18 Abandoned Churches and Synagogues That Are Chilling Yet Beautiful
They may not be used as places of worship anymore, but these old churches and synagogues are still awe-inspiring
Explore the eeriness—and beauty—of these abandoned churches and synagogues
There’s something unsettling, yet alluring, about abandoned places. People look at abandoned mansions, castles and even entire cities with apprehensiveness and admiration, wondering about the life that once inhabited them. They experience the same feelings looking at an abandoned church or abandoned synagogue. These places, once houses of worship, now sit in various states of disrepair. Don’t be fooled, though—their original beauty remains underneath the rubble and overgrown vegetation.
Intrigued? We’ve rounded up some of the most chilling but fascinating abandoned churches and synagogues—just in time for Halloween. Read on for divine mesmerization.
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Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
The Motor City is home to Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, an abandoned church that’s sat vacant for the last 17 years. It first opened its doors in 1911 and was built to accommodate the city’s growing population. The church’s gorgeous Gothic architecture turned heads for decades until its closure in 2005. There were plans to renovate it in 2009, but they were scrapped due to lack of funding.
Paulo Hoeper/Getty Images
Location: Forquetinha, Brazil
This abandoned church sits in the town of Forquetinha, located in southern Brazil. Germans started immigrating to Brazil in the early 1800s, and many brought their Lutheran religion with them. As a result, churches like this were constructed. Don’t forget to browse through these photos of eerie abandoned hospitals.
Holger Kleine/Getty Images
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The remains of an abandoned church stand behind a barbed-wire fence in Malaysia. It’s not immediately clear why this church was abandoned, but one thing is certain—it give you goosebumps at first glance. These abandoned amusement parks will give you chills too.
Church of the Holy Trinity
Location: Nove Sedlice, Neuzedlisch, Czech Republic
It looks like this church hasn’t held a service in quite some time, however the original architecture is stunning. These abandoned houses would also look stunning, if restored.
Location: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Island, Andaman Islands
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Island, formerly Ross Island, is an abandoned historic site located about 900 miles off the coast of India. The British set up a penal colony on the isolated island in the late 19th century, where it housed prisoners and Indian rebels. The island was under British rule until the Japanese invaded in 1942, gaining control during World War II. However, it was handed back over to the British when the war ended and then given to the Indian government when India gained independence from Britain.
The island is abandoned, but tourists are allowed to explore the area. They can even get a glimpse of this abandoned church, its ruins overrun by Mother Nature.
Eddie Gerald/Getty Images
The Great Synagogue of Brody
Location: Brody, Ukraine
The city of Brody in western Ukraine is home to the Great Synagogue of Brody, a house of worship built in the 1740s. Brody was home to one of the most well-known and largest Jewish communities in Ukraine, with early mentions of a wooden synagogue dating back to the late 16th century. The Great Synagogue of Brody sustained mass damage during World War II, and nearly all Brody’s Jewish population lost their lives during the Holocaust. Renovations were done to the synagogue in the 1960s, but it fell into a state of ruin as time passed.
Flooded and abandoned church
Location: Geamana, Romania
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That’s the steeple of a church barely peaking out of a lake of mud and–wait for it—toxic waste. This buried church is located in Geamana, Romania, a once-thriving village located in a lush valley. In 1978, Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu forced villagers to leave their homes in Geamana so the area could be turned into a dumping ground for toxic waste produced from copper mining. Today, only a few structures of Geamana remain and can be seen amid the bright-colored acidic “lake,” a staple fixture in some creepy photos from the area.
Location: Vidin, Bulgaria
The Vidin Synagogue was Bulgaria’s second-largest synagogue before it started succumbing to the elements. It was built in 1894 and was a central fixture in Vidin’s Jewish community until it was seized by the Communist government following World War II. Restoration began on the synagogue in the early 1980s but came to an abrupt stop in 1989 when Communist rule collapsed. Today, there are plans to restore the synagogue into a cultural center. Feeling brave? Read these ghost stories that will send shivers down your spine.
Location: Villers-la-Ville, Belgium
Constructed in the 12th century, this massive stone structure provides a fascinating look into the lives of monks who lived 900 years ago. This stunning cathedral dome is only one room of the enormous abbey, which stretches over nearly 90 acres of the Belgian village of Villers-la-ville. Today, visitors to the abbey can take a tour of the grounds, the ruins of the abbey and the surrounding gardens. Don’t forget to bookmark this list of true urban legends and read them with the lights on.
Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Location: Tomsk, Russia
Even after years of disuse, this abandoned church in western Russia still shows traces of the blue painted decorations that adorned its walls. If you’re looking for more thrills, read up on these urban legends from every state.
Medieval church ruins
Location: Bawsey, England
In the tiny village of Bawsey, located by the North Sea in England’s Norfolk County, this old church from the 11th or 12th century stands tall nearly a millennium after its construction. The church possesses a Stonehenge-like quality with its massive stone pillars, which stand strong against the wear of time and weather. Historians are unsure whether this church was named after St. Mary or St. James (it may forever remain an ancient mystery), but they do know it’s the only remaining structure of what was once an immense medieval village.
Location: Ovčar Banja, Serbia
This monastery, whose name means “Annunciation,” sits tucked in the side of the Rudnik Mountain in central Serbia. It’s just one of several Orthodox sanctuaries scattered throughout Serbia’s Ovčar-Kablar Gorge, and it might be the most incredible, with its unique design that makes it difficult to tell where it ends and the mountain begins. Blagoveštenje monastery was built in the 1400s.
Location: Falealupo, Savai’i, Samoa
The ruins of the village of Falealupo on Savai’i, the largest Samoan island, add a sobering serenity to Samoa’s tropical paradise. This village, located on a peninsula at the northwest of the island, was buffeted by back-to-back cyclones in 1990 and 1991, which destroyed much of it. Many of the inhabitants moved inland, leaving the peninsula mostly deserted. The Catholic church, however, remains standing, the sculpture over the central courtyard still in remarkably good condition.
Church of St. Ivan Rilski
Location: Zapalnya, Bulgaria
This thin arch of stone seems to defy gravity, rising above the ruins of the church of St. Ivan Rilski. This structure, located about three hours east of Sofia, Bulgaria, has been nicknamed “the submerged church” because of the floodwaters that often rush by it. In 1965, Bulgaria’s communist regime built the Zhrebchevo Dam, an industrialist move that spelled trouble for the nearby village of Zapalnya, situated in a deep valley. In spite of the beatdown the church continuously receives from wind and water, its tiny golden cross remains precariously perched atop its crumbling stone wall.
Church of St. Nicholas
Location: Alassa, Cyprus
For centuries, the village of Alassa thrived on the Middle Eastern island of Cyprus. In the 1980s, the construction of a massive dam forced the villagers to relocate, and they rebuilt a little higher up on the hill. Today, the modern village has a population of about 200 and is a quaint, beautiful tourist attraction for visitors to the island. The old village’s church, though, named after St. Nicholas, provides a sense of wonder all its own. This crumbling church, with its pristine white stone walls and magnificent tower, only adds to the stunning view of the Kouris Reservoir.
Kalacheevskaya Cave monastery
Location: Voronezh region of Russia
This underground cavern located in the Voronezh region of Russia would be majestic and haunting even if it didn’t have a history as a place of worship. The Kalacheevskaya Cave is a massive, mostly manmade underground structure built in the 18th or 19th century as a monastery. This photo shows just the vast underground temple, but the cavern contains two separate levels of rooms and corridors that stretch for about a kilometer. The way the sun peeks in through the small holes in the walls creates an ethereal, almost sparkling look.
Looking at this picture, you can almost see this empty space filled with pews and parishioners. Located in Ukraine, the building was once a Lutheran church. Its fall from grace came sometime in the 20th century, and now it sits desolate, a testament to times past.
Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Seiça
Even the green tinge creeping up the walls of this old monastery from the encroaching plant life can’t diminish its beauty. Located in the municipality of Figueira da Foz in western Portugal, the monastery named in honor of St. Mary dates back to the 1100s. In early 2018, the Municipality of Figueira da Foz requested that the monastery become a national monument, so its history and haunting beauty can be preserved for generations to come. Now, get a look at some forbidden places around the world that no one will ever be allowed to visit.
Additional reporting by Kelly Kuehn.
- Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands: “Brazil”
- Historic Detroit: “Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church”
- Atlas Obscura: “Netaji Shubash Chandra Bose Island”
- Urban Media Archive: “Great Synagogue of Brody”
- Jewish Virtual Library: “Brody, Ukraine”
- Atlas Obscura: “Geamana, Romania”
- World Monuments Fund: “Vidin Synagogue”