The 30 Most Beautiful College Cathedrals


Author Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.” Church cathedrals represent some of the most artistic and complex architecture created by man. College campuses across the world have worship chapels and historical cathedrals that entail a rich history along with brilliant architectural design. Though it proved to be a daunting task, we here at Best College Review have picked 30 cathedrals that we believe to be the most beautiful campus cathedrals in the world.

30. Perkins Chapel, Dallas, Texas

30. Perkins Chapel
The Perkins Chapel has four white columns consistent with the 18th Century Georgian genre made famous by Christopher Wren. The chapel was constructed in the 1950’s and has since served as the main cathedral for the Perkins School of Theology and Southern Methodist University. The pews and furniture use 19th century influences including cherry colors with maple columns and Malaysian podouk carvings. Roman influences are also prevalent.

29. St. Thomas of Villanova Church, Villanova, Pennsylvania

29. St. Thomas of Villanova Church
The St. Thomas of Villanova Church is the official church of the Villanova University in Pennsylvania. The building was constructed in 1841 as a priest prep school for young Roman Catholic boys and eventually became the worship center for Villanova. The designer was a natural European, and his Germanic background showed through the architecture. The cathedral has two narrow towers over 60 feet tall. TThe interior of the church includes a 7-section dome, religious paintings, and marble columns.

28. Vassar Chapel, Poughkeepsie, New York

28. Vassar Chapel
Vassar Chapel was constructed in 1904 and has not undergone sizable renovations, remaining largely in its original form. Vassar College uses it for special ceremonies every spring and fall semester. The building is available for rent and many people have used it for wedding ceremonies. Many celebrities like Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep have attended services at Vassar Chapel.

27. Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso, Indiana

27. Chapel of the Resurrection
The Chapel of the Resurrection in Valparaiso, Indiana, is considered the biggest university-oriented cathedral in the U.S. and the second largest university cathedral in the world. Seating over 2,000 people at any given time, Valparaiso University finds that it accommodates all their needs. The building was constructed in the 1950’s with a 30-meter chancel, a 9-pointed apse, and a 59-foot nave. The building used over 7 million dollars to create many stained glass windows over 90 feet tall and an alter that reaches 20 feet across the front of the building. The church is officially Lutheran and only caters toward such denominational events.

26. Church of Our Lady, Copenhagen, Denmark

26. Church of Our Lady
The Church of Our Lady is a cathedral that was completed in 1829. The original, built in 1178, was burned in a fire then partially rebuilt in the 14th Century. The final product that the students of the University of Copenhagen enjoy today was not complete until 1829. The design is neo-classical but includes other influences; for example, a bell was hung in its high tower in response to the public’s wishes. Part of the original walls still stand today. The large chapel seats over 100 and is decorated with statues of the apostles of Jesus Christ. Church of Our Lady’s Italian influence, with its carrara marble, is undeniable.

25. St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City, New York

St. Paul’s Chapel is the official cathedral for Columbia University. It was constructed in the early 20th Century using elaborate designs that borrowed from Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance structures. Three colorful windows designed by John La Farge line the foremost wall of the chapel. Today, the chapel is used daily by student groups at the university, and it is also a popular site for formal events in the community.

24. Alice Millar Chapel and Religious Center, Evanston, Illinois

24. Alice Millar Chapel and Religious Center
The Alice Millar Chapel and Religious Center is Northwestern University’s pride. It is comprised of two main chapels: the Millar Chapel and the Vail Chapel. The Millar Chapel is the oldest and most elaborately decorated part of the cathedral, and it is able to seat over 700 individuals. The chapel is built in elaborate Gothic style, and two rows of pews make one main center aisle that leads up to the platform and organ. The other chapel, Vail Chapel, was built much later and can seat just over 100 people. Both of these chapels are still used today by the university and the public.

23. Bowdoin Chapel, Brunswick, Maine

23. Bowdian Chapel
The Bowdoin College Chapel is a beautifully designed building that narrowly extends from the front to the back. The pews of the auditorium turn in to face one another – a classic English style. The chapel can be rented by the general public for weddings, special occasions, and other formal ceremonies for the bargain price of $750.

