"Now when we enter an old cathedral, we have scarcely a hint of the esoteric meaning of its stony symbolism. Only the general impression forces itself on our mind. We feel the exaltation of the spirit and the abasement of the flesh. The interior of the cathedral is a hollow cross, and we walk here amid the instruments of martyrdom itself. The variegated windows cast on us their red and green lights, like drops of blood and ichor; requiems for the dead resound through the aisles; under our feet are grave-stones and decay; in harmony with the colossal pillars, the soul soars aloft, painfully tearing itself away from the body, which sinks to the ground like a cast-off garment."So, you're up against the Corrupt Church. You know that they're lying to the people, but no one will listen to you. It's time to take matters into your own hands, storm their base and reveal them for the evil bastards they are. There's just one little problem. That means you actually have to go in their Church. And that place is scary as Hell itself. The Creepy Cathedral might not have the vigour of a good old Haunted Castle, and it might not seem to give off that scary dungeon aura... but there's just something about it that makes you think, "Oh, Crap!", the moment you go inside. Guaranteed to be a Gothic cathedral, in all their pointy towers and Unnecessarily Large Interiors glory. Bonus points if it's accompanied by organ music— which of course will likely be the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Triple Word Score if it has Ominous Latin Chanting. May have spooky nuns, Sinister Ministers and Creepy Cool Crosses at no extra charge. Other action scenes, especially in works aiming for a gothic vibe, might take place in an abandoned cathedral instead.
— Heinrich Heine, The Romantic School
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- Most Castlevania games hold a "Chapel" level. Circle of the Moon had one with a giant lamb's head that spews poison, fireballs and flying skulls, while Curse of Darkness has an extra-boss living inside a mass of corpses, hidden in the church, in a room full of bodies that make the walls. (Scares and Womb Level, anyone?)
- Aquaria has the Mithalas Cathedral which takes this Up to Eleven and combines it with Womb Level: it's got Shoggoth-like monsters, Meat Moss everywhere (plus tentacles), worm enemies coming out of the walls, mutants that look too much like Naija for comfort, and you have to fight the Mithalan God turned Eldritch Abomination at the end. Do not play this level if you are planning to get any sleep that night.
- Scratches features an extremely creepy chapel featuring an unsettling wooden statue of Christ, and a hidden room filled with books and stuff of the occult right underneath the altar. Oh, and it has this BGM.
- A secret passage that Brian Dutton follows in TheSeventhGuest leads him and the player to a dark, demonic chapel. It has all the accoutrements of a Catholic chapel, with a Confessional booth and a pipe organ played by a skeleton. And per the game's overall strangeness, the front door is blocked off from inside.
- Beneath a Steel Sky has an old, disused cathedral on the ground level. Once you get inside, you get some hint about what's going on. It's just a prelude of what you'll find later in the subway though.
- The "Antares" stage in Tekken 5 is a dimly-lit, mostly red colored cathedral. The same stage reappears in Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, although the creepiness is gone; it's well-lit, snow pours in through a hole in the ceiling, and the music is miles ahead of its predecessor.
- In Mortal Kombat 3, The Temple (aka the Kombat Temple, The Church or The Cathedral) is a fighting arena that Shao Kahn constructed for himself within his palace during his invasion of Earthrealm. It has an altar, lots of lit candles, and a stained glass window in the shape of the Mortal Kombat Dragon in the background. The arena was revamped for Mortal Kombat Gold and given a darker, creepier look, and revamped again for Mortal Kombat 9. In the most recent version, where Noob Saibot (sometimes), the Shadow Priests, Rain, and (what appears to be) Meat appear in the background.
First Person Shooter
- In the FPS video game Painkiller, one of the early stages is exactly like this. You fight your way through a graveyard full of revenants and confront the Big Baddie inside the cathedral. Something about the place isn't quite right... maybe it's the dismembered corpses suspended by chains from the ceiling?
- Notre Dame from Time Splitters 2 qualifies. It's full of undead for good measure.
- Return to Castle Wolfenstein in the appropriately named level "The Defiled Church", with Nazi soldiers on the top levels and undead in the bottom.
- In System Shock 2, After reversing the gravity in Deck 2 of the UNN Rickenbacker, the player comes across a coldly-lit, futuristic chapel that's been turned completely upside down. Naturally, the cross in the back now looks satanic, cleverly symbolizing the hellish nature of everything around the ship.
Hack And Slash
- Tristram Cathedral, the site of the main action in Diablo. It's got 16 levels, each more horrific than the last, and they eventually take you to Hell itself to face the title archdemon.
- The Cathedral is revisited in a limited capacity in the first act of Diablo III, where you make two trips — one to rescue Deckard Cain, and the other to destroy the Skeleton King and get to the bottom of the star that fell upon the cathedral.
- Diablo II:
- The Chaos Sanctuary looks like a cathedral. A cathedral that happens to be in Hell and doubles as Diablo's lair. When all five seals are opened, the place glows red.
- The Rogues' Monastery in the first act was a normal-looking cathedral, until Andariel and her demonic minions took over.
- The Durance of Hate from the third act was a temple used to imprison one of the Prime Evils, Mephisto, who used the opportunity to corrupt nearly every Zakarum priest and turn them into demons.
- Dwarf Fortress players tend to favor these as megaprojects, after Evil Towers Of Ominousness of course. They usually to revolve around offerings of blood for the blood god, Armok.
- The Cathedral is one of the final levels you can reach in The Binding of Isaac. True to Isaac form, pretty much every creature there is trying to kill you, up to and including the Cathedral's boss, which is none other than yourself.
- Enter the Gungeon has The Abbey of The True Gun; a secret area full of Religious-like elements and the Cardinal enemies, Bullet kin in priest clothing
Role Playing Game
- The Hulle Granz Cathedral from the .hack//G.U. games. Might not have the whole dungeon thing going, but makes up for it with sheer imposing ominousness, as well as being the home to more than a couple plot twists and epic battles through the series.
- The cathedral in Chrono Trigger has the whole "totally not evil" shtick going on, even though the residents couldn't be more obviously evil.
- Tales of Phantasia had the Cathedral of Fenrir. With, for bonus points, an organ BGM named "Perverse Religion".
- The Big Bad of Fallout resided under a Cathedral in the ruins of Los Angeles. The basement levels are especially creepy.
- Creepy Steeple from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
- The main feature of the Undead Parish in Dark Souls. With plenty of tough Undead, some very troublesome unique foes, its bell tower is also home to the first Bell Of Awakening. The cathedral in Anor Londo becomes this if you kill Gwynevere which causes the (fake) sun to vanish.
- Dark Souls III likes this trope. In addition to the imposing entrance to Lothric Castle, the Cathedral of the Deep is an entire area unto itself (dedicated to worshipping Aldrich), Pontiff Sulyvhan makes his home in one in Irithyll (more beautifully built, but still dedicated to worshipping Aldrich), and finally Anor Londo makes a return, except dark, covered with filth and slime, and, once again, now dedicated to worshipping Aldrich (the Aldrich faithful seem very fond of cathedrals).
- The Cathedral Ward from Bloodborne is the place for conducting blood transfusion by the Healing Church.
- The Chapel of Lights from Sunless Sea is out on a distant island in the far north and heavily isolated. The residents, who stick to the shadows and are rarely seen, offer visitors food which has a chance of being people; there's a well on the island that will eat your dreams and wound your soul, but only if you've committed cannibalism.
- The infernal plane of Stygia in Nexus Clash is dotted with Dark Cathedrals made of bones and packed with ancient dust and entrapped soul energy. As the Flavor Text puts it, "you don't want to be here during mass".
Stealth Based Game
- Thief: The Dark Project has a level where Garret must infiltrate a Hammerite cathedral at the epicenter of a disaster that ruined a district of The City decades ago, which has now been walled off and is infested with the undead. The Hammer Haunts in the cathedral itself are especially dangerous, and it is one of the most chilling levels in the game. The Soulforge Cathedral of the Mechanists from the second game (Thief : The Metal Age) isn't haunted, but it's still a very eerie place to be (at least during the events the mission is set in).
- Oublie Cathedral from Eternal Darkness would qualify. Most of the fighting and exposition takes place in the catacombs beneath it, though.
