Editorial: Architectura Sacra

If I was able to do some good to those far away from the Church when I was Archbishop of Cracow, it was because I always began with the cultural heritage, which has a language everyone knows and everyone accepts and using this language I was able to start a dialogue which would not have been possible otherwise. -John Paul II

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Sacred Architecture, a journal committed to the promotion of the cultural heritage of the Church. Approaching the brink of the new millennium we are witnessing a great outburst of construction of Catholic churches and other structures. Numerous parishes have told me of their plans to renovate, or build anew in honor of the Great Jubilee. I would say that this is a most appropriate response. You are doubtless aware of the great wellspring of popular support for perpetual adoration in our parishes which is resulting in the construction of many new chapels. Perhaps the most positive sign is the general revival of interest in sacred architecture by architects, clergy and the laity, a topic once thought to be the sole domain of liturgical consultants and finance committees. Why are the faithful so interested in this subject? In part because there is an awareness that what we have been praying in, for the past few decades, has not measured up. There is a recognition, even a demand, on the part of the faithful that a house dedicated to God should have a sense of the sacred. As Monsignor Guardini noted in Meditations on the Mass, “the Church sets aside a place that has been severed from all other connections and purposes in order to belong to Him in a very special way. Here man is meant to become aware of something different both from nature and from human works: of the holy.”

The Sacred Architecture Journal was conceived in response to the many phonecalls and letters I have received from pastors and laity requesting literature to read or architects to hire. The people of God have expressed a great desire for an architectural publication which will draw on the riches of the Catholic patrimony and articulate the principles for a sacramental architecture. Not long ago a respected cleric pointed out to me that while we have drama, music and art critics in our major journals there is little serious criticism of contemporary church architecture. Thus the intention of this journal is to sponsor substantive debate about this crucial subject. Catesby Leigh and Duncan McRoberts have provided us with thoughtful and incisive analyses of the John Paul II Center in Washington and the Chapel of St. Ignatius in Seattle, projects which have received only uncritical promotion thus far. The interview with Daniel Lee offers a view of architecture grounded in Scripture which Protestants and Catholics will find equally compelling.

In publishing a variety of articles and news items, Sacred Architecture sees its mission as keeping you up to date on how bricks and mortar are being used to build up the City of God. We are pleased to feature an address of His Excellency, Archbishop Marchisano of the Vatican’s Beni Culturale, given to the Notre Dame seminar on Sacred Architecture this summer. It will also be of interest to read about the renovations of Pope John Paul II’s Redemptoris Mater chapel, the cleaning of the fa├žade of St. Peter’s basilica, and the preservation area around St. Peter’s tomb. This is to say that this first issue, as all publications on Roman Catholic architecture should be in part, is dedicated to the architecture of the city of Jubilee, the Eternal City. I hope you find Sacred Architecture of great benefit, that you will send us your comments and, if you have not already done so, that you will subscribe today.

Tertio Millennio Adveniente!

Duncan G. Stroik is the editor of Sacred Architecture Journal.