Shrines are found in most religions around the world. They’re different from temples in that they hold a relic or cult image which is worshipped. Since a place is designated a shrine solely from the object inside, anything can be considered a shrine.
In fact, over the 5000 years or so that people have been marking places as shrines, just about everything has been made into a shrine. Shrines have been made out of caves, churches, tombs, people’s yards and personal shrines even exist in homes or businesses.
Some of these absolutely incredible shrines you need to see.
1. Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico)
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe began construction in 1531 and wasn’t finished until 178 years later in 1709. The Basilica is positioned in the very spot where Juan Diego was visited by the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin Mary told Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build a shrine where she was standing. When the bishop refused, Juan Diego was told to ask again, but this time bring roses with him, which weren’t in season. When Juan Diego unfurled the apron he carried the flowers in, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was on it.
That image with the Virgin Mary is the centerpiece of this shrine. Several million people visit the shrine every year, making it one of the holiest sites in Catholicism.
2. Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima
This Basilica began construction in 1928 and was consecrated in 1953. The site is built on the spot where three Portuguese children reported seeing the Virgin Mary. In fact, the exact location where they saw the apparition is marked by a marble pillar that has a statue of the Virgin Mary on it.
Every year about four million people make a pilgrimage to this sanctuary. Inside the treasury of the Basilica holds the Irish Monstrance, a vessel to hold the Eucharist host, one of the most significant works of religious art from Ireland. Also, the sanctuary holds a section of the Berlin Wall and the tombs of the three children.
3. Amarnath Temple (India)
Located inside of a cave, this shrine is said to be over 5000 years old. It is one of the holiest sites for Hinduism since it is the place where Shiva explained the meaning of life and eternity to Pavarti, his consort. Inside the main cave there is a stalagmite resembling the Shiva Linga which is the main attraction. Two other ice formations also represent Pavarti and Ganesha.
It is a popular pilgrimage destination. Every year about 400,000 people come here during the festival of Shravani Mela.
4. Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem)
Completed in 691-692, this is the oldest Islamic building in the world. It is also one of the holiest Islamic sites in the world after Mecca and Medina. At the heart of this building is the foundation stone which is holy to both Islam and Judaism.
Muslims believe that Muhammad stood on this stone as he ascended into heaven. Jewish people believe, according to the Talmud, from this stone God created the world. In addition, beneath the stone is a well called the Well of Souls. According to some traditions, it is the place where all souls gather and await judgment day.
5. St. Vitus Cathedral (Czech Republic)
The full name of this cathedral is St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert Cathedral. There have been churches on this spot since at least 925. The present day church was founded on 1344. In that year, King Wenceslas dedicated the cathedral to St. Vitus since he had acquired a holy relic of the saint – his arm.
Inside the cathedral are several tombs of Bohemian kings including St. Wenceslas. Inside Wenceslas Chapel in the cathedral several of his relics are stored.
This is the first Roman Catholic cathedral built inside the United States and was constructed from 1806-1821.
Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the man considered the “Father of American Architecture” was key in its construction and is considered his masterpiece. Millions of visitors have passed through this building including Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.
One of the notable sections of the Basilica is the crypt located underneath the main altar. Inside the crypt are eight of the twelve deceased Archbishops of Baltimore. The crypt is open for public viewing.