- The final level of Silent Hill 3 rakes place in the cult's church, which in complete with pews, pulpit, and confessional.
- The final sections of Brennenburg castle from Amnesia: The Dark Descent are named after the parts of a cathedral (Chancel, Choir, Transept, Nave), making it fit this, though it doesn't quite look like a church.
- The chapel near Mandus' home in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. The windows are stained with the blood of pigs and their mutilated corpses piled atop the altar. In the notes it is revealed this was a key source of "raw material" for the Manpigs, abducting entire congregations and sending them to the machine through a hidden passage.
Non-video game examples:
Anime & Manga
- In the fifth episode of Cowboy Bebop, "Ballad of Fallen Angels", Spike and Vicious have their bloody reunion in a cathedral.
- The cathedral from Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas where Tenma and his companions find Nasu Veronica. On top of that, Veronica is dressed as a nun and plays the organ as they arrive.
Films - Animated
Films - Live Action
- Gotham City Cathedral from Tim Burton's Batman, where the Batman and the Joker have their final confrontation. Amusingly, any Catholic will tell you that Catholic churches are almost always named after a saint, and never after the city or town in which they are located (which is a Protestant tradition). Of course, some famous cathedral's have widely used nicknames.
- True to its gothic aesthetic, the final battle between Eric Draven, Top Dollar and his minions in The Crow also takes place in an abandoned cathedral.
- Poul Anderson: In Operation Chaos, the cathedral and surrounding town of Siloam are extra creepy, including nonstop chanting of Barbarous Names.
- Most buildings are creepy in The Monk, but cathedrals, monasteries, and nunneries take the cake for places of of incredible terror and torture.
- The Dresden Files has an inverted example: when Denarians go into churchs and places of Faith, they have serious feelings of regret and uncertainty.
- The cathedral of Dras-Leona in Inheritance Cycle, where practitioners of a self-mutilating religion do their thing.
- Warhammer has plenty. Pretty much every major city in the Empire has a grandiose and imposing cathedral to Sigmar - grim fanatical warrior priests giving fiery sermons a given, and the remains witch burnings usually in evidence outside. The Great Cathedral in Altdorf is easily the biggest, and beneath it are miles of labyrinths where all manner of forbidden magical artifacts are locked away. The creepiest cathedrals have to be the ruinous ones of Sylvania though, which ratchet up the gothic horror element.
- The Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40,000, with its heavily gothic-inspired aesthetic, has these in abundance. Pretty much any John Blanche illustration will have a background full of them, and the remains of smaller ones are available as scenery kits for the game. Even the aesthetics of the largest Imperial Titans are full of gothic cathedral elements, and Imperial Spaceships have creepy cathedrals integrated into their superstructure. Special mention must go to Black Templars Chaplain Grimaldus though, who is accompanied by a retinue of Cenobyte Servitors carrying pieces of a destroyed Imperial Cathedral with them as holy relics. Most religious buildings are generally decorated with winged skulls which are symbols of the Imperium.
- Moving up from Imperial gothic-creepiness into full-on splatterpunk horror, temples to Chaos - the work of the Word Bearers, generally - are typically forged from human bodies (either by using blood to mortar the stones or literally by building the entire structure out of human bits), full of editions of the Book of Lorgar written on the skin of slain Imperial priests, and materials that don't usually exist in normal spacetime, and bear such cheery features as sacrificial altars, torture chambers, constantly shifting runes that hurt the eyes to look upon, and the like.
- One nightmare on the Nightmare Project had a strange church with groups of bizarre believers, Templars, animated shrine and a void that no one seems to notice.
- The Cathedral, a highly creepy CGI short by Tomasz Bagiński.
- Zig-zagged by Notre Dame in The Hunchback of Notre Dame; it's not consistently creepy as it's often beautiful and is home to most of the film, including Heartwarming Moments, but is also scary in the opening scene. Lightning illuminates the eyes of the statues so they appear to look angry at Frollo, giving him a guilty conscience over trying to kill Quasimodo. (While the creepiness in this case saves someone's life it's still one of the many scary and dark moments in the film.)