22. University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, England

22. University Church of St. Mary the Virgin
The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin is the largest cathedral in all of Oxford and is one of the largest in the whole region. Nicholas Stone constructed the oldest parts of the church in the late 13th Century using baroque styles. As the years went by, more sections were added and the newest parts demonstrate heavy perpendicular styles. This cathedral is used by the Oriel College and the prestigious Oxford University, and is part of the Church of England.

21. Duke Chapel, Durham, North Carolina

21. Duke Chapel
In Durham, North Caroline, Duke Chapel of Duke University stands out as one of the most significant buildings in all of Durham. The collegiate Gothic tower stands over 200 feet tall. Julian Abele built the cathedral in 1932 for a whopping (at the time) 2.5 million dollars. One unique feature about the Duke Chapel is its historical organs; the chapel has three characteristic organs, one of which is comprised of over 6,000 pipes. The sanctuary can seat up to 1,800 people and Duke University still uses it extensively today.

20. Baughman Center, Gainesville, Florida

20. Baughman Center
The Baughman Center is located on the gorgeous beach of Lake Alice. It serves as a prayer and meditation center for the University of Florida. The chapel itself is small and young. It was finished in the year 2000, and it seats only 96 people in a 2,400 square foot area; however, don’t let its age and size fool you. This pavilion is one of the most elegant and unique showpieces in the world. Many people rent it to host special occasions like weddings and funerals.

19. Saint Ignatius Church, San Francisco, California

19. Saint Ignatius Church
The University of San Francisco’s official chapel is the Saint Ignatius Church, which is an immaculate Jesuit cathedral dating back to 1914. The cathedral’s architecture and crowning borrows from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Italian architectural styles. Something that makes this cathedral standout is its implementation of bold Roman design in the floor plan, which tends to resemble the ancient basilicas. Today the University of San Francisco uses the church; recently, the Catholic Church deemed it a Parish, so now the building is open for all who wish to come and worship.

18. Christ Chapel, St. Peter, Minnesota

18. Christ Chapel
Christ Chapel was constructed in the spring of 1959 at the critically-acclaimed Gustavus Adolphus College. The grounds of the cathedral and the walls of the sanctuary are decorated with detailed, lifelike statures chiseled by sculptor Paul Granlund. The base floor of the auditorium seats 1,200 and a balcony hovers over the back and seats an additional 300, altogether totaling a seating capacity of about 1,500.

17. Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford, California

17. Stanford Memorial Church
The official church of Stanford University, the Stanford Memorial Church was designed to reflect the Ravenna district of Venice. The church, which was a vision of architecture Jane Stanford, was erected in 1903 and reflects styles consistent with the American Renaissance eras. It showcases exterior and interior paintings, statues, and stained glass windows. Much mosaic influence was later incorporated into the chapel. The chapel sanctuary is very large and hosts over 150 weddings per year.

16. Madonna Della Strada Chapel, Chicago, Illinois

16. Madonna Della Strada Chapel
The Madonna Della Strada is a modern cathedral built for the Jesuit district at the Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. The enchanting waters of Lake Michigan wave just a few feet from the white cathedral. The Della Strada is one of several chapels. The architects built the cathedral in the Art Deco Style in 1938 and later remodeled it in 2007 to reflect a more elegant, modern style. Members of the Loyola University still use this chapel for weekly devotions, mass, and other momentous occasions. It may also be rented for weddings.

15. Princeton University Chapel, Princeton, New Jersey

15. Princeton University Chapel
Princeton University Chapel incorporates a modern outlook on the traditional collegiate, Gothic architecture. Built in 1928 by renowned designer Ralph Adams Cram, the church cost 2.3 million dollars to construct. Behind the choir stands an iconic depiction of the Christian epic engraved into the windows. There are four iconic windows that are stained glass and extend toward one another. Seating 2,000 people, the university faculty and student body still widely use the chapel.

