Glowing windows seemingly made from thousands of jewels. Intricately carved marble robes, crowns of thorns, faces of angels. Gilded paintings so detailed one could gaze for hours and not see everything. Cavernous domes and arched ceilings spanning the space between heaven and earth.
You don’t have to go to Europe to see some truly breathtaking spiritual spaces — there are plenty right here in Buffalo.
From the 1880s to the 1920s, German, Polish, Italian and Irish immigrant parishioners and laborers – sometimes one and the same – tithed their sweat and pennies to erect communal monuments to their faith that often paid homage to the Byzantine, Gothic, and Baroque styles of the churches they left behind. They hired artisans from among their ranks or imported them from abroad to fill the spaces with works of devotional art and craftsmanship that rivaled the great cathedrals of their homelands. These new parishes became beautiful blends of European tradition and local resources – Italian marble and Buffalo steel, royal architects and Queen City labor, ancient carvings and American oak.
While many of the city’s places of worship have been shuttered, torn down, or repurposed since their heydays, hundreds, each handsome in its own right, remain. Here are just a few of our most treasured spiritual spaces...stop in for a moment of respite and wonder, or take an organized architectural tour (those with tours are indicated).
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
50 Franklin St., Buffalo
This Gothic landmark and Diocese center in the heart of the city is distinctive for its grand multi-layered arched entrance and soaring, intricately beamed white interior.
Our Lady of Victory Basilica & Shrine
767 Ridge Road, Lackawanna
Breathtaking in its size and intricacy with 134 stained glass windows, 46 types of marble, and thousands of angels throughout its 67,500-square-foot interior.
Trinity Episcopal Church
371 Delaware Ave., Buffalo
The complex of buildings is known for its multi-layered, opalescent stained glass windows by John La Farge and Tiffany Studios, with vibrancy that resembles fine oil paintings.
St. Louis Roman Catholic Church
780 Main St., Buffalo
The Mother Church and the oldest church of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, it boasts an ornately carved pulpit and red Medina sandstone spire (the highest in the country).
Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
146 West Utica St., Buffalo
Carved coffered beams frame vibrant blue and gold panels across the somber vaulted ceiling, while golden archways provide a regal canopy over unique curved side pews.
Corpus Christi Catholic Church
199 Clark Street St., Buffalo
The spiritual center of Polonia, its towering pair of spires topped with gold crosses are an enduring part of the East Side skyline; inside is a showcase of fine ecclesiastical artwork.
First Presbyterian Church
1 Symphony Circle, Buffalo
Designed by E.B. Green, the first church in the city of Buffalo features a soaring tower visible from miles away, second-story balcony pews, and an ancient Byzantine feeling.
Temple Beth Zion
805 Delaware Ave., Buffalo
Following a devastating fire in 1961, the current building was designed by architect Max Abramovitz. The main sanctuary includes soaring stained glass windows, and the encircling walls, rising skyward, represent the Ten Commandments.
Unitarian Universalist Church
695 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo
Called “one of the best Arts & Crafts spaces in Buffalo,” both the intricate, hand-carved woodwork and stunning perennial gardens are worth the visit.
Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic Church
317 Leroy Ave., Buffalo
With its terra cotta shingled roof and intricate opalescent scalloped entry arch, many consider this church’s interior one of the city’s most awe-inspiring.
Story topics: Discover