SPLIT: Churches need to be designed around the Liturgy


Hy husband once worked for a firm which was designing mosques where he designed the structural round tower part. The Muslims required that it be ornate and beautiful. So why aren’t Catholics Churches where the one true God is worshiped in spirit and in truth be also required to be beautiful and even ornate?


This thread has me baffled. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Some like the simplicity of modern lines with just the main elements visible, while others prefer the ornate. Both are beautiful to different people as to what beauty means to them. By no means should that affect the worship experience IMO. Our eyes should be focused on the action that is in the sanctuary: ambo during the Liturgy of the Word and the altar during the Liturgy of The Eucharist. Period.


Yeah, but I’ll bite.

But our Churches are in use for those liturgies a small fraction of the time. Yes, during Mass, we don’t need to worry too much about the environment. But the environment of a Church is not just about making it easier to focus on the altar during Mass. The environment itself should give glory to God, during **and **outside of Mass.


Agreed. I’m new and catching up. See my response above yours. I think you’d agree from your posts on a previous thread.


And I’ll bite back! LOL! My post stands and says what I think. All churches, simply in form or the ornate, give glory to God. Again, it’s who is making that judgment. Take the church in a tent in poor area of the world and those make-shift churches in war torn areas. The glory of God is still present, ornate or not. Besides that, the church is really the people and not the surroundings. Sure, I love to visit a beautifully designed ornate church, but I find myself loving the simplest of forms as well. To say that any church’s interior is so poor is not a fair statement to those who think it is beautiful. We need not judge what others think or feel.


Yikes yikes yikes! I’m not so sure. I think something can be objectively ugly and still liked–plenty of things fit in that category!–and conversely, objectively beautiful but disliked.

I am of the opinion that beauty is a quality that exists independent of ornate vs. simple. Both can be beautiful, but in different ways and for different reasons. They show different Christian ideals, I would say, and they have different places and uses. It would be odd (generally) for a Benedictine monastery to be extremely ornate, although I know of a few of those.


I did not contest your “eye of the beholder” statement only your statement on where the focus of the people should be.

Besides that, the church is really the people and not the surroundings.

But we aren’t talking about the appearance of people but of the buildings created for worship.

Sure, I love to visit a beautifully designed ornate church, but I find myself loving the simplest of forms as well. To say that any church’s interior is so poor is not a fair statement to those who think it is beautiful.

As pointed out earlier, there is some objective beauty and some objective ugliness. But it would be more “fair” to say that some forms of architecture are not very Catholic, reflecting a more Puritan aesthetic.

We need not judge what others think or feel

But we can most certainly judge what people do, including building (and asking us to pay for) some very sorry Church buildings.


Don’t know what the “Yikes (X3)” was all about. You are saying what I am saying and therefore agree.




Beautiful: it’s a matter of taste.

Ornate: it’s a matter of tradition. Not all traditions in the Catholic Church have had ornate churches. The Monastic orders, in particular, favour very plain churches, such as the conventual church of the abbey I’m an oblate of:



Blessed Sacrament chapel:


Here’s another example, Clear Creek Abbey in the US, where they celebrate the EF Mass:


Val Notre Dame, a Trappist abbey in Quebec:




But the fact that the monastic orders like plain Churches is not a good reason **by itself **to impose the plain, undecorated look on other, non-monastic Churches. The tradition for parish Churches (and even more so in cathedrals) in the West is to have statuary, stained glass and other decorative touches that are instructional and more ornate.


With all due respect, no one is saying that there should be a reason to impose anything. And, who or what document states that we should follow any tradition in decorating our churches? Are you saying that the monastic orders are not instructed in their faith because they don’t have the elements that make you feel comfy?


No, I am saying that the claim “the monastic orders did it” is not by itself a reason to impose anything on another, non-monastic part of the Church.

The monks were very instructed and that’s just the point. In the time when the monastic orders began to flourish, they were some of the most literate Catholics around. And they were all adults. The didn’t** need **anything in the environment to serve as a teaching tool. The same is not true of parishes. Parishes are a mix of uncatechized and even semi-literate parishioners mixed in with those who are well versed in everything Catholic and they come in all ages. A two year old can learn who Mary is by pausing for a prayer in front of a stature or learn the names of the Saints pictured in the stained glass windows long before formal religious ed begins.


No one is saying Monastic spirituality in church design needs to be imposed on anyone.

But you do realize that monastic orders were responsible for providing the clergy for many parishes, and they would have certainly influenced their churches. Many monasteries were also territorial abbeys that took the place of a diocese. There are still a few in existence; the abbot acted as the de facto bishop of the territory. In many places the monastic church was the de facto parish church.

Incidentally when it comes to catechezing, you’re right, artwork was used. Inside Subiaco abbey in Italy, many ancient frescoes tell the story of the scriptures, the saints, etc.; there’s a fresco of St. Francis of Assisi who visited there for advice prior to forming his order; it’s one of the few depictions of him without the stigmata. The earliest fresco there dates back to the eight century!

Monastic tradition is a valid tradition in the Church and there’s nothing wrong with it influencing (not imposing) their spirituality if the parish desires it, just as a parish may have Franciscan or other elements of spirituality expressed either visually or otherwise.

Inasmuch as plain churches represent a form of austere spirituality that has its place in the history and traditions of the Church, there’s nothing wrong with it as long as it’s done for the right reasons, just as there’s nothing wrong with a more traditionally ornate Catholic church if that’s the direction the parish leans and they can afford it.


Ironically, your first sentence was my edit, but did not publish in time! This is not going well, someone is sore and shouting now! LOL!
What I see are beautiful churches no matter who they belong to. Thank you. And, since they are pictures of only one area of each church, who knows what “instructional” elements are in other areas. I’ll take these designs over the overly ornate, dripping in gold, with icons, pictures and statues galore any day. Have we missed the Gospel message of simplicity? Maybe, the Gospel message for this Sunday should be studied. Or, is it the church with the most golden statues wins?


The Saudi Government (monarchy) and wealthy citizens pay for many mosques around the world - thousands of them - to the tune of US$ 48 billion since the 1960s. As examples, King Fahd donated US$ 50 million to build the Islamic Cultural Center in Rome and US$ 8 million to build the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California.

Other Government and middle-eastern oil money is involved.

This is their right. I’m not saying that it is wrong. I’m just explaining where much of the money comes from. I would do the same for the Catholic Church if I were wealthy.



A lot of Catholics (and non-Catholics) poured in a lot of money for statues, communion rails, paintings, confessionals, flowers, candles, gold, censers, incence, etc. This wasn’t all for show; they were indeed gifts they brought for the greater glory of God. I can only presume churches which are empty have refused or discouraged such gifts from their parishioners?





Alternately, such churches may have “experts” who think they have better ideas. Let me tell you about my own home parish - a few years ago, they renovated it, and added a whole group of new statues that are identical except for the beard, moustache and clothing. It felt like “The Sims: Church Edition!” When St. Patrick, Our Blessed Mother, Our Lord and St. Thomas all look the same, it’s hard to feel edified. :stuck_out_tongue:

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