So, what is the biggest temple in the world? To answer this question we first have to establish what a temple is. Although roughly defined as a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities not all religions use the word temple. In the Western Christian tradition temple is rarely used for example so these churches and cathedrals will be excluded. In contrast, in the Eastern Christian tradition the word temple is used very frequently.
Second what measure of size to use? According to the Guinness World Record the Akshardham Temple is the largest Hindu temple in the world but this is disputed by at least 3 other temples in India which are all claimed to be the largest temple. These temples are often part of a larger complex which makes it even less clear. In this list I’ll focus on the main temple (if any) to determine which is the largest temple in the word.
Baalbek, also called Heliopolis, is a spectacular archaeological site in northeastern Lebanon. From the 1st century BC and over a period of two centuries, the Romans built three temples here: Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus. Created to be the largest temple in the Roman empire, the temple of Jupiter was lined by 54 massive granite columns. Only 6 of these titanic columns remain standing but even they are incredibly impressive. The best preserved temple at the site is the Temple of Bacchus built in 150 AD. The temple is 69 meters long and 36 meters wide. Its walls are adorned by 42 Corinthian columns, 19 of which remain upright in position standing 19 meters (62 feet) high.
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One of the most imposing and controversial buildings in Moscow, the resurrected Temple of Christ the Saviour has had a short but turbulent history. It was originally commissioned after the defeat of Napoleon, but construction did not begin until 1839. In 1931 it was blown to pieces by orders of Stalin to make way for a proposed Palace of the Soviets, which was never built. In 1990, the Russian Orthodox Church received permission to rebuilt the cathedral. Completed in 2000, the new cathedral is loosely based on the original design, but constructed with modern building materials. At a height of 105 meters (344 feet) it is the tallest Orthodox church in the world.
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The Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade is the largest Orthodox church building in the world. It is dedicated to the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The construction of the church began in 1985 and was mostly completed by 2004. The internal decorations are still not finished. In English, it is usually called a cathedral because of its size and importance but it is not the seat of a bishop and therefore technically not a cathedral. In Serbian it is called a hram (temple). The church is 91 meters (299 feet) long from and 81 meters (266 feet) wide. It is 70 meters (230 feet) tall, with the main gold-plated cross on top of the dome extends the church for 12 more meters (39 feet). It has a surface area of 3,500 m2 on the ground floor.
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Tikal was the largest Mayan city between ca. 200 to 900 AD with an estimated population between 100,000 and 200,000 inhabitants. Tikal contains 6 very large step pyramids. The largest, Temple-pyramid IV, is some 72 meters (230 feet) high and was finished around 720 AD. Temple IV is the largest temple built anywhere in the Maya region, and as it currently stands is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas although the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan may originally have been taller, as may have been one of the jungle covered pyramids at El Mirador.
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Located in the city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, the Jetavanaramaya is the largest stupa in the world if measured by volume. The temple was built by king Mahasena in the 3rd century AD and took 15 years to complete. Approximately 93.3 million baked bricks were used in the construction. With a height of 122 meters (400 feet), Jetavanaramaya was the third tallest structure in the world behind the pyramids of Giza at the time of its completion. The diameter of the dome itself is approximately 95 meters (312 feet).
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Dedicated to Lord Ranganatha (a reclining form of Lord Vishnu), the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam is an important shrine that receives millions of visitors and pilgrims every year. With an area of 156 acres (6,31,000 m²), the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is one of the largest temples in the world. In fact, the temple can be easily termed as the largest functioning Hindu temple complex in the world. The oldest structure of the temple dates back to the 10th century. There are 21 gopurams (tower), among which the Rajagopuram is the biggest temple in South India. It is 73 meters (240 feet) in height, and dates from the 17th century, although it was only completed in 1987.
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Completed in 2005 by the spiritual organization BAPS, no expense has been spared in decorating the Akshardham temple. The building was inspired and moderated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the current head of Swaminarayan Hinduism. The central monument is 43 meters (141 feet) high, 96 meters (316 feet) wide, and 110 meters (370 feet) long, and is covered top to bottom with carved details of flora, fauna, dancers, musicians, and deities. It is constructed entirely from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble, and has no support from steel or concrete.
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Located on the Indonesian island of Java, 40 km (25 miles) northwest of Yogyakarta, the Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. The temple was built over a period of some 75 years in the 8th and 9th centuries by the kingdom of Sailendra, out of an estimated 2 million blocks of stone. The Borobodur can be divided into three groups: base, body, and top, which resembles the three major division of a human body. The base is a 123×123 meters (403.5×403.5 feet) square in size and 4 meters (13 feet) high of walls. The total surface area is approximately 2,500 m2. The body is composed of 5 square platforms each with diminishing heights. The top is a monumental stupa with a main dome at the center . The dome has a height of 35 meters (115 feet) from the ground level.
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Although badly ruined, few sites in Egypt are more impressive than Karnak. It is the largest ancient temple complex in the world, and represents the combined achievement of many generations of Egyptian builders. Karnak actually consists of several temples. One of most famous structures of Karnak is the Hypostyle Hall, a hall area of 5,000 m2 (50,000 sq ft). The 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows supported a roof that has now fallen. At a height of 24 meters (80 feet) the 2 middle rows are higher than the others.
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Angkor Wat (”City Temple”) is a vast temple complex in Cambodia featuring the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century AD. These include the famous Angkor Wat temple, the largest temple in the world. The Angkor temple stands on a raised terrace above the rest of the city. It is made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower, each level higher than the last. The outer gallery of the Angkor Wat temple measures 187 x 215 meters (614 x 705 feet). After this, the next two galleries are connected to each other. On the second level, it measures 100 x 115 meters (328 x 377 feet). The inner gallery is a 60 x 60 meter (197 x 197 feet) square area. The tower above the central shrine rises 65 meters (213 feet) above the ground.
Read more: Cambodia Guide