14. Immaculata Parish, San Diego, California

14. Immaculata Parish
The Immaculata Parish was built in 1959 to commemorate Reverend Charles Francis Buddy. Its gorgeous statues, paintings, stained glass windows, columns, and pillars make this cathedral an eye catcher. Originally, only two colleges, the University of San Diego and the Immaculate Heart Seminary, used the cathedral. Today, the cathedral remains accessible to the general public in Alcala Park, San Diego. Catholic priests conduct mass services 7 days a week.

13. Sanctuary of Arantzazu, Onati, Spain

13. Sanctuary of Arantzazu
The Sanctuary of Arantzazu is a worship center that was originally associated with the former University Onati. Supposedly a shepherd saw a vision of the Virgin Mary at this very site in the mid-15th Century. The church has been extensively remodeled over the years. The cathedral was built in the years following the supposed vision and was used until the 1950’s, until the city of Onati declared it a historical site. Today, it is part of the International Institute for the Sociology of Law and is a protected, historical site that can be toured by the public.

12. West Point Cadet Chapel, West Point, New York

12. West Point Cadet Chapel
In 1910, Bertram Goodhue constructed the West Point Cadet Chapel for West Point University, arguably the nation’s most prestigious military academy. The building uses Gothic revival styles like a layout that resembles a cross, statues carved into stone, and exaggerated stone arches. Not only does the neogothic influence make this cathedral one of the world’s most impressive, but its organ is among the most prized in the world. With 23,000 pipes, the organ inside the chapel of the cathedral is the largest of any chapel. The chapel is protestant and is strictly used by members of the West Point University.

11. All Saints Chapel, Sewanee, Tennessee


All Saints Chapel is the official chapel for the University of the South. The building of the chapel was filled with stops and starts, and in a roundabout way took over 100 years before finally being completed in 1959. The design of the church was created by Ralph Adams Cram in 1904, but weren’t used until a Vice-Chancellor named Edward McCrady pushed for the completion of the chapel to commemorate the school’s 100 year anniversary. Cram was inspired by numerous architectural masterpieces, and it clearly shows.

10. King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England

10. King’s College Chapel
The King’s College Chapel is nestled in the campus of King’s College, which is a division of the University of Cambridge. The chapel is narrow and stretches 289 feet from the North Wing to the South Wing. Twelve tall windows line the corridors of the sanctuary, which may be a Biblical symbol of the twelve tribes of Israel. Aside from its iconic windows, it is known for its fan vault ceiling, which is actually the world’s largest. The chapel uses typical perpendicular architecture common for English cathedrals in the Dark Ages. King Henry VI laid the very first stone of the building, but it was not completed until the rule of King Henry VII in 1515.

9. Weaver Chapel, Springfield, Ohio

9. Weaver Chapel
Weaver Chapel is the cathedral of Wittenberg University. Outside of the building stands several statues of important religious figures including Martin Luther. These statues set on a base tower of over 200 feet. The interior of the cathedral has immaculate stained glass windows on which National Geographic published a special. Over 20 panels line the front of the church and entail the university’s history. The chapel is used by the university as an interfaith center throughout the typical school week.

8. Great St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge, England

8. Great St. Mary’s Church
The Great St. Mary’s Church (not to be confused with the King’s College Chapel, which is also in Cambridge, England) is a beautiful example of late Gothic architecture. Originally built in 1205, then rebuilt in 1290, the church has a rich history consistent with the Church of England’s records. It has been used by royalty since its construction and was expanded by King Richard III and King Henry VII. The church uses organs that date back to the 19th Century, and the church bells dated back to the 18th Century until they were replaced in 2009. This cathedral is the official church of the University of Cambridge, one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

7. Saint Mary’s Chapel, Saint Paul, Minnesota

. Saint Mary’s Chapel
In 1891, Cass Gilbert initiated the construction of Saint Mary’s Chapel under the direction of Archbishop John Ireland. The style of the cathedral borrows from the Romanesque-Byzantine, the Renaissance, and the Gothic eras. Its ceiling has long, wooden beams and is flat, as were most churches’ ceilings of the day. It has all the typical characteristics of a cathedral including an apse, a nave, and a sacristies. The color scheme suggested by the rare stain glassed windows add to the richness of the decor. Today, is still serves its original purpose as a church meeting place for the Catholic seminary school called the University of St. Thomas.

