12 Abandoned Churches That Are Eerily Gorgeous

They may not be used as places of worship anymore, but these old churches are still plenty awe-inspiring.

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Villers-la-ville, Belgium
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Villers Abbey, Belgium

Constructed in the 12th century, this massive stone structure provides a fascinating look into the lives of monks that lived 900 years ago. This stunning cathedral dome is only one room of the enormous abbey, which stretches over nearly 90 acres of the Belgian village of Villers-la-ville. Today, visitors to the abbey can take a tour of the grounds, the ruins of the abbey, and the surrounding gardens.

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Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Russia

Even after years of disuse, this abandoned structure in western Russia still shows traces of the blue painted decorations that adorned its walls.

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Abandoned Church, Southern Russia

Black-and-white photography makes the rising stone bell tower of this old church in the south of Russia look even more hauntingly beautiful.

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Abandoned Church, Russia, Tula Region

The remains of old churches, Orthodox churches in particular, are scattered all throughout Russia. This one, situated in the Tula region, just south of Moscow, is becoming one with the landscape. The bright orange-red bricks provide a stark contrast with the verdant plant life encroaching on its walls and domed roof.

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Medieval Church, Bawsey, England

In the tiny village of Bawsey, located by the North Sea in England’s Norfolk County, this old church from the 11th or 12th century stands tall nearly a millennium after its construction. The church possesses a Stonehenge-like quality with its massive stone pillars, which stand strong against the wear of time and weather. Historians are unsure whether this church was named after St. Mary or St. James, but they do know that it’s the only remaining structure of what was once an immense medieval village.

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Blagoveštenje, Serbia

This monastery, whose name means “Annunciation,” sits tucked in the side of the Rudnik Mountain in central Serbia. It’s just one of several Orthodox sanctuaries scattered throughout Serbia’s Ovčar-Kablar Gorge, and it might be the most incredible, with its unique design that makes it difficult to tell where it ends and the mountain begins. Blagoveštenje monastery was built in the 1400s.

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Falealupo Church, Samoa

The ruins of the village of Falealupo on Savai’i, the largest Samoan island, add a sobering serenity to Samoa’s tropical paradise. This village, located on a peninsula at the northwest of the island, was buffeted by back-to-back cyclones in 1990 and 1991, which destroyed much of it. Many of the inhabitants moved inland, leaving the peninsula mostly deserted. The Catholic church, however, remains standing, the sculpture over the central courtyard still in remarkably good condition.

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Church of the Zhrebchevo Dam, Bulgaria

Incredibly, this thin arch of stone seems to defy gravity, rising above the ruins of the church of St. Ivan Rilski. This structure, located about three hours east of Sofia, Bulgaria, has been nicknamed “the submerged church” because of the floodwaters that often rush by it. In 1965, Bulgaria’s communist regime built the Zhrebchevo Dam, an industrialist move that spelled trouble for the nearby village of Zapalnya, situated in a deep valley. In spite of the beatdown the church continuously receives from wind and water, its tiny golden cross remains precariously perched atop its crumbling stone wall.

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Church of St. Nicholas, Cyprus

For centuries, the village of Alassa thrived on the Middle Eastern island of Cyprus. In the 1980s, the construction of a massive dam forced the villagers to relocate, and they rebuilt a little higher up on the hill. Today, the modern village has a population of about 200 and is a quaint, beautiful tourist attraction for visitors to the island. The old village’s church, though, named after St. Nicholas, provides a sense of wonder all its own. This crumbling church, with its pristine white stone walls and magnificent tower, only adds to the stunning view of the Kouris Reservoir.

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Kalacheevskaya Cave Monastery, Russia

This underground cavern located in the Voronezh region of Russia would be majestic and haunting even if it didn’t have a history as a space of worship. The Kalacheevskaya Cave is a massive, mostly man-made underground structure that was built in the 18th or 19th century for use as a monastery. This photo shows just the vast underground temple, but the cavern contains two separate levels of rooms and corridors that stretch for about a kilometer. The way the sun peeks in through the small holes in the walls creates an ethereal, almost sparkling look.

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Lutheran Church, Ukraine

Looking at this picture, you can almost see this empty space filled with pews and parishioners. Located in Ukraine, the building was once a Lutheran church. Its fall from grace came sometime in the 20th century, and now it sits desolate, a testament to times past.

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Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Seiça, Portugal

Even the green tinge creeping up the walls of this old monastery from the encroaching plant life can’t diminish its beauty. Located in the municipality of Figueira da Foz in western Portugal, the monastery named in honour of St. Mary dates all the way back to the 1100s. In early 2018, the Municipality of Figueira da Foz requested that the monastery become a national monument, so its history and haunting beauty can be preserved for generations to come.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest