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Church tourism on the rise in Europe

The mass influx of tourists to European churches has become the norm in the current tourist holiday season. They are not interested in religion and rituals but in the exceptionally exquisite architecture of shrines. As reported by the Times Free Press, cities across Europe are now struggling to strike a balance between the attention to be paid to the faithful and the increasing tourist flow.

A striking example is Barcelona, located on the coast of Spain. This year, local churches are registering a record number of tourists – the figures exceeded even the pre-pandemic figures. The trend has also affected other southern European cities, where millions of tourists flock to visit iconic religious sites.

Churches, of course, do not drive anyone away but take measures to cope with the huge flow of visitors. One of the popular strategies has become the separation of believers and tourists – each group is divorced in different places inside the temples. It was clarified that some churches hold services in separate halls and temporarily limit attendance during worship. In the Vatican, for example, a separate entrance has been opened for those wishing to attend Mass or pray to ensure a smooth flow of tourists and worshipers. Basilica spokeswoman Roberta Leone explained that such measures were introduced in order not to scare away the faithful, given that long queues for entry can affect the calm and atmosphere of the temples.

Despite the measures taken by the churches, the discussion of this problem causes ambiguous opinions. For example, Brigham Young University professor Daniel Olsen noted that balancing religious experiences and tourism is a challenge. Everyone wants to preserve the atmosphere of prayer and contemplation, but it is necessary to cope with the flow of travelers. Nevertheless, churches continue to be one of the key tourist destinations, attracting about 330 million visitors each year worldwide.

An increasing number of travelers visit not only religious places for spiritual experience but also for the contemplation of architecture. Churches seek to satisfy the interests of both categories of visitors while maintaining their uniqueness and significance as a cultural and spiritual heritage. At the same time, there is an unpleasant moment, ministers of churches believe. For example, the rector of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Jose Fernandez Lago, drew attention to the increased interest of tourists in the temple. At the same time, he lamented that “some people come to the cathedral and do not understand that they are in the church.” It seems that without the intervention of the authorities and the dissemination of information on how to behave in religious institutions will not do.

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