While the most famous cathedrals of the world may be situated among the French catacombs and resting along the Thames, Alabama has some incredible and inspiring churches to offer those stateside. In fact, you’ll find some of the most beautiful and fascinating cathedrals in Alabama which outshine many across the country. They’ve even got some history to many of them. Many have existed for more than 150 years in some cases, longer in others.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Mobile
With towering ceilings, stunning murals and incredible stained glass, marble floors, and more, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception welcomes guests year-round. The catholic church underwent renovations in the past few decades. Today, it remains one of the most impressive cathedrals in Alabama.
First conceived of in 1829 when bishop Michael Portier became the first bishop of Mobile, the church took on incredible form. The cornerstone was laid in 1835, after Claude Beroujon, architect, designed the cathedral. 15 years of erratic construction seasons followed, but the church met with completion and was consecrated on December 8, 1850.
Throughout the church’s history, highest-quality organs have graced the building. The first installed in 1858, came from George Jardine, a well-known New York organ maker. This first organ served the church for nearly 100 years. It was finally retired in 1954 after a fire damaged it beyond repair. A new organ was installed in 1957, from the Wicks Organ Company of Highland, Illinois.
After the Civil War, the church added the classic portico and cast-iron fence around 1883. Towers and steeples were completed in 1896, followed by magnificent stained-glass windows after. After fires, hurricanes, and other disasters, the church has undergone further additions and refurbishments. These include exterior work and artistic enhancements by the Conrad Schmitt Company of New Berlin, Wisconsin on the interior.
Now, witness incredible gold-leafing, marble floors, and magnificent columns. See fleur de lis emblems in the vaulted ceiling, and much more as you visit.
Malbis Memorial Church, Malbis
Visitors must call ahead to visit the stunning Malbis Memorial Church. But when they do, they’ll see the incredible mosaics gracing the church. Folks may also learn about the Greek Orthodox community which grew up this stunning church.
Malbis Memorial Church once went by the name of the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropedial Monastery of the Presentation of Theotokos. The church is not under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Rather, it falls directly under the authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The extension mosaics and paintings have helped to earn this church a reputation after its official dedication in 1965.
The Malbis Memorial Church has never been an active congregation. Rather, it has served as a unique venue for religious events and services within the Malbis Plantation Historic District. The church was founded after Greek immigrant Antonios Markopoulos moved to Alabama, near Daphne, to create a Greek community. He changed his name to Malbis, resulting in the cathedral’s name now.
Designed using Byzantine Revival style architecture, the Malbis Memorial Church uses brick, limestone, and marble for its cruciform structure. Domed windows and a stone arcade embellish the church. A porch with three entrance doors topped by arched mosaics and other distinctive features adorn the church with intricate and cultural beauty and significance.
The Cathedral of St. Paul, Birmingham
Locally referred to as Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint Paul was built in the Victorian Gothic style, using bricks, in 1893. Designed by Chicago architect Adolphus Druiding, the stunning cathedral has seen many renowned pastors. This includes Father James Coyle known for his modern martyrdom prior to the Civil Rights movement in Alabama.
The church became registered on the National Historic Register of Historic Places in 1982, as St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Within the gorgeous building, you’ll witness stunning stained-glass windows from G.C. Riordan & Company of Cincinnati, dating back to the 1800s. The large stained-glass window of St. Paul, however, was replaced in 1972.
St. Bernard Abbey and Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman
Established in 1891 as a Benedictine monastery, the St. Bernard Abbey remains one of the most stunning religious locations in the state of Alabama. The monks remain active within the northern Alabama church community. The original group immigrated from the Metten Abbey in Germany, an abbey dating back to 700 AD.
125 years later, the monastery remains actively at work in the school accompanying the church. A retreat center facilities have been available since 1981 for pilgrimage groups and individuals. In 1934, the abbey created the Ave Maria Grotto. This garden is filled with shrines, trees and plants, and miniature models of famous religious sites around the world. The models were created by Brother Joseph Zoetle, O.S.B.
The monastery rests within 850 acres, with a farm, many buildings, the grotto, and gardens. Visit to see the beautiful architecture, grotto, and more for your holy inspiration.
The First United Methodist Church, Jaspar
Containing 109 sections and 30,000 pieces of glass, the incredible art glass dome at the First United Methodist Church in Jaspar stands out as one of the most awe-inspiring cathedrals in Alabama. You have to enter the church to witness this glass work, though. The dome is covered on the outside with standard roofing for such a building. Inside, though, the dome is lit up artificially by an intricate series of electric bulbs. The dome itself is 9 feet high, illuminating the sanctuary below with colorful splotches of light.
A local attendee, never a member due to his attendance of a local dance against church ordinances, donated the dome. He also donated the land, and the costs for the marble structure of the church.
Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham
The see church of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham certainly deserves a visit. The church earned its placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. It remains one of the most stunning and inspiring cathedrals in Alabama.
The parish church came into existence in 1872, just one year after the city’s founding. The original building on site saw completion in 1873. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed it less than two decades later, in 1892. The current church building was already underway when the original was destroyed.
The current building was designed by Wheelock, Joy, and Wheelock, and saw completion in 1893. The tower and portico saw completion in 1895. The stunning building has a Scioto sandstone exterior, which the congregation restored between 1999 and 2005. The Rector’s Garden also saw resign during this time, with improvements to help the plants and grounds function better. A columbarium and belltower were accommodated for and refitted for a 15-bell carillon.
Christ Church Cathedral, Mobile
The first Episcopal congregation of Alabama established Christ Church Cathedral in 1823. The cornerstone of the Greek Revival building was laid in 1838 and construction completed in 1840. The brick building was covered with stucco and stone. In 1906, a major hurricane swept through the area. The storm destroyed parts of the church, including the original steeple and roof. The steeple wasn’t replaced 2017. The stained-glass windows by Franz Mayer & Co and Tiffany Studios were installed after the hurricane.
First United Methodist Church, Montgomery
Originally placed on Court Street in Montgomery, the First United Methodist Church came into being in the 1830s. The church moved location to Cloverdale Park around 100 years later, after a gas explosion destroyed the original building. The original church was built for Black members desiring their own church.
The gorgeous cathedral contains impressive, giant stained-glass windows along the sides, with a huge rose window behind the altar. Stunning arched columns line the sides of the interior. Beautiful woodwork, gorgeous gardens, and many more intriguing architectural and aesthetic components continue to inspire awe from congregants and visitors sitting in the pews.
St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church, Huntsville
St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church is one of the oldest churches in the state. The church building first went under construction in 1860, shortly interrupted by the Civil War. The building saw completion, finally, in 1877. In 1980, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The limestone church in Romanesque Revival style has two hexagonal towers framing the building. In addition, a spire in the north tower houses a bell. Massive, central double doors and flanking side doors have arched wooden infill panel toppings. All openings on the facade have projecting round stone arches. Crosses adorn the stunning building at the gable wall and on the two towers. A semi-hexagonal apse at the rear of the building adorns the building.
St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Montgomery
The first Roman Catholic church Montgomery, the St. Peter Catholic Church is also the third oldest in the state. Opening its doors in 1834, the church had no resident pastor for another 16 years but maintained a healthy congregation. The church built a new building in 1851, when its congregation outgrew the existing one. And they completed the construction of the present building in 1852. Additional elements were added on over the next 2 years, paid for in gold. Another 25 feet were added to the front of the building in 1882, though, along with the towers. Then, in the 1890s, the original altars were replaced with three custom wooden altars. Another two large towers were constructed and new pews made of virgin pine were installed. In 1922, further improvements were made in the form of fourteen stained-glass windows. The church has gone through many other improvements since. These include protective coating for the windows and updates to ventilation, cooling, and heating systems.
The gorgeous church’s façade was influenced by Spanish colonial styles including the stucco walls and red tile roof. The interior, though, found its inspiration in Romanesque Revival styles. The St. Peter Catholic Church is actually the oldest standing Romanesque Revival building in the whole state. The building was designed with the traditional rectangular basilica plan.
Saint Symeon Orthodox Church, Birmingham
For those looking for a truly impressive, art-filled cathedral in Alabama, Saint Symeon Orthodox Church is your best bet. This Birmingham cathedral houses dozens of unique icons, crosses, and other symbols of the faith, decked out in glorious embellishments and intricate carved work. The iconostasis, or “icon screen” for example, was the work of George Laskos of Koufalia, Greece, completed in December 2014. The icon took 9 months to create. Each was made by hand in Byzantine style.
In the center of the iconostasis, Royal Doors with Archangel Garbiel and Virgin Mary depictions show the story of the Annunciation. Scenes of the evangelists who wrote the Gospels and Byzantine crosses adorn the walls. Icons of the Mystical Supper and many others adorn the magnificent church.
Multiple shrines also reside within the stunning church. These, along with many other features, mean you’ll want to witness them with your own eyes. Some have described the church as reminiscent of the Orthodox churches in the Republic of Georgia. There most churches have painted or etched icons covering the walls.
First Baptist Church, Montgomery
Also known as the Brick-A-Day Church, the First Baptist Church of Montgomery qualifies as an awe-inspiring destination in Alabama. The historic landmark was founded in 1867 as one of the first Black churches in the region. The church became a refuge for folks facing discrimination and harm immediately after the Civil War. The church soon became one of the largest Black churches in the South, booming from hundreds to thousands of members in the first few decades.
By the 1950s and 1960s, the First Baptist Church had become home for several Civil Rights activities. The church is also associated with Ralph Abernathy. The church’s history includes involvement with the Montgomery bus boycott and Freedom Rides. In 2000, the church was finally added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
The incredible, large, domed church now boasts of many beautiful stained-glass windows. It also houses a large rose window, towers, multiple arched entry doors, and other break-taking features, both inside and out. Apart from the beauty, though, merely sitting in this space where Civil Rights warriors like Martin Luther King Junior, is inspiring enough.
First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa
Featuring neo-Gothic architecture built in 1921, the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa rests on the original site of the 1830 building. The church makes use of incredible European craftwork on the interior. This includes a 15th Century French pulpit, stained-glass German and Flemish windows from the 15th Century, and a 16th Century Italian baptismal font. When you enter the 100-year-old building, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This is largely thanks to these quarter-millennium old works, beautifully displayed and used within the awe-inspiring cathedral. The sanctuary saw remodeling in the 1950s, with new buildings added in the 1960s. Again, in the 2000s, more buildings were added.
Independent Presbyterian Church, Birmingham
Initially begun by just 25 congregants in 1915, the Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham has ballooned to 1,800 members. The century-old church’s original wing was completed in 1922, with the sanctuary added in 1925. The original wing met with destruction in 1992 when a fire broke out. The church has seen plenty of restoration, though, and remains one of the most impressive cathedrals in the state.
Initially, the radical church leader, Dr. Edmonds, opposed the church’s opulent building. He felt the congregation should focus its efforts on other matters, like feeding the poor and helping out those struggling. However, the attitude toward the building eventually changed and resulted in the beautiful building we have today. The neo-Gothic building was designed by Birmingham architectural firms Warren, Knight and Davis and Miller and Martin. The English perpendicular style building includes stained-glass windows and soaring ceilings. You’ll also notice elaborate lighting, murals, massive archways, icons, and many other beautiful features. Come sit, meditate, pray, and be inspired within the once radical church.
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, Hanceville
Located in Hanceville, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament of Our Lady of Angels Monastery, or OLAM Shrine for short, offers some of the most beautiful and inspiring locations in the state. The shrine has become a prominent shrine in the American Catholic faith. It sits next to the Monastery of the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration. The shrine and monastery encompass 400 aces of gorgeous landscaping and inspiring buildings where people may meditate and pray.
The gilt interior and quiet atmosphere lend themselves to admiration and adoration by the visiting and local faithful. The shrine contains a stunning altar and rose window, among pointed arches and other Gothic elements. The exterior, though, leans more Romanesque in design. The shrine was inspired by Italian architecture, including its piazza, colonnade, esplanade, and cosmatesque designs. Ceramic tiles came from South America. The bronze doors, which depict the Seven Joys and Seven Sorrows of Mary, came from Spain. The floors, columns, and pillars of marble came from Turkey. Wooden pews, doors, and confessionals were made from cedar imported from Paraguay. Stained-glass windows came from Germany. The intention, which was well-met, was for the shrine to incorporate natural elements from all over the world.
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