From the early basilical churches of the Roman Empire to the unfinished Sagrada Família, there aren’t many facets of Christian architecture that haven’t been sufficiently perfected over the past two millennia. Church architecture has had over two thousand years to evolve partly by innovation and partly by imitating other architectural styles as well as responding to changing beliefs, practices and local traditions.

“Christian architecture was enriched through the cultural interaction with the Greco-Roman world.”

In 312, the Emperor Constantine defeated his principal rival Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. After that victory, Constantine became the principal patron of Christianity. By the beginning of the fourth century, Christianity was a growing mystery religion in the cities of the Roman world.

“The invention of the Christian church was one of the brilliant – perhaps the most brilliant – solutions in architectural history.”

Thousands of churches have since been built, rebuilt, or restored. From an aesthetic point of view, a lot of the church architecture featured below is unprecedentedly novel with a good appropriation of pre-existing structures that fit in with the local landscape, which already have a history and facilitate the formation of a church building.

With the National Geographic putting images on the map and now the Internet fuelling easy access to pics, it’s easy to forget how difficult these churches were to build. Behind the scenes, much goes on to tackle the making of a magnificent church building.

Here are a few such images that should cause you to sit up and have your breath taken away because of their grandiosity, complexity and stunning beauty.