The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Churches & Temples (Architecturally)

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Photo by ThinkStock
Houston is home to several of the country's leading mega-churches so we thought we'd look at the city's religious architecture. Does "great big congregation" automatically translate into "grand and glorious?" Ah, that would be a no.

Before we start our list of Top 10 Churches, let's take a quick look at what's not on the list. Lakewood Church is notably absent. Huge church, huge congregation but it's all housed inside a former basketball stadium that still looks remarkably like a basketball stadium. Yes, they added a stage, an altar, some jumbo screens and changed up the seating, but the basic structure of the building is still the same. It's a basketball stadium.

Also not on our list is the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. The inside's not so bad - if you like plain and severe, it's the outside that galls us. It's just plain ugly. (We hope Cardinal DiNardo gets our name right on the excommunication order.) It doesn't suit the space, the scale is all wrong and it's seriously uninviting. It looks like a McMansion with a tiny cross on the roof. We can't really blame Lakewood for looking unchurch-like, it took a standing structure and converted it. But Sacred Heart was designed from the ground up. And it's ugly.

Second Baptist is also missing from our Top 10. In the case of Second Baptist, there wasn't one particular building on any of its five campuses that stood out from the others. Second Baptist does big very well, it just doesn't do it spectacularly well architecturally.

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10. Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
7250 Harrisburg

We start our list with the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, located in East End. Standing since the early 1900s, the building echoes the early Texas missions. It's more modest in size than the others that made the Top 10.

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David Jones/djphoto
9. Christ Church Cathedral
1117 Texas Avenue

Where Immaculate Conception is all straight, simple lines, Christ Church Cathedral has an abundance of ornate flourishes. Inside, the church's ceiling is an intricate maze of wood beams. Outside, it's a little more subdued, but still very elegant. The church was founded in1839 on the same site where it stands today.

8. Trinity Episcopal Church
1015 Holman

An excellent - and excellently maintained - neo-Gothic building, Trinity Episcopal was built in 1919 and designed by Cram and Ferguson. In addition to worship duties, it's the home of the annual Trinity Jazz Festival.

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15 comments
Sanjay
Sanjay

That's not a picture of the Meenakshi Temple in Pearland, it's a picture of the Swaminarayan Temple in Stafford. 

They don't really look alike, and have vastly different histories, the one in Stafford being new and build all at once vs. Meenakshi Temple being 35 years old and built little by little as donations come in.

cathiwalsh
cathiwalsh

Our Lady of the Cedars is a beautiful church -- I am really surprised it did not make your list.


lostindallas
lostindallas

Appropriately p.c., with non-Christian religions sweeping the top two spots (the Sri Meenakshi Temple is gorgeous, but imagine if a Southern Baptist with deep pockets simply bought a pretty old bank building, stamped the Baptist name on it rather garishly, and called it a church.  Would the Houston Press honor it as the second most beautiful worship space in the city?  I think not.).

Olivia Online
Olivia Online

@lostindallas  

The Sri Meenakshi Temple  got our notice for a couple of different reasons. The community saved an important old building and the new residents remained true to the structure's existing style and design while incorporating their own idea of beauty. For centuries, temples, mosques, and churches have taken existing structures and adapted them to a new use. This is no different.

 We would have been happy to have seen Lakewood on the list, for example. But they actually didn't change the building much (at least not in way that an ordinary visitor would notice). Really, this list was about looks, not about which God/gods/deities are worshiped there.


H_e_x
H_e_x

@lostindallas You think but you don't know. The fact that the paper included non-Christian places of worship isn't a hat-tip to pc culture, it's simply an acknowledgement that the buildings look good.

Finnangus1964
Finnangus1964

The Friends Meeting House at 1318 West 26th was an oversight.

jithouston
jithouston

Architecture is suppose to be about "how you feel in a space."  It should also reflect the culture and the spirit.  Ask anyone that has been to any spiritual place that may now been in ruins how they felt.

From a pure visual sense, the places you mention follow what religious spaces are suppose to be, but they are still based on the past and tradition, architectually speaking.   But who is saying that sacred places have to follow tradition. So many people see religion as something that can be so unyielding and unchanging.

You left off Unity, near Hillcroft, a contemporary place of worship that architectually represents a sense lightness and belonging that is at the heart of their philosophy.  

Olivia Online
Olivia Online

@jithouston  

Thanks for the reminder about Unity. It's true, that building manages to reflect the organization's philosophy very, very well. - OFA 

Melissa Hughes
Melissa Hughes

You have to look at the eye of the beholder everyone has a different opinion.

Randolph Wagner
Randolph Wagner

Inexplicably absent: The Chapel at the Villa de Matel.

Olivia Online
Olivia Online

@Randolph Wagner  

You're right, the Chapel is stunning. Maybe it will make one of our future lists. Thanks for reminding us. - OFA 

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