Church architecture


#1

Hey I was having an discussion with my parents and they said that a Church’s architecture didn’t matter since (a) it’s used for worship not to look pretty and (b) the cost to build and maintain a traditional latin style style church is too much for so many parishes. I was wondering if this is true?


#2

[quote="Capuchinfan1337, post:1, topic:347565"]
Hey I was having an discussion with my parents and they said that a Church's architecture didn't matter since (a) it's used for worship not to look pretty and (b) the cost to build and maintain a traditional latin style style church is too much for so many parishes. I was wondering if this is true?

[/quote]

It may be true that Church architecture doesn't matter to your parents.

I would submit that Church architecture does indeed matter very much. However it is also the case that a given parish might have needs or good reasons to choose a style of architecture other than "traditional Latin style".


#3

Besides the fact that there are immense problems with the term “traditional Latin style church”–what does that mean really?–I would just like to point out that the modernist and postmodernist monstrosities built in the last sixty years, and even a little before, both as churches and as secular buildings, were by no means cheap or easy to build.

Just because a church looks like a weird modular spaceship or a jumble of Jenga blocks thrown around randomly and stuck together with Play-Doh with the most abstruse and unrecognizable art in it–if indeed there is any art–does not make such a building cheap. In fact, these structures are often horrifically expensive.

I grin at this, because implicit in the belief that such structures are cheaper to build than more conventional/normal churches is the idea that because something is less adorned and more puzzling–which aesthetic I would argue is vastly more elitist than any obscenely florid Baroque aesthetic–it must! have been cheaper to construct.

It is wonderfully ironic, isn’t it, that these buildings are typically the most expensive?


Now, I realize the blocky horrors may not be the alternative your parents have in mind to ornate architecture. There is a continuum between Rococo and brutalist. I fundamentally and absolutely disagree with your parents’ working assumption that it doesn’t really matter for churches to be aesthetically pleasing, generally speaking. I would put forward the ideal of Romanesque architecture with moderate decoration as a good middle ground between the Baroque basilica on the one hand and the car-park-under-concrete-overpass on the other hand.

You might like to check out Our Lady of the Rosary’s of Greenville, SC, planned church. Their parish is by no means wealthy.


#4

There’s a lot of churches in my area that don’t have much of a “style” for those very reasons. In the parish I currently go to, the worship area is pretty much just a large room. There’s a large cross on one wall, an altar in the middle, and a large baptismal pool/fountain at the entrance. The daily mass chapel is a smaller room with a portable altar and a few pictures. It’s a modern styling, but not anything particularly fancy. I believe it’s the most recent parish around and is designed to serve primarily the 3 college campuses nearby.

The aesthetics isn’t my favorite, but I do accept that they probably didn’t have the budget to build a building like the cathedral, with its stained glass windows and columned architecture. And much of it is designed to appeal to a younger crowd.


#5

Pax Christi!

When Gothic style was invented in the

(ahem!)

[SIGN]GLORIOUS!![/SIGN]
(thank you)

twelfth century, St. Bernard loudly denounced it.

For what it’s worth. All music, art and architecture was once new. And eventually gets old.

God bless!


#6

[quote="SMHW, post:2, topic:347565"]
It may be true that Church architecture doesn't matter to your parents.

I would submit that Church architecture does indeed matter very much. However it is also the case that a given parish might have needs or good reasons to choose a style of architecture other than "traditional Latin style".

[/quote]

Why does the architecture matter? It has nothing to do with our faith or salvation.


#7

[quote="YoungTradCath, post:3, topic:347565"]
Besides the fact that there are immense problems with the term "traditional Latin style church"--what does that mean really?--I would just like to point out that the modernist and postmodernist monstrosities built in the last sixty years, and even a little before, both as churches and as secular buildings, were by no means cheap or easy to build.

