Whether your place of worship is a one-room white clapboard building with a steeple in the center of a town square or the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which hosts 4,000 people and is rigged with flat-screen TVs, for many, heading off to church this year is a much-heralded tradition. Along those lines, we rounded up four churches with a high-design bent; take the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Tex. (above), where 14 paintings by the abstract expressionist hang together in the single nave. The canvases were too large to fit through the doors, the roof had to be removed in order to install the painting, and Rothko had to do battle with another midcentury icon, architect Philip Johnson, over the design of the chapel before the spare interior was finalized. As if that wasn't enough star power, Rothko's contemporary and fellow art star Barnett Newman contributed a sculpture to the entryway. That sort of provenance makes this a Christmas present in itself for a midcentury art lover.
? Rothko wasn't the first famous artist to tackle a holy project. The French modern art pioneer Henri Matisse designed this colorful chapel in Vence—no, that's not a typo!—a tiny village on the Riviera, out of gratitude to a nun who nursed him through a bout of cancer. The chapel, known as Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, was completed in 1951 and features bold stained-glass windows and tile murals by the artist.
? Louis Comfort Tiffany, the prolific stained-glass master and son of Tiffany & Co. founder Charles, was commissioned to create this Byzantine-Romanesque chapel for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The dazzling display has had many homes over the years, having been moved from the Windy City to Tiffany's Laurelton Estate on Long Island. After the artist passed away—and his ornate home sank into disrepair—the chapel was moved yet again, this time to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Fla., where the contrast between light and dark is played to maximal effect.
? Leaving Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple out of this roundup would be a disservice to the world-renowned creation by the Prairie-style partisan. The documentary filmmaker Ken Burns once called the temple's gathering space "the biggest room in America." The size is modest indeed, but the emotional impact of Wright's all-encompassing design is perhaps best related in this building. Not a bad place to start daydreaming during a sermon, if you're into that sort of thing.
· Rothko Chapel [official site]
· Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence [official site]
· Laurelton [Met Museum]
· Winter Park Day Trip [TravelMuse]
· Unity Temple [official site]