Modern Church Architecture; No Place For God

There is a new book by Moyra Doorly entitled “No Place for God.”

Book Description
Once modern science declared the emptiness and meaninglessness of a strictly material universe, it was only a matter of time before architects would adopt the new understanding of space, that is to say that no space is special because none is any different or better than any other.
In their quest to adapt to and speak to the present age, Catholics over the last forty years have unquestioningly allowed the trends in modern architecture to fashion their churches, and the outcome has been the construction of the ugliest and emptiest churches in history, according to author Moyra Doorly, an architect from England.

Publisher Ignatius Press (April 30, 2007).

In No Place for God, Doorly traces the principles of modern architecture to the ideas of space that spread rapidly during the twentieth century. She sees a parallel between the desacralization of the heavens, and consequently of our churches, and the mass inward search for a god of one’s own. This double movement – away from the transcendent God, who reveals himself to man through Scripture and tradition, and toward an inner truth relevant only to oneself – has emptied our churches, and the worship that takes place within them, of the majesty and beauty that once inspired reverence in both believers and unbelievers alike.

In non-technical language accompanied by photographs, Doorly explains what has gone wrong with our churches and suggests a simple way to begin rectifying it.

Sounds like a great book–thanks for posting!

Has anyone thought of getting rid of pews altogether? I wonder how that would be. Perhaps experimentally it could be done in a few places. They must be expensive to buy, install, and maintain, and once in place they fill up the space quite rigidly. They weren’t necessary for quite a long time it seems. And no metal chairs either. Just standing and kneeling.

Does the craftmanship and talent required for a a baroque or gothic style church even exist anymore? I’d love to see more of those type of churches but I’ve been thinking and I dont even know if its possible nowadays.

Michael Rose lists architectural resources in his book Ugly as Sin.

Second, the very bizarre sculpture of a shapeless, formless Christ on a spear holding a “wishbone” (they say its a dove but I beg to differ) with an out-of-proportion crown of thorns is hideous. Archbishop Weakland often stated that the reason for bringing the altar into the middle of the church was to give it prominence—that our entire faith is based on what happens on that altar. If that was truly his intention he has sorely failed. The very small marble altar is dwarfed by the “crown of thorns” sculpture and the massive organ pipes in the former Sanctuary.


Christ holding a “wishbone”…geez…how evil.

“First, there is no more than 15” between each row of chairs–with many rows at 11" (yes I did measure). Place a tape measure on the floor and put two chairs on either end of your ruler. Now imagine trying to climb over people sitting on the ends of the rows with only 11" with which to maneuver!"

-Sounds like a fire hazard.

If that the case, my mother is the person who won’t be able to attend mass. I am sure you don’t want that to happen. :wink:

Don’t forget there are elderly without wheelchair and those who have physical problems that they can’t either stand or kneel too long. Are you ok if they sit or lay down on the floor. :smiley:

:smiley: Of course I don’t want to propose anything that would exclude people. Some chairs then.

Seriously though, are there any experiments going on with removal of pews and chairs?

I dont’ know if there is any. It could be in some poor country where they couldn’t afford to have pews. My church has just had a new church built, and we sent all the old pews to a church in Mexico.

well, I don’t think it is such a good idea. It is already hard to convince people to go to church with nice pew having cushion on. Having to stand and kneel will be a big challenge for many people.

This reminds me when I was a kid. We usually had Eucharistic Adoration every Sunday night. Our priest let us kneel approximately for 1 hour. There was no cushion on the kneeler - it was hard wood. I don’t know if I could do that now.

I couldn’t seethe sculpture well but it seems to be bizarre though.

They would rent them out at the door. Where is your entrepreneur prowess? :smiley:

I think it does, but it is not in their plans. The above picture of this church looks more like a spaceship. I would be afraid of that ceiling collasping down upon my head. Weird.

I don’t know what to make of this Catholic Church in Austria?

Some descendant of Rubik’s cube, I think.


ctos and water,

I was in Russia in the early 1990’s. Not a pew in site in ANY of the Russian Orthodox churches I visited there. There never have been, even the Czar and his family stood. They stand the entire time. For those who absolutely need them, they would allow small chairs to be placed against the wall in the back. The churches and Divine Litergy were among the most beautiful and reverent I have ever experienced, but standing the whole time is really hard to get used to and if you are short like me, you cannot see anything. I hope the idea of no pews and chairs does not catch on here


Hmmm…a “traditional Catholic” forum and people are pushing for something introduced by the Protestants! Strange…

The early churches had no pews – just a few benches around the outside for the elderly, infirm and pregnant women. They would stand for the entire liturgy (for the Copts that is over 3 hours!).

Deacon Ed

Well, those catacombs weren’t exactly a Saturday night out on the town. :slight_smile:

Not so strange if you have ever had to stand through a 3+ hour service. I like heating, air conditioning, and electric lights in a church too, also not found in early churches.

However, Deacon Ed’s comment made me wonder about something. Modern Synagogues, at least the ones in America, all have pews. Is that a relatively modern innovation too? It could very well be. I know that most Reform and Conservative Synagogues look remarkably like Protestant churches. Does anyone know when pews became popular Synagogues?

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