Just because a church looks like a weird modular spaceship or a jumble of Jenga blocks thrown around randomly and stuck together with Play-Doh with the most abstruse and unrecognizable art in it--if indeed there is any art--does not make such a building cheap. In fact, these structures are often horrifically expensive.

I grin at this, because implicit in the belief that such structures are cheaper to build than more conventional/normal churches is the idea that because something is less adorned and more puzzling--which aesthetic I would argue is vastly more elitist than any obscenely florid Baroque aesthetic--it must! have been cheaper to construct.

It is wonderfully ironic, isn't it, that these buildings are typically the most expensive?


Now, I realize the blocky horrors may not be the alternative your parents have in mind to ornate architecture. There is a continuum between Rococo and brutalist. I fundamentally and absolutely disagree with your parents' working assumption that it doesn't really matter for churches to be aesthetically pleasing, generally speaking. I would put forward the ideal of Romanesque architecture with moderate decoration as a good middle ground between the Baroque basilica on the one hand and the car-park-under-concrete-overpass on the other hand.

You might like to check out Our Lady of the Rosary's of Greenville, SC, planned church. Their parish is by no means wealthy.

[/quote]

I agree with you that modern art is probably just as expensive as art with a more ancient style. I won't say "ancient art," because I assume that if you are purchasing an original piece of ancient art, you will pay a lot!

However, I think what makes more modern churches cheaper, if they are well-designed, is their heating and cooling systems. It costs a fortune to heat and cool older church buildings. A good design can greatly reduce these costs.

Incidentally, if you have a pipe organ and other acoustic instruments, they have to have a good heating/cooling system to survive. A pipe organ or an acoustic piano can't be left in a freezing nave, or in a hot, humid nave, for all the seven days that it's not being used.

However, to get a "well-designed" church building means paying for a really good architect, and that costs a whole heapin' lotta cash! I personally think it would be money wisely-spent though. Get the design correct from the very beginning, and you'll save money down through the years.

One of the problems with a lot of the modern church buildings is the wretched acoustics. We're in a clamshell, and from what I understand, tens of thousands of dollars have been spent over the decades trying to get the acoustics fixed so that the majority of people sitting out in the "shell" of the clamshell can actually HEAR what is happening up front! It hasn't worked. It's my personal opinion that the parish should just give up and tell everyone to listen to the Mass through earbuds or headphones.

My personal preference is for the stark church naves with very little art and only a few basic colors (black and white is pretty, as is white with blue or sand with green). I love expansive spaces with high ceilings, but these are an acoustic nightmare. The older "Cruciform" design is actually much better for hearing.

We have to keep in mind that in the OF, hearing is everything. The purpose for putting everything in the vernacular was to help the people understand. But if they can't HEAR it, they will utterly fail to understand. At least in the EF, people didn't need to hear to understand what was going on (by following their missals). But in the OF, unless the people are holding a copy of the OF liturgy (which is in many of the church devotionals, e.g., The Word Among Us), they won't understand a thing.

Music especially suffers in the OF. What is the good of having hymns in the vernacular if the choir or cantor can't be heard or understood?

Another acoustic nightmare is the use of marble (or marble-like substances) in building church naves. Yes, it's beautiful, but it bounces sound around and creates spooky echoes. The churches filled with wood (e.g., the old Lutheran church, built in 1862, where I take my organ lessons) are the best for sound--very "warm" and easy to listen to .
Again, a good architect should be able to take care of all this in their design. But he or she will not come cheaply!


#8

[quote="thistle, post:6, topic:347565"]
Why does the architecture matter? It has nothing to do with our faith or salvation.

[/quote]

Church architecture and decoration is something of a "catechism".

It doesn't matter what the style, it's trying to say something about our Faith. This is true for both "traditional" and modern styles.

In my opinion, even a decision to make permanent use of a building originally designed for a non-religious function is a statement about our Faith.


#9

[quote="YoungTradCath, post:3, topic:347565"]
Besides the fact that there are immense problems with the term "traditional Latin style church"--what does that mean really?--I would just like to point out that the modernist and postmodernist monstrosities built in the last sixty years, and even a little before, both as churches and as secular buildings, were by no means cheap or easy to build.

Just because a church looks like a weird modular spaceship or a jumble of Jenga blocks thrown around randomly and stuck together with Play-Doh with the most abstruse and unrecognizable art in it--if indeed there is any art--does not make such a building cheap. In fact, these structures are often horrifically expensive.

I grin at this, because implicit in the belief that such structures are cheaper to build than more conventional/normal churches is the idea that because something is less adorned and more puzzling--which aesthetic I would argue is vastly more elitist than any obscenely florid Baroque aesthetic--it must! have been cheaper to construct.

It is wonderfully ironic, isn't it, that these buildings are typically the most expensive?


Now, I realize the blocky horrors may not be the alternative your parents have in mind to ornate architecture. There is a continuum between Rococo and brutalist. I fundamentally and absolutely disagree with your parents' working assumption that it doesn't really matter for churches to be aesthetically pleasing, generally speaking. I would put forward the ideal of Romanesque architecture with moderate decoration as a good middle ground between the Baroque basilica on the one hand and the car-park-under-concrete-overpass on the other hand.

You might like to check out Our Lady of the Rosary's of Greenville, SC, planned church. Their parish is by no means wealthy.

[/quote]

To paraphrase the Holy Father: I consider you to be the best interpreter of Catholic architecture. :)


#10

The Cathedral from the Romanesque to the Gothic Architecture: The Theological Background by Pope Benedict XVI.

***So it was that the Romanesque churches and cathedrals came into being. They were characterized by the longitudinal development, in length, of the aisles, in order to accommodate numerous faithful. They were very solid churches with thick walls, stone vaults and simple, spare lines. An innovation was the introduction of sculptures. Because Romanesque churches were places for monastic prayer and for the worship of the faithful, rather than being concerned with technical perfection the sculptors turned their attention in particular to the educational dimension.

In the 12th and 13th centuries another kind of architecture for sacred buildings spread from the north of France: the Gothic. It had two new characteristics in comparison with the Romanesque, a soaring upward movement and luminosity. Gothic cathedrals show a synthesis of faith and art harmoniously expressed in the fascinating universal language of beauty which still elicits wonder today. By the introduction of vaults with pointed arches supported by robust pillars, it was possible to increase their height considerably. The upward thrust was intended as an invitation to prayer and at the same time was itself a prayer. Thus the Gothic cathedral intended to express in its architectural lines the soul’s longing for God.***


Read More…

-Tim-


#11

The Church houses God Himself. It should be nice. We should remember this fact. We have gone down a road of pure utilitarianism for many things, and miss the innate messages that are given by this.

If as the OP parents' believe that it doesn't matter, then the message is THAT IT DOESN'T MATTER. If the place where we house God Himself cannot be nice, what does that say about our belief in the Real Presence? Do we really believe?

And you know the sad thing about all this? 99 times out of 100, the people who espouse this type of opinion don't live in a Spartan, bland, empty home. They live in a nice home that they have lovingly decorated.


#12

Huh?


#13

[quote="zz912, post:11, topic:347565"]
The Church houses God Himself. It should be nice. We should remember this fact. We have gone down a road of pure utilitarianism for many things, and miss the innate messages that are given by this.

If as the OP parents' believe that it doesn't matter, then the message is THAT IT DOESN'T MATTER. If the place where we house God Himself cannot be nice, what does that say about our belief in the Real Presence? Do we really believe?

And you know the sad thing about all this? 99 times out of 100, the people who espouse this type of opinion don't live in a Spartan, bland, empty home. They live in a nice home that they have lovingly decorated.

[/quote]

It depends. Monastics have a tradition of living in a Spartan, bland (relatively speaking) and nearly empty home, quite apart from the actual style in which the building was designed.

I tend to prefer that in a church.

In my mind, a Benedictine church shouldn't look like this (abbey church of Mote Cassino in Italy)

i179.photobucket.com/albums/w312/OraLabora/Italy%202009/DSCN0508.jpg

but rather more like this (small chapel in the same abbey with some elements going back to the 11th century)

i179.photobucket.com/albums/w312/OraLabora/Italy%202009/DSCN0492.jpg

or this (Blessed Sacrament chapel at the abbey I'm associated with)

i179.photobucket.com/albums/w312/OraLabora/SBL3_zps83feec1a.jpg

and (monk's choir at same abbey):

i179.photobucket.com/albums/w312/OraLabora/SBL1_zps9552e834.jpg


#14

Considering that wreckovators have spent millions upon millions of dollars absolutely destroying beautiful Churches, I find it amusing that cost is now held up as the reason why we can’t build architecturally traditional buildings anymore.


#15

[quote="OraLabora, post:13, topic:347565"]
It depends. Monastics have a tradition of living in a Spartan, bland (relatively speaking) and nearly empty home, quite apart from the actual style in which the building was designed.

I tend to prefer that in a church.

In my mind, a Benedictine church shouldn't look like this (abbey church of Mote Cassino in Italy)

but rather more like this (small chapel in the same abbey with some elements going back to the 11th century)

or this (Blessed Sacrament chapel at the abbey I'm associated with)

and (monk's choir at same abbey):

[/quote]

"If we bring forth our raptures in harmonious unison, if we surround our worship with all the magnificence of the arts, if we seek from nature the most precious things that she has to embellish our altars, and if our basilicas have shown the world new marvels and splendors, who can be surprised? The King of heaven and earth, our Savior and our God, dwells among us in person." - Fr. Charles Arminjon


#16

[quote="digitalpapist, post:15, topic:347565"]
"If we bring forth our raptures in harmonious unison, if we surround our worship with all the magnificence of the arts, if we seek from nature the most precious things that she has to embellish our altars, and if our basilicas have shown the world new marvels and splendors, who can be surprised? The King of heaven and earth, our Savior and our God, dwells among us in person." - Fr. Charles Arminjon

[/quote]

Be that as it may, it is still not the monastic tradition. The monastic tradition is bare and austere churches. It goes back a long, long time. It's not up to us to tell 1500 years of monks that they've been wrong all this time.


#17

[quote="OraLabora, post:16, topic:347565"]
Be that as it may, it is still not the monastic tradition. The monastic tradition is bare and austere churches. It goes back a long, long time. It's not up to us to tell 1500 years of monks that they've been wrong all this time.

[/quote]

No one is saying the monastic tradition is wrong. It is totally legitimate in its own right. But I'm trying to wrangle out how the monastic tradition somehow supersedes the others nowadays?


#18

Exactly.


#19

[quote="EphelDuath, post:17, topic:347565"]
No one is saying the monastic tradition is wrong. It is totally legitimate in its own right. But I'm trying to wrangle out how the monastic tradition somehow supersedes the others nowadays?

[/quote]

I never said it did.

Take it in the context of the statement I was replying to, which implied that the only option was a nicely decorated church because one's home isn't spartan.

It isn't. A spartan church is perfectly legitimate and traditional. It's a legitimate option for a monastery and a legitimate one for a parish church, especially if that parish church has a monastic connection as many do.

And it's perfectly legitimate to have a preference for that style. I do. Some don't. That's fair enough.


#20

The style of architecture for parish churches shouldn't come down to personal preference. If the church is actually for, or connected to, a monastic community, then it is perfectly reasonable to be built in that style. But that hasn't been imposed on the entire Roman rite. Churches should be built in continuity with the architecture and design of past ages -- and although some superficial things have changed since the Romanesque or Gothic or Renaissance or Baroque periods, most of it has generally been retained in terms of fundamental aesthetic principles. And that's not something that was intended to have become optional.


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