Worship Places, National Geographic Book Review: Religious Festivals & Sacred Places, Pilgrims, Retreats & Memorials

Sacred Places is in the Journeys of a Lifetime series, published by National Geographic and packaged by Toucan. The coffee table book explores 500 worship places around the world through the eyes of professional travel writers and photographers. Peaceful or powerful, most destinations claim a full page with lavish illustrations.

With ten chapters and nearly 400 pages, Sacred Places looks at many aspects of worship, from religious retreats and memorials to festivals, pilgrims and shrines. Themed lists complete the picture of the world’s top spiritual sites, whether it’s about harvest festivals or artists’ chapels. The book appeals to readers interested in spiritual or cultural journeys.

Worship Places, National Geographic

Sacred Places of a Lifetime by National Geographic opens with a chapter on inspiring landscapes, from the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming to the Islands of the Sun and Moon in Bolivia, from the sacred Ganges to Mount Ararat. Climb Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, listen to aboriginal tales at Uluru or witness the summer solstice in the French Pyrenees. Mountains, rivers and lakes are well covered alongside natural phenomenon.

 
 

Stone circles and ancient mysteries come next, mostly in South America, Mexico and Europe, plus Petra in Jordan and the Plain of Jars in Laos. Cradles of Faith follow with worship places associated with the world’s great religions. These include the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, the Jokhang temple in Tibet and the Nativity Cave on the West Bank.

Places of Worship, Ancient Temples and Memorials

Ancient temples and sacred ruins claim a full chapter with visits to Angkor Wat, rock churches in Anatolia and the Hindu temples of Khajuraho covered in erotic carvings. The memorials section features Ground Zero, the Peace Memorial Park in Japan, the Merry Cemetery in Romania, the Taj Mahal, war graves and much more.

The middle chapter is the largest with 60 pages on daily devotions and places of worship, some strikingly modern like California’s Crystal Cathedral, others ancient and precarious like the Hanging Monastery in China. It’s a fabulous journey around churches, monasteries, synagogues, mosques and temples. Full page photographs include the Duomo in Florence and the Lord of the Earthquakes in Cusco cathedral.

Sacred Places, Religious Festivals, Pilgrims and Retreats

Chapter six guides readers around holy shrines ranging from magnificent temples to humble caves. Relics, miracles, Madonna, saints and connections with founders of the great faiths are all mentioned. The Pilgrim’s Way is dedicated to spiritual journeys to world famous sites such as Mecca, Swayambhunath in Kathmandu or the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The festival chapter is particularly fascinating with details of exuberant practices and sombre rituals across every faith from Bali to Bhutan or South Korea. Sacred Places of a Lifetime concludes with a tour of religious retreats and communities across the continents.

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