Today’s guest post on how to visit Churches with respect come from Heidi of www.flyawayu.com.
David and I are not overly religious, we just consider ourselves spiritual. Yet while not religious, we believe it an honour and privilege to visit Churches.
The main reason? Because people value their faith and the places of worship where they follow their beliefs. As a result, Churches are often well protected and preserved when other buildings are not. Many churches have stood the test of time, wars, plagues, famine, and regimen changes while protecting people, artefacts, history, paintings, frescos, statues, art and detailed artistry.
It’s our sense of respect and love for Churches that brought about today’s post because you would not believe the things we’ve seen tourists do when they visit Churches. They include:
- Shouting across the building to their partner.
- Letting kids run and climb on the altars.
- Knocking over the altars, flowers, and candles.
- People taking photos when “No Photos” are clearly posted.
- Smoking inside the Church.
- Taking pictures of people who are worshipping.
And it’s not just children and young people behaving in this way; we’ve seen people in their 60s and 70s acting immature inside Churches.
We understand that it’s a new place and you might make a faux pas. You’re in a foreign country; you may not know the local language or customs, and everything is new. So you forget your manners! Or you just don’t know. But a house of faith is the same in any culture. While the customs may be a little different, the same rules and manners apply: be respectful.
And if you don’t know, just ASK someone for guidance. Plenty of people are more than happy to help guide you if you ask. Including us, which is why we created this guide to help you avoid making similar faux pas as those listed above when visiting houses of faith.
How to Visit Churches with Respect
1. Dress for Church
Short skirts, no shirts, bare arms, and shoulders, overly exposed breasts are a huge no-no in any religious culture. Pack a scarf, shawl or jacket to drape around your shoulders or waist to help cover any questionable bare skin and clothing. Otherwise, you might not be allowed to enter.
2. Do your Research before you Visit Churches
Find out what to expect before getting there. Every faith, denomination, and religion practice differently and can vary even by country or region. So do a little homework – ask “Google” what you need to know before visiting local houses of worship.
Yep, that’s right. Keep your noise down when visiting houses of prayer. Most churches are places of worship for the locals so keep it respectful for those who are there following their faith, not sightseeing. While whispering is okay, if the church is not in service, loud talking and shouting are not.
4. No Photos or Flash
Please pay attention to posted signs when entering a church. Some do not allow photography of any kind. Most ask for no flash because the flash causes irreparable damage to the priceless historical art and disturbs those who are praying. Sometimes journalists can arrange a photography permit, but certainly don’t take photos without permission.
5. No Selfie Sticks
Yep, you’ll have to take your photos yourself or ask someone to snap one for you because many Churches are banning the selfie stick. Unfortunately, too many people are causing damage when using them inside buildings. If you’re alone, prop your camera on a ledge and use the timer. And if you do use a selfie stick, please be careful when swinging it around.
5. Leave a Small Donation
Many churches are free to enter, making them on the cheapest ways to see amazing art and history. Although they are free, we highly recommend leaving a donation as a way to show your appreciation and to help with the upkeep and maintenance of the church.
7. Check the Schedule
Check the schedule before visiting, or you may not get to see the inside. We saw over 20 “chiesas” (churches) in the Umbria region of Italy. Most were only open for sightseeing on Friday through Sunday and NEVER during mass. A few, such as Saint Peter’s in Rome is open all week, except during worship and special events. The same applied to many in Spain and Portugal.
8. Don’t Touch and Climb
Sitting on the benches and walking around looking at things is perfectly okay. But climbing the altars, staircases (unless invited), columns, curtains, and any other spaces is not. Nor is touching the art, bibles left on the platforms, flower arrangements, or the lit candles people placed in remembrance (no, you shouldn’t arrange them for your perfect photo).
9. Join a Service
One of the best ways to see a Church is to join a service. No, you can’t take pictures, but you do get to see the church in use. It’s an excellent way to create unique memories of your trip, even if you don’t know the language.
Finally, remember, you don’t have to visit all the Churches. We made that mistake when we saw over 20 churches in Umbria. Our favourite saying became “look, there’s another church,” and we would both groan. Plan for a handful and spread them out across your trip (we saw five in one day one time). They are all beautiful, so pick your favourites and enjoy. Just please do it respectfully.
Bio: Heidi Medina, FlyAwayU.com
Heidi Medina is a freelance food, travel and healthy lifestyle writer. She and her husband, David, travel the world living a location independent lifestyle while working from their computers.
Currently, they are working on a new roaming education project, FlyAwayU, which encourages others to pursue their dreams, improve their quality of life, and find their American Dream outside the US.
If you want to know more or to get in touch with Heidi, you can reach her at [email protected]