Articles

Editorial: Nova Contrareformatio

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 34

We need a new Counter-Reformation in sacred art and architecture. What was the Reformation’s effect? First, it preached iconoclasm, the rejection of the human figure in religious art. Second, it reoriented worship, so that people gathered round the pulpit rather than the altar and the baptismal font became more important than the tabernacle. At the same time, it lessened the distinction between the clergy and the laity, creating more equality and decreasing hierarchy.

Editorial: Ab Urbe Condita

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 33

When you go to a great European city, you find beautiful spacious piazze, outdoor cafes, charming shops, fountains to sit near, and people to watch. For many today, that symbolizes the good city.

Editorial: Regulae Americanae

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 28

Have you ever noticed the incredible number of ways Catholic churches include iconography