Visitors to the Vatican are often awestruck by the immensity of the Catholic spiritual center, but it is actually a visit to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat that will take you to the largest religious building in the world. With an area of almost 2 square miles, this massive temple and surrounding complex have served as a spiritual beacon for Hindus and Buddhists for nearly 900 years.
Angkor Wat was built in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu by Khmer king Suryavarman II in the early 1100’s to serve as his temple and capital city. Located in Angkor, Cambodia, the name is directly translated as “Angkor School” (though the term wat is used to refer to most Southeast Asian monasteries) as there is no inscription or record of its original name. While it was a Hindu temple for over 200 years, it was converted to Theravada Buddhism with the entire empire when King Srindravarman deposed his father-in-law after spending 10 years in Sri Lanka becoming ordained as a Buddhist monk.