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You don't have to be a believer to truly understand the reason behind Europe's great cathedrals.

Awe-inspiring in their size and scope, they were for centuries at the very center of medieval life.

Today, the sacred and the profane can be read from a cathedral — in everything from the gargoyles that peer down from its dizzying heights — to the monumental stained glass windows that centuries later still manage to inspire awe.

Notre Dame, ParisFor 'New World' travelers from relatively young countries (like America and Australia), a grand tour of the great cathedrals truly enlivens an important span of European history.

In more practical earthly terms, the revolutionary idea of building higher and more slender buildings, (which also allowed more windows to light the interior) was considered a miracle — as dazzling an engineering feat then as now.

To put it in a more modern context, just as steel and glass skyscrapers became the wonder of the 20th century so too, were Gothic cathedrals the glory of the Middle Ages.

Around the Web, learn more about the great cathedrals and how they were built, take in their history and meaning, along with more practical information on where, when and how to visit the next time you're on a cathedral pilgrimage through Europe ...

also see -> Milan Duomo | Castles of Europe

More about cathedral travel tours around the Web:

Gothic Medieval Cathedrals - Resources and links to official Web sites for virtual tours of American, English, French and Spanish Gothic cathedrals.

Europe's Can't Miss Cathedrals - Forbes Magazine travel review with photo gallery.

The Layout of European Churches and Cathedrals - A guide to reading the construction of medieval Gothic cathedrals and their various parts with related photos and resources.

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