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Selected Worldwide Religious Sites

—By Kate Pritchard
  • Amritsar, India: Site of the Golden Temple (Sikhism).
  • Axum, Ethiopia: Church of St. Mary of Zion (Ethiopian Orthodox), where the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be kept.
  • Bethlehem, Israel: Birthplace of Jesus.
  • Black Hills, South Dakota: Sacred to the Lakota Indian tribe, who traditionally go on vision quests in the hills.
  • Bodh Gaya, India: Place where the Buddha reached enlightenment.
  • Canterbury, England: Seat of the archbishop of Canterbury (Anglican).
  • Czestochowa, Poland: Chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna of Poland. This painting is said to have been made by St. Luke.
  • Dharamsala, India: Seat of the Dalai Lama in exile (Tibetan Buddhism).
  • Fatima, Portugal: Site of several visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917. A major pilgrimage site for Catholics.
  • Ganges River, India: Sacred to Hindus (Mother Ganges is a Hindu goddess); immersion in the Ganges symbolizes spiritual purification.
  • Haifa, Israel: Seat of the Baha'i faith.
  • Istanbul, Turkey: Seat of the patriarchate of Constantinople (Eastern Orthodox).
  • Jerusalem, Israel: Major holy site for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Temple Mount compound is believed to be both the site of the First and Second Temples of Judaism and the place where redemption will occur when the Messiah arrives. The same area is also called Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) and is of significance to Muslims. Nearby is the Dome of the Rock, the spot from which Muhammad ascended into heaven. Just below Temple Mount is the Western Wall, a remnant of the Second Temple and the holiest site in Judaism, where Jews come to pray. The Wall is part of a larger wall that encloses the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aksa mosque. The al-Aksa mosque, one of the holiest mosques in Islam, was originally the site toward which Muslims bowed to pray. The Holy Sepulchre, in which Jesus was buried, and from which he returned from the dead, is in the northwest corner of the Old City.
  • Knock, Ireland: Pilgrimage site for Catholics where 15 people claimed to see a vision of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist in 1879. About 11/2 million pilgrims visit the site annually.
  • Kusinara, India: Site of the Buddha's death.
  • Lhasa, Tibet: Potala Palace, historical abode of the Dalai Lama (Tibetan Buddhism).
  • Loch Derg, Ireland: Site of St. Patrick's purgatory, pilgrimage destination; pilgrims walk barefoot around the lake, praying, like St. Patrick did.
  • Lourdes, France: In 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes in seven visions. It is now a Catholic pilgrimage site with a spring that some believe has curative properties.
  • Lumbini, Nepal: Birthplace of the Buddha.
  • Mecca, Saudi Arabia: The center of Islam and the birthplace of Muhammad, Mecca is the place toward which Muslims bow to pray five times a day. Mecca is the destination of the hajj, the pilgrimage which all Muslims who are financially and physically able must make in their lifetime. An estimated one million Muslims make the hajj annually. The focus of their worship is the Great Mosque at the center of Mecca. It encloses the Ka'aba, a small building that, according to the Qu'ran, was erected by Abraham and his son Ishmael.
  • Medina, Saudi Arabia: Muhammad lived in Medina after escaping Mecca in A.D. 622; it is now a holy city that only Muslims may enter.
  • Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina: Catholic pilgrimage site where many have claimed visions of the Virgin Mary.
  • Mt. Athos, Greece: Pilgrimage site for Eastern Orthodox males; site of many monasteries.
  • Mt. Fuji, Japan: Sacred to Buddhists and Shintos.
  • Mt. Tai Shan, China: Sacred to Taoists and Buddhists, this mountain with many beautiful temples is thought to be a center of living energy.
  • Nazareth, Israel: Place where Jesus lived and began teaching.
  • Palitana, India: The most important pilgrimage site for Jains, Palitana boasts 863 temples on one mountain, Shatrunjaya Hill.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah: Seat of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Santiago de Compostela, Spain: One of the most important medieval pilgrimage sites; the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela passes through France and Spain before ending up at the city's cathedral. Santiago is Saint James, who was martyred at Jerusalem c. A.D. 44.
  • Sarnath, India: Place where the Buddha preached his first sermon in the deer park.
  • Sea of Galilee, Israel: Place where Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes and preached the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Sri Pada (Adam's Peak), Sri Lanka: Sacred to some Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, the temple on the top of Adam's Peak contains a large footprint believed to belong to either the Buddha, Shiva, Adam, or St. Thomas.
  • Tepeyac, Mexico City, Mexico: Site of the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego in 1531; now home to the Basilica of the Virgin, one of the most-visited churches in the world.
  • Turin, Italy: Place where the Holy Shroud of Turin (linen cloth believed to bear the visage of Jesus Christ) is housed.
  • Uluru (Ayer's Rock), Australia: Sacred site of the aborigines of Australia. Now a major tourist attraction, though the aborigine people ask that tourists not climb the rock.
  • Varanasi, India: City on the banks of the Ganges River; those who die there reach instant enlightenment.
  • The Vatican: Seat of the papacy (Catholicism).

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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