Caves have provided shelter and safety since the beginning of mankind, so it isn’t surprising that they have also served as places of worship over the centuries. Sometimes they are revered for the historical impact of the location and then become a place where people come to visit in the future based on their faith. Other places serve as actual places of worship just like any traditional temple or church. We have seen several different locations during our travels and each of them was unique and interesting in their own ways. There are so many fascinating places to discover when traveling and finding these caves that inspire people are certainly among them.
Abu Serga Church (The Cavern Church) in Cairo, Egypt – Located in Old Cairo, also known as Coptic Cairo, the Abu Serga Church (also called the Cavern Church and officially the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church) was built over the cavern where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were supposed to have rested at the end of their journey in Egypt. Even during the offseason when we visited, there were long lines to make your way down to the cave and see the altar housed within. The church itself is also very interesting with many historical relics on display.
The Cave Church in Budapest, Hungary – Located at the base of Gellert Hill, the hill that the Citadella (fortress) sits atop, is a system of caves. One of the caves was converted into a chapel in the 1920’s and even served as a hospital for the Germans during WWII. The atmosphere within Cave Church is interesting due to the lack of natural light and the rugged cavern walls. After its conversion to a hospital by the NAZI army during the war, it returned to serving as a church until 1951 when the Soviet Union had it shut down. The chapel was raided by the Soviet Army, the monks arrested, and the cave sealed up until Budapest regained their freedom in 1989. Today, the monks of the Pauline Order continue to operate the church and hold religious functions on the site as well as maintain it as a tourist attraction.
Huong Tich Cave at Perfume Pagoda in Vietnam – Perfume Pagoda is a complex of Buddhist temples located about a couple of hours outside of Hanoi in Vietnam. At the heart of the complex is Huong Tich Cave and within the cave is Chua Trong or the Inner Temple. During the festival time, from late January through early March, thousands of people visit the temple and the 2.5 km (1.5 mile) path that takes you up to the cave is lined with vendor stalls selling food, gifts, and objects to use as an offering. In order to reach the Perfume Pagoda complex, you need to take an almost hour long boat ride (less if you take a motorized boat) through the beautiful countryside.
Saint Thomas Cathedral Basilica in Chennai, India – After going to several Hindu temples during our stay in Chennai, going to the Saint Thomas Cathedral Basilica was a unique experience. The church is built over the tomb of Saint Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, which is one of only three churches in the world to be built over the tomb of a disciple. For a small donation, you are able to enter the cave where Saint Thomas hid and there is even a rock that is supposed to have been worn down by his hand. There is also a spring that is just outside of the cave called the Saint Thomas Fountain, which supposed provided healing powers to those that came to listen to him and people still drink from it today in order to be cured. There is a cross carved into a rock that was believed to be carved by Saint Thomas and many believers report that it continues to bleed to this very day.
Regardless of your beliefs, seeing such unique places of worship is certainly interesting for a variety of reasons. The backdrop of the caves and caverns, some of them natural and some of them man-made add to the uniqueness of these locations.