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Creepy Cathedral

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"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."
Heinrich Heine, The Romantic School

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 into 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 Crosses at no extra charge. Other action scenes, especially in works aiming for a gothic vibe, might take place in an abandoned cathedral instead.


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  • 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.
  • 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 The 7th Guest 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 the inside.

    Fighting Game 

    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?
  • 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.
  • Notre Dame from TimeSplitters 2 qualifies. It's full of undead for good measure.
  • ULTRAKILL: The Heresy layer (after a brief stint through dungeon-like tunnels) takes the look of a massive church in a blood-red landscape swallowed by red fog and fire. You find Gabriel at the very heart of the church in question, too, playing the organ while waiting with as much patience as his fury lets him afford.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Diablo series:
    • Tristram Cathedral, the site of the main action in Diablo (1997). 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.

    Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game 
  • Final Fantasy XIV: The penultimate MSQ dungeon of the Heavensward expansion is "The Vault", which serves as both the center of worship and the tactical headquarters of the Ishgardian Orthodox Church. The cathedral itself is the first section of the dungeon and is separately referred to as Saint Thordan's Basilica.
  • In World of Warcraft: Legion, the Tomb of Sargeras has a 5-player dungeon called "The Cathedral of Eternal Light" at its summit. The Tomb itself looks like a creepy cathedral.


    Role-Playing Game 
  • The Cathedral Ward from Bloodborne is the place for conducting blood transfusion by the Healing Church.
  • The cathedral in Chrono Trigger has the whole "totally not evil" shtick going on, even though the residents couldn't be more obviously evil.
  • 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 Big Bad of Fallout resided under a Cathedral in the ruins of Los Angeles. The basement levels are especially creepy.
  • 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 of plot twists and epic battles through the series.
  • 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".
  • Creepy Steeple from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
  • The Grand Cathedral is a...well, massive cathedral that functions as The Very Definitely Final Dungeon of Shin Megami Tensei I. Interestingly, where you go to fight the Final Boss depends on your route: If you're in the Law Route, you fight that route's final boss in the depths of the Cathedral, while in the Chaos route you fight the final boss at the highest floor. In the Neutral Route, you fight both in whichever order you want.
  • 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 that 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.
  • Tales of Phantasia had the Cathedral of Fenrir. With, for bonus points, an organ BGM named "Perverse Religion".
  • In Vagrant Story, the Cathedral is The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Located at the very center of Leá Monde, it's the place where the power of The Dark is at its strongest.

    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).

    Survival Horror 
  • Amnesia
    • The final sections of Brennenburg castle from Amnesia: The Dark Descent are named after the parts of a cathedral (Chancel, Choir, Transept, Nave), though the set as a whole 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.
  • Oublie Cathedral from Eternal Darkness would qualify. Most of the fighting and exposition take place in the catacombs beneath it, though.
  • Near the end of >OBSERVER_, Dan Lazarski enters such a cathedral, converted into a VR Salon called "Sanctuary" on the inside. He talks to his digitized son Adam when entering his VR capsule, who directs him to an even creepier hotel next door.
  • Pops up in the Resident Evil series:
  • The final level of Silent Hill 3 takes place in the cult's church, which is complete with pews, pulpit, and confessional.
  • The setting of Wick (2020) is a Gothic cathedral where all the lights have gone out and seemingly everyone has been killed or driven away by a plague. And that's without mentioning the malevolent zombie nun and demon flies out to get you.

Non-video game examples:

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Inverted in "The Paris Trip," where Penny, her mom, and the three pets greatly enjoy a visit to Chartres Cathedral. All but Rhino are in awe of the architecture and stained glass, while the hamster prefers seeing the gargoyles. Mittens and Berlioz also greatly like the stained glass at a visit to Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live Action 
  • Gotham City Cathedral from Batman (1989), 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). Some famous cathedrals 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.
  • In the Tall Grass: There's an abandoned, dilapidated church opposite the grass maze called the Church of the Black Rock. When Travis investigates, he finds a closed door at the back. It later turns out to be an exit portal from the maze, although one can only access it by becoming one with the black rock.

  • The Dresden Files has an inverted example: when Denarians go into churches 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.
  • A few of M. R. James' ghost stories are explicitly set around haunted cathedrals.
  • In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, the Lord Ruler, a tyrannical living god, resides in a giant, imposing cathedral-like palace called Kredik Shaw, also known as The Hill of a Thousand Spires. Being in and around Kredik Shaw fills one with an overwhelming sense of depression.
  • Most buildings are creepy in The Monk, but cathedrals, monasteries, and nunneries take the cake for places of incredible terror and torture.
  • Poul Anderson: In Operation Chaos, the cathedral and surrounding town of Siloam are extra creepy, including nonstop chanting of Barbarous Names.
  • The abandoned Church of Starry Wisdom from H. P. Lovecraft's "The Haunter of the Dark"; the building is so shunned by the community that when an investigative reporter went to research the place and never returned, it took decades for anyone to find his remains there.

  • On the Threshold has the Cathedral of Bar Shacath, a VR environment created by a Mad Artist intended to inspire the "inversion of religious ecstasy." We don't learn much about its contents, except that the frequency of the candle flames has been precisely calibrated in a way that causes seizures in many participants, and its altar with the corpse of Jesus Christ is considered "a minor prelude to what's deeper inside".

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 of 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, an animated shrine, and a void that no one seems to notice.

    Western Animation 
  • "The Cathedral", a highly creepy CGI short by Tomasz Bagiński.