Upon first entering St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, most visitors can’t help but do one thing: look up. This hulking Italian Renaissance church—designed in part by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bernini—dates back to the 16th century and boasts some of the world’s most impressive, painstakingly crafted ceiling mosaics. During construction, the church enlisted the most skilled artisans of the period for the job, resulting in a treasury of shimmering glass-tile creations that are so precisely executed that they’re often mistaken for paintings.
Many awe-inspiring examples of this centuries-old art form can be spotted outside the Vatican City walls—you just have no know where to look. From a palace turned hotel in Budapest to a historic Chicago department store, we’ve rounded up some of the world’s most stunning glass ceilings.
Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, Spain
Built between 1905 and 1908, architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner’s Catalan Art Nouveau masterpiece is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts a monumental stained-glass-and-mosaic ceiling.
Photo: Getty Images/Izzet Keribar
Shah Cheragh, Shiraz, Iran
Shah Cheragh, a funerary monument and mosque, is also known as the Emerald Mosque because of its mesmerizing mirror-mosaic ceiling and the shimmering chandeliers that hang from it.
Photo: Getty Images/Stefano Oppo
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy
Built between 1865 and 1877 at the intersection of two streets, this sprawling arcade is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in Italy. The crown jewel of the arcade is its soaring 164-foot-tall octagonal glass dome, located at the very center of the complex.
Hundreds of thousands of pieces of glass comprise the mosaic ceiling of the d’Angleterre’s Palm Court, making it the largest ceiling of its kind in Northern Europe. It was designed by Italian glass artist Albano Poli, whose other mosaic credits include a blown-glass rose window at the Santa Croce Basilica in Florence and mosaics in the Vatican Gardens.
Photo: Getty Images/UIG/Jeff Greenberg
Tiffany Dome at Macy’s, Chicago, USA
High above the makeup department on the first floor of Macy’s in Chicago sits the largest Tiffany mosaic in existence. Originally commissioned for the Marshall Field’s department store (acquired and renamed by Macy’s in 2006), Tiffany’s magnum opus is comprised of 1.6 million pieces of iridescent glass.
Photo: Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest, Hungary
Guests of this Art Nouveau treasure, located on the banks of the Danube River, are greeted by a sprawling white-and-aqua-blue glass atrium in the hotel’s lobby. The glass ceiling, described by the hotel as “a true labor of love,” was designed to enclose what was originally a horse-and-carriage drop-off for the palace.
Photo: Getty Images/ppnmm
Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
Also known as the Pink Mosque, the Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque features a sprawling presentation of candy-color glass mosaic ceilings, accentuated by kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows and rainbow-hued carpets.