6. Toledo Cathedral, Toledo, Spain

6. Toledo Cathedral
The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo is one of the few High Gothic cathedrals in all of Spain. Erected in 1226 by the commission of Ferdinand III, it incorporates elements of the Mudejar style. Considered to be priceless by the Catholic Church and the country of Spain, the site has been deemed a “World Heritage Site” and is now a popular spot for tourists and history buffs. Nonetheless, the cathedral is still considered to be associated with the Royal University of Toledo despite the fact that the cathedral’s construction preceded the existence of the university.

5. Chapelle de la Sorbonne, Paris, France

5. Chapelle de la Sorbonne
A well-known French cardinal named Richelieu built the Chapella de la Sorbonne in the early 1600’s. Overlooking the campus of the esteemed Sorbonne University, the chapel has become one of the premier cathedrals in all of France. The exterior uses collegiate Gothic designs, while the interior features a cenotaph of marble stone. Sculptures of the Cardinal Richelieu display some of the most detailed and painstaking artwork from the 17th Century. Eventually, Richelieu was buried inside of the cathedral and his tomb was celebrated with a fantastic, 20-foot sculpture made of marble.

4. Battell Chapel, New Haven, Connecticut

4. Battell Chapel
The Battell Chapel was built to commemorate the fallen troops in the Civil War. After its construction in 1876, Yale college students started using it for their daily chapel services (which were mandatory at that time.) Russell Sturgis, Jr. designed the chapel with a Victorian Gothic style in mind. Using a rustic sandstone, he created a complex color scheme of the cathedral’s interior that emphasized brown. The cathedral has been expanded over the years; for example, the addition of an apse in 1947 served to enlarge the building. Other memorials were erected to honor the veterans of other wars. Today, services are still conducted every week by Yale faculty and students.

3. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

2. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is located right off of the campus of La Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, which is one of Spain’s most praised universities. Having been completed in 1211, the cathedral uses dark Romanesque styles, along with Baroque and even Gothic styles. The location is the supposed resting place of the apostle St. James, and according to church legend, this location was one of the stops he made while touring Europe. Consequently, millions of people have made pilgrimages here over the past 800 years. The building may be one of the most elaborate ever made. It includes bell towers, clock towers, side doors, and the infamous Façade do Obradoiro. Spanish motifs over the centuries have modeled this cathedral into a church like none other.

2. Church of Saint Yves at La Sapienza, Rome, Italy

1. Church of Saint Yves at La Sapienza
The Church of Saint Yves is classy example of detailed Baroque architecture. Francesco Borromini built the 85 by 89 foot church throughout the mid-17th Century, finishing in 1660. The dome has a lantern that permits natural sunlight to pour into the sanctuary. The interior of the cathedral contrasts the effects of geometrical shapes, as some corners are smooth while other parts of the rotunda are rough and exhibit triangular artwork. A large courtyard wraps around the “palace” of the cathedral, making the overall layout of the cathedral campus resemble the Star of David. This architectural masterpiece is located on the campus of the University of Rome, which is also called La Sapienza Università di Roma or more simply La Sapienza.

1. Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, Indiana

3. Basilica of the Sacred Heart
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the campus cathedral for the University of Notre Dame. Built reflecting neo-gothic elements, the high tower pokes over 215 feet into the sky. Joseph Gregory Dwenger, a bishop for the Catholic Church, completed the cathedral in 1870. It has over 40 windows, which permit natural light to flow into the sanctuary and it has many more paintings, statues, murals, and other decorative features. The university conducts a mass at Basilica of the Sacred Heart every Sunday. The chapel is available to rent for what must be, incredible weddings.

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