From vast prayer halls to the grandest and most opulent edifices ever created, the world’s biggest temples are staggering sights to see. And when it comes to answering the question ‘where are the largest temples in the world’ the contenders are not only huge but truly jaw-dropping in their beauty, grandeur and extravagance.
From the Latin templum, a temple is a space dedicated to a deity and a place of divine worship, and almost all the world’s religions build temples. Some are no bigger than a single room and others are staggering – and stunning – feats of architectural wonderment.
These tremendous towering temples are some of the most visited tourist sites in the world, but what are the largest temples in the world and where is the world’s largest temple?
Location: Delhi, India | Built: 2005 | Approx Size: 2,500m2
One of the world’s biggest temples is also among the newest and perhaps the most intricate. It’s the centrepiece of the Swaminarayan Akshardham spiritual and cultural campus in Delhi and was built using Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble.
The mandir – the Hindu word for temple – is made up of 234 beautifully carved pillars, nine domes and over 20,000 statues of devotees, swamis and acharyas, experts in religious matters. The plinth at the base of the mandir is home to 148 life-sized elephants weighing around 3,000 tonnes, a tribute to the animal’s importance in the history of India and the culture of Hinduism.
Temple of Venus and Roma
Location: Rome, Italy | Built: 121 – 141 AD | Approx Size: 5,000m2
Built by the emperor Hadrian and completed by emperor Antoninus Pius after Hadrian’s death in 138 AD, the Temple of Venus and Roma is believed to have been Ancient Rome’s largest temple and – in its day – one of the world’s biggest temples.
The temple, located between the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, was dedicated to two Roman goddesses, Roma Aeterna or ‘Eternal Rome’ and Venus Felix, or ‘Venus, the Bringer of Good Fortune.’ Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that the temple was one of Rome’s great buildings. The temple lies in ruins but much of the remains were incorporated into the church of St. Francesca Romana in Rome.
Location: Central Java, Indonesia | Built: 9th century | Approx Size: 15,000m2
Borobudur may not be the biggest temple in the world but it is the largest Buddhist temple on Earth. It was built in the Javanese Buddhist style during the Sailendra Dynasty using an estimated two million volcanic stones.
The temple has nine stacked platforms decorated with 2,672 relief panels and over 500 statues of Buddha. The temple lay abandoned for five centuries before it was rediscovered and restored in the early nineteenth century.
Tikal Temple IV
Location: Tikal, Guatemala | Built: Approx. 741 AD | Approx Size: 6,000m2 [excluding base]
One of the Maya world’s tallest and most imposing structures, the temple was built to honour the reign of Yik’in Chan K’awill, the 27th Tikal king. It’s almost sixty-five metres tall and remains, almost 1,300 years after it was built, the second-tallest pre-Columbian building in the New World and a contender for biggest temple in the world.
Salt Lake Temple
Location: Utah, USA | Built: 1893 | Approx Size: 2,500m2
The world’s largest Mormon temple is one of the world’s most famous temples as well as one of the largest temples in the world. It was dedicated in 1893 by Wilford Woodruff Sr., the fourth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Gothic, six-spire temple is sixty-eight metres tall and is the main focal point of the ten-acre Temple Square.
Angkor Wat Temple
Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia | Built: 12th century | Approx Size: 35,000m2 [perimeter]; 12,000m2 [internal structure]
At over 1,600,000 square metres, the full complex at Angkor Wat is vast, while the Angkor Wat Temple itself is one of the largest temples ever constructed. It was built by Khmer Empire King Suryavarman II and dedicated to the god Vishnu. The complex was originally built as a Hindu temple but was converted to a Buddhist temple by the end of the twelfth century.
The largest temple at the complex is known as Angkor Wat – the other two main temples are called Bayon and Ta Prohm – and it is a true assault on the senses. It has been described as ‘the ultimate statement of Khmer architectural ingenuity.’ It is full of imposing sculptures, beautifully-carved bas-reliefs and perfectly preserved female deities known as asparas.
Not only is Angkor Wat one of the largest temples in the world, it is one of the most famous temples on Earth and the true heart and soul of Cambodia.