What is the architectural corollary of Saint Francis of Assisi’s “holy poverty”? Is it the shantytowns of the third world or the stylish minimalism of first-world condiminiums? When we build churches, schools, and soup kitchens, should they be cheap or at least look cheap?
When the Catholic priest and architect Leon Battista Alberti (AD 1404–1472) wrote of the ideal church, he asserted: “I would deck it out in every part so that anyone who entered it would start with awe for his admiration at all the noble things, and could scarcely restrain himself from exclaiming that what he saw was a place undoubtedly worthy of God.”
Different beliefs and practices between Roman Catholics and Protestants have created divergent views regarding sacred art and architecture.
A few years ago—more than a century after the laying of the first stone—the Sagrada Família Church in Barcelona was consecrated. It is probably the most famous example of sacred modern architecture in Europe, but it is not the only church to have been built at the end of the nineteenth century.
America’s diverse faith traditions and their teachings are expressed through both soaring and humble architecture, in prayer and liturgy, in song and art, through financial support, and through gifts of time and talent. Given the fundamental role of the physical facility in the life of the congregation, it follows that facility management tasks subsequent to design and construction—which may seem mundane and repetitious—are integral to the success of the church mission.