23 Ceilings Worth Craning Your Neck For

Atlas Obscura readers share their favorite overhead wonders.

Hello up there. Mostafameraji/CC BY-SA 4.0

There's wonder all around, but it's easy to forget to look up. There's the ever-mutable sky up there, and for centuries, architects, artists, and designers have tried to outdo it, often in churches, libraries, mosques, and museums. Many of those buildings save their greatest, most jaw-dropping sights for their own versions of the heavens: ceilings. We recently asked the readers in our Community Forum to tell us about the most startling ceilings they've ever encountered. What we found was heavenly (unsurprising, since many of them reside in houses of worship) and worth all the neck strain.

Take a look at some of our favorite submissions below, and if there's an incredible ceiling you'd like to tell us about, head over to our forums and keep the conversation going! Here are some ceilings just bursting with the vision and artistry of a dozen Sistine Chapels.


Alexa Harrison/Used with Permission

Santa Maria de la Victoria

Málaga, Spain

“I went to the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Victoria in Málaga and, looking straight on at the altar, you can’t immediately tell that there’s a room behind it that you’re actually looking into. Then there are signs that direct you to continue upstairs to check it out.” alexaharrison


Uwe Aranas/CC BY-SA 3.0

Austrian Academy of Sciences

Vienna, Austria

“I was quite literally walking around Vienna looking for a place to pee. I went into the Austrian Academy of Sciences and found this awesome ceiling in their main meeting hall.” tralfamadore


Diliff/CC BY 3.0

Hampton Court Palace

East Molesey, England

“I recently visited Hampton Court specifically to see the wonderful carpentry work of the hammerbeam roof of King Henry VIII’s Great Hall. It was designed to impress, and it still does.” Jaguarfeather


Keith Roper/CC BY 2.0

Dalí Theatre-Museum

Figueres, Spain

“In the spirit of the grand, sacred, painted cathedral ceilings offered here, I submit one from the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain (Catalonia), in which Dalí has shown himself, and his beloved wife and muse Gala, from the soles up, holding up a portal to heaven … as Dalí imagined it. My favorite aspect is the way he, in an uncharacteristic gesture of modesty, tucked Gala’s dress close to her legs to as not to give a view that was TOO inspiring, and the drawers emanating from his own midsection.” johnpendleton


ThomasWolter/Public Domain

Aachen Cathedral

Aachen, Germany

“The beautiful ceiling of Aachen Cathedral.” jane_13527450


MaxPixel/Public Domain

Hohenzollern Castle

Baden-Württemberg, Germany

“Castles can be a brilliant source of a beautiful ceiling as well.” jane_13527450


Sailko/CC BY 3.0

Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola

Rome, Italy

“Definitely seconding Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola. The ceiling, by Jesuit Brother Andrea Pozzo, opens up and invites the viewer to gaze into the heavens. Figures representing the four corners of the world beckon to the global missionary reach of the Jesuit order. Above the transept, Pozzo created a false dome, tricking the viewers as they approach.” malawijay


Jean-Christophe BENOIST/CC BY 3.0

King's College Chapel

Cambridge, England

“The complex vaults of the lofty King's College Chapel, which I got to see at Cambridge University in England.”Philip_Shane


Jastrow/Public Domain

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

Rome, Italy

“The fan vaulting at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge and the elliptical dome of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane in Rome are two of my favorites, among many. There are so many good gothic and Renaissance examples, I’m challenging myself (and anyone else curious) for good modern examples also.” MisterCustomer


Jorge Royan/CC BY-SA 3.0

Strahov Library

Prague, Czechia

“Stumbling upon the Strahov Library in Prague was a beautiful surprise. Such a hidden gem. And the sweet docents are an added bonus <3.” alisalynn


Daniel L. Lu/Public Domain

Los Angeles Central Library

Los Angeles, California

“Oh, yeah. Los Angeles Central Library is pretty gorgeous.”tralfamadore


Apolloae/CC BY-SA 3.0

Christian Science Church

Boston, Massachusetts

Asia_London_Palomba


Max Pixel/Public Domain

Galeries Lafayette

Paris, France

“Galeries Lafayette department store.” terrazu


LOC/LC-DIG-highsm-02000

Thomas Jefferson Building

Washington, D.C.

“The recently restored Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., has beautiful ceilings.” kld123


Sagh22/CC BY-SA 4.0

Shah Mosque

Isfahan, Iran

Asta


Jebulon/Public Domain

Alhambra

Granada, Spain

“I can’t pick the most incredible, there’s just too many. But the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, has SO many amazing and intricately carved ceilings.” jfrzr


Josep Renalias/CC BY-SA 3.0

Palau de la Música Catalana

Barcelona, Spain

MMateu


Shuhrataxmedov/CC BY-SA 3.0

Gur-e-Amir

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

“The Gur-e-Amir mausoleum, Tamerlane’s resting place.” chrisboswell25300


Jacob Norlund/CC BY 2.0

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

St. Louis, Missouri

“The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in Missouri is an amazing, beautiful example of the art of mosaic.” feathrd1


Jrdphotography/CC BY 3.0

Ohio Theatre

Columbus, Ohio

“A former movie palace (it still has the organ, which is used to accompany films during the summer movie series), which was restored and is now home to the Columbus Symphony and national tours of Broadway shows.” QSAT


Karensoup/CC BY-SA 3.0

St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral

Washington, D.C.

QSAT


Zairon/CC BY-SA 4.0

Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Venice, Italy

“My favorite ceiling is in the Chiesa Santa Maria Dei Miracoli in Venice. Every painting in the coffered ceiling is different.” sdmichalove


MaxPixel/Public Domain

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Muscat, Oman

“The Grand Mosque of Oman was incredible.” mackenzieprice13