasises the unity of all humanity, is served by the temple.
The auditorium and grounds are open to the public every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and admission is free. Gwendolyn Clayborne, the temple’s summer tour organiser, said, “We don’t ask what your religion is — we don’t even care.” “It’s a place where individuals may come to meditate, pray, and reconnect with their spiritual selves.” People are shocked that such a temple, which was completed in 1953 after more than 30 years of construction, can be located in Illinois, according to Clayborne. “A few Chicagoans will say it’s Chicago’s best kept secret,” Clayborne remarked.
2. Hacienda Heights, California’s Hsi Lai Temple
This Buddhist temple has a classic Chinese design that makes it appear to be from the Far East. The temple’s architecture is authentic to the Ming and Ch’ing dynasties, which controlled China from the 14th through the 20th centuries, despite the fact that it was completed in 1988.
The Hsi Lai Temple is known for its golden tiles, protective sculptures on the top, and a tranquil courtyard in the centre. The edifice is designed like a bodhi leaf, symbolising the tree under which the Buddha obtained enlightenment, according to a bird’s-eye view. An art gallery inside the temple houses Eastern and Western paintings, ceramics, photography, and Buddhist objects.
“People come here and say things like, “I have no idea I’m in Southern California.” ‘It appears that I am in another country,’ says the narrator “Miao Hsi, the temple’s outreach director, agreed.
The temple is free to visit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and tours are available on weekends. The temple’s Chinese vegetarian buffet is available for a $7 contribution.
3. Dearborn, Michigan is home to the Islamic Center of America.
The Islamic Center of America was inspired by old buildings of worship in Turkey, India, and other countries, despite being a modern mosque in Michigan.
The mosque’s design is unique, with a stone-carved edifice and a fibreglass dome. Crystal chandeliers, imported granite, and a prayer area embellished with Islamic patterns and calligraphy of Quranic verses created by a Lebanese artisan await visitors on the inside.
In a community with one of the greatest Arab-Muslim populations in the United States, the 65,000-square-foot facility serves roughly 5,000 families. Although the Islamic Center of America has only been operational since 2005, it has been assisting America’s Muslims since 1962.
The splendour of the mosque typically impresses visitors, but it is the center’s openness that impresses them the most, according to Kassem Allie, the center’s chief administrator.
The Islamic Center of America is open to the public everyday from 9 a.m. until roughly 11 p.m., and free tours of the facilities can be arranged through its website.
4. St. Augustine, Florida’s Memorial Presbyterian Church
The building itself is lovely, but it’s the narrative behind it that typically has the greatest impact on visitors.
Jenny Louise Benedict, the daughter of industrialist Henry Morrison Flagler, who erected the church in 1889, is honoured. Flagler had long had a soft spot for St. Augustine, and following a visit with his first wife, Mary, he invested extensively in the city. And when his darling daughter died in birthing complications, Flagler knew the Presbyterian church he planned to build in town would be dedicated to her.
At the church, Flagler, Mary, Jenny Louise, and his granddaughter, Marjorie, are all buried.
The structure’s intricate architecture is influenced by European buildings, such as Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica. It has wood-carved walls, stained-glass windows, a serene sanctuary, and a towering dome that encourages visitors to look up to the sky.
“When people walk in, they see a small piece of Europe,” said Jay Smith, a church historian. “I wouldn’t say it compares to European cathedrals, but it has its own particular beauty and majesty, which many people are startled by.”
People must remember to recognise Memorial Presbyterian Church’s and the city’s rich history, according to Smith. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States, having been founded by Europeans in 1565.
Memorial Presbyterian Church is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with tours available on weekdays.
5. New York City’s Temple Emanu-El
Temple Emanu-El in New York is one of the world’s largest Jewish temples, standing 103 feet tall, 100 feet wide, and 175 feet long with seating for 2,500 people.
The interior of Temple Emanu-El is vibrant. There are more than 60 stained glass windows, and the ceiling is decorated and gilded. The arches are lined with glass and marble mosaics. In addition to the temple, there is a museum on the premises that displays important Jewish relics.
Temple Emanu-5th El’s Avenue and 65th Street facility, completed in 1929, is the congregation’s fifth home in New York, where members have been meeting since 1845.
The temple and its members, according to Mark Heutlinger, administrator of the Emanu-El congregation, are a significant landmark “on the greatest street in the greatest land in the greatest city of religious freedom.”
“We are a part of New York’s mosaic society — the patchwork of cultures that makes up New York City,” Heutlinger remarked.
Temple Emanu-El is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and admission is free.
6. Moundsville, West Virginia’s Palace of Gold
With a name like Palace of Gold, you can expect a lot, and this West Virginia monument doesn’t let you down.
Marble flooring, crystal chandeliers, stained-glass windows, wood-carved furniture, and walls covered in 22-karat gold leaf adorn the Indian-inspired castle. An beautiful rose garden, a fountain, thousands of various plants, and a lotus-filled lake can be found on the grounds around the structure.
It’s hard to think this magnificent mansion, which first opened in 1979, was intended to be little more than a humble cottage.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu organisation better known in the United States as the Hare Krishna movement, chose to build a residence for its leader, Srila Prabhupada, in West Virginia in 1973.
When Prabhupada died in 1977, however, the disciples’ plans changed and they began to construct a memorial for him instead. The grandiose Palace of Gold was born as a result.
The Palace of Gold is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from April to August, with tours costing $8 for adults and $6 for children ages 6 to 18. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from September to March, and tours are $6 for adults and $3 for children.
7. Salt Lake Temple is located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Although not everyone is permitted to enter the Salt Lake City Temple, that does not mean people cannot marvel at its beauty.
Only Mormons who have been recommended by the temple are allowed to enter the building, which is utilised for special instruction and ordinances such as celestial marriages. However, the vista from outside the temple is enough to inspire.
The Neo-Gothic structure took 40 years to complete and was dedicated in 1893. The temple was constructed entirely of native materials, with the exception of some hardware and glass. The edifice is formidable, with five stories, six spires, the highest of which stands at 210 feet, and a granite facade.
The Salt Lake Temple is located on Temple Square, a three-block area that houses nearly 20 sites important to the lives and history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including Assembly Hall and the Salt Lake City Tabernacle.
Temple Square received around 2,750,000 visitors from all over the world in 2011. For individuals who are not permitted to enter the temple, a scaled model of the interior is on display in the Temple Square South Visitors’ Center.
The majority of the buildings on Temple Square are free to the public on a daily basis.
8. New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Although it isn’t as tall as the skyscrapers that surround it, St. Patrick’s Cathedral exudes an Old World majesty that is uncommon in New York.
The great cathedrals of Europe influenced the design of this Neo-Gothic church, which includes soaring spires, an intricate marble facade, and vivid stained glass windows. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which replaced a church of the same name, opened its doors in 1879 to help accommodate the city’s burgeoning Catholic population.
Monsignor Robert Ritchie described the church as “iconic” in Midtown Manhattan and a “place of seclusion.”
“It’s like a peaceful sanctuary amidst the rush and activity of the neighbourhood,” Ritchie added. “It’s a location where people can come with their troubles, or just go and look at some beautiful landscape, or a place where people may pray.”
The church is open everyday from 6:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. and welcomes guests. Weekdays are also available for free guided group visits.