Ronan O’Connell of the South China Morning Post writes about ten of the most beautiful churches on the Asian continent. From India to South Korea, there are signs of thriving Christian communities with a long history and hundreds of millions of followers. It is a reminder of how widespread Christianity is in this world.
While the equally majestic temples across Asia retain a well-deserved reputation among tourists, the author urges travelers to remember the architectural marvels Asian Christians also have to offer.
1. Basilica of Bom Jesus – Goa, India
Temple-hopping is a popular tourist activity in Asia, but the continent also has a long-standing relationship with Christianity, embodied by magnificent churches in cities from Bangkok to Seoul.
When Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed in Kerala in 1498, he spearheaded 500 years of European colonialism across Asia, spread Christianity in India and paved the way for the creation of Old Goa, now a Unesco World Heritage site.
Tourists flock to Goa largely for its coastline and seaside resorts. But 15km (nine miles) inland from popular Candolim beach stands Old Goa, or Velha Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese East Indies.
Some of its Christian sites date as far back as 1510. The most revered is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a hulking structure built in 1605. Sporting a red-brick facade, it is one of the only churches in Goa not covered by plaster.
What makes this basilica such an important Christian site, however, is the tomb within. It houses Spanish missionary St Francis Xavier, who arguably did more to spread Christianity in Asia than any other person.
Visitors queue beneath the lofty wooden ceiling of the basilica’s pretty main hall to see the saint’s glimmering, silver-laden glass coffin.
2. Santa Cruz Church – Bangkok, Thailand
Kudichin has been made popular in recent years by travel bloggers raving about its unique, fruit-laden duck-egg cakes. Visitors to this low-profile Bangkok neighbourhood on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River also encounter a little-known thread of Thailand’s Christian history…