Discover the Biggest Church in the World

From single rooms to some of the biggest, most opulent and famous buildings in the world, churches are places of worship, often the very heart of a community. But where is the biggest Christian church in the world? Read on to find out.

Building Big Engineering
29 February 2024

Steeped in over two thousand years of history, churches stand as some of the most remarkable architectural wonders on the planet. From the mediaeval grandeur of Norman cathedrals to the unfinished marvel that is Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, the world’s largest churches continue to captivate, just as they have done for centuries.

The earliest identifiable Christian church is a very simple house church – domus ecclesiae – found in the ruins of the Syrian town of Dura-Europos, and was built somewhere between 233 and 256 AD. In the centuries that followed, churches became more elaborate, and today, the world’s largest churches are monumental masterpieces, staggering in architectural design and construction, and often ranking among the world’s most visited tourist sites.

When considering the largest churches ever built, it’s important to distinguish between a church and a cathedral, as this differentiation plays a pivotal role in understanding the magnitude of what constitutes the biggest church in the world. While all cathedrals are churches, designed to house the bishop’s seat (‘cathedra’) and serve as the central church of a diocese, only some churches are cathedrals.

For the purposes of this article, we’re therefore including all churches and cathedrals within our list of the world’s largest churches. To explore a list of only the largest cathedrals in the world, you can take a look at our largest cathedrals article here. So when considering all churches, including cathedrals, here’s our list of some of the largest churches in the world.

Measuring the Largest Church in the World

Basilica of San Francesco Di Paola in Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples, Italy (Credit: Busà Photography via Getty Images)

Determining the size of the biggest Christian church in the world can be done using a number of different metrics, including volume, length, width, height, or even the number of worshippers it can hold or the size of the exterior grounds.

For this article, the metric used to measure the biggest churches in the world is the internal floor area in square metres, which is measured to the internal face of the exterior walls.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels, Belgium (Credit: Alexander Reshnya via Getty Images)

Location: Brussels, Belgium | Size: 8,000 square metres

Inspired by the world-famous Parisian church of the same name, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a minor basilica and a parish church. At a whopping 8,000 square metres, while it’s not quite top of the list when it comes to the biggest church in the world, it’s nevertheless a huge architectural marvel.

This stunning Art Deco church was completed in 1970 on top of Koekelberg Hill and was designed by architect Albert Van Huffel. His 1:40 scale model of the final design is one of the centrepieces of the basilica, and along with regular church services, it’s also home to a restaurant, a theatre, two museums and a Catholic radio station.

Basilica of the Holy Trinity

Basilica of Most Holy Trinity at the Sanctuary of Fatima (Credit: Horacio Villalobos via Getty Images)

Location: Fátima, Portugal | Size: 8,700 square metres

A stunning modern masterpiece with a seating capacity of around 9,000, the Basílica da Santíssima Trindade was only completed in 2007 and was designed by Greek architect Alexandros Tombazis.

The largest church in Portugal and one of the biggest churches in the world is just a few metres from the Sanctuary of Fátima, which attracts around five million visitors and pilgrims each year.

Liverpool Cathedral

The glorious Liverpool Cathedral. (Credit: Maremagnum via Getty Images)

Location: Liverpool, UK | Size: 9,687 square metres

The biggest cathedral in the UK and contender for the largest church in the world, Liverpool Cathedral was built between 1904 and 1978. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Liverpool Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Liverpool and contains over 1,700 square metres of stained glass. The 10,268-pipe organ was designed by Henry Willis & Sons and when it was completed in 1926, it was the largest musical instrument ever built. At 189 metres (619 feet), it’s believed Liverpool Cathedral is also the world’s longest cathedral.

Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral, Duomo di Milano at dawn (Photo: Simone Simone via Getty Images)

Location: Milan, Italy | Size: 11,700 square metres

Duomo di Milano is Italy’s largest church and one of the biggest churches in the world. Construction of what may be the greatest example of Grand Gothic architecture anywhere in the world began in the late fourteenth century and the final details were added as recently as 1965.

Each of the 135 spires is topped with a myriad of statues depicting saints, martyrs, and important figures from the Christian faith. The most notable figure on the highest spire is the Madonnina, a golden statue of the Virgin Mary sculpted in 1774 by Giuseppe Perego, standing as a protective figure watching over the city and its inhabitants.

Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida

Landscape view of the cathedral of Nossa Senhora da Aparecida (Photo: PAULO ZAIDAN via iStock)

Location: Aparecida, Brazil | Size: 12,000 square metres

The second-biggest Christian church in the world, the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida is also the world’s largest cathedral. It was built on the site where a statue of the Virgin Mary was found in the eighteenth century, and is dedicated to Our Lady of Aparecida, the principal Patroness of Brazil.

It has a capacity of over 30,000 and was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by famous Brazilian architect Benedito Calixto Neto.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Vatican with St Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy (Photo: Laurie Chamberlain via Getty Images)

Location: Vatican City | Size: 15,160 square metres

Built between 1506 and 1626 to replace a fourth century basilica built by Constantine the Great, St. Peter’s Basilica, known as a papal basilica, is the world’s largest church and perhaps the most famous. Perhaps the world’s finest example of Renaissance architecture, it has a seating capacity of 20,000 and a standing capacity of 60,000.

Designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano is neither the seat of the Bishop of Rome, otherwise known as HH The Pope, nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome – that honour goes to the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome.

Sacred Summits: The Biggest Churches in the World

Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris, France (Credit: Alexander Spatari via Getty Images)

The quest to uncover the biggest Christian church in the world traverses a landscape rich with architectural grandeur, spiritual depth, and historical significance. From towering spires to the expansive halls, each contender for the title of the world’s largest church offers a unique glimpse into the myriad ways faith and artistry intertwine.


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