The Largest Churches in the World

Many of the world's largest Christian places of worship can be found in Europe, and date back centuries.

The term church has a Greek origin, ekklesia, which means an assembly of people. In today’s context, a church generally refers to a place of Christian worship. Below is a selection of the world's largest churches by square meters.

Top three Largest Churches in the World

Since the inception of Christianity, the faith has grown and evolved into many denominations with a wide variety of shared beliefs and contradictions. Interestingly, there seems to be an unofficial competition among denominations and churches to grow in number, size, and income. This competition has led to different churches making unsubstantiated claims of being the largest without evidence and since there is no single body managing all denominations, only churches with confirmed measurements make it to this list.

St. Peters Basilica

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter is in the Vatican City State and Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed this church. The church believed to be the burial site of Jesus’s disciple and the “first pope,” Apostle Peter, is also the largest church in the world measuring a massive 18131.21 square yards. The church is central to the Catholic faith as it is also the venue where it buries Popes. The Basilica’s dome is very conspicuous in the skies of Rome and both the interior and exterior of the church have complex yet unique architecture in a cruciform shape symbolizing the crucifixion of Jesus. This church covers an area of 5.7 acres with an exterior of 227,060 square feet and an interior of 163,200 square feet as well as a volume of 180,000,000 cubic feet. The summit of the dome is 448.1 feet tall, placing it as the second tallest building in Rome and the tallest dome in the world.

Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida is in Aparecida, Brazil in the dedication of Our Lady of Aparecida. This church is currently the second largest in the world with an area of 14351.88 square yards. Though there were earlier buildings, the construction of the current building started 1955 forming the shape of a Greek Cross with the arms measuring 617 feet by 600 feet in length and width respectively. This basilica also has a dome and a tower measuring 230 feet and 335 feet in height respectively. The internal space of 190,000 square feet has an accommodation capacity of 45,000 people expandable to 70,000 people by opening auxiliary areas. Being a modern church, there is a mall, a clinic, and restaurants on the first floor as well as parking space for 4,000 buses and 6,000 cars.

Milan Cathedral

The Milan Cathedral is in Milan, Italy and is dedicated to Saint Mary of the Nativity. Milan Cathedral took approximately six centuries to build and fine tune its Gothic architecture. This church is the largest in Italy (St. Peter's Basilica is in the Vatican State) and the third largest globally covering 13993.08 square yards of space. In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the completion of the front part where he eventually wore the crown as Italy’s king at the cathedral. Renovations of the cathedral continue to date with the last major changes made in 2009. The Milan Cathedral has five naves divided by 40 big pillars.

Church Building Trends

The largest church list reveals a monopoly by churches that have rich history, tradition, and architecture. These churches have what it takes to receive this accolade in terms of structure and capacity. Together with these, they have also invested in the best artistic works of all times, therefore, making the churches important pilgrimage and tourist attraction sites. Though traditionally the Catholic churches constitute some of the largest worship places, there is an upsurge in the number of Protestant ministries building mega churches and, consequently, some may come top of this list in the near future.

The Largest Churches in the World

RankChurch Area (Meters Squard)Church NameLocation
115,160St. Peter's BascilicaVatican City
212,000Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of AparecidaAparecida, Brazil
311,700Milan CathedralMilan, Italy
411,520Seville CathedralSeville, Spain
511,200Cathedral of Saint John the DivineNew York, United States
610,090Bsilica of Our Lady of LichenLichen Stary, Poland
79,717Abbey of Santa GiustinaPadua, Italy
89,687Liverpool CathedralLiverpool, United Kingdom
98,700Church of the Most Holy TrinityFatima, Portugal
108,515Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the WallsRome, Italy
118,318Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the PillarZaragoza, Spain
128,300Florence CathedralFlorence, Italy
138,260Ulm MinsterUlm, Germany
148,167Basilica of Our Lady of GuadalupeMexico City, Mexico
158,000Basilica of the Sacred HeartKoekelberg, Belgium
168,000Cathedral of Our LadyAntwerp, Belgium
178,000Rio de Janeiro CathedralRio de Janeiro, Brazil
187,989Basilica of Our Lady of PeaceYamoussoukro, Ivory Coast
197,960Hagia SophiaIstanbul, Turkey
207,914San Petronio BasilicaBologna, Italy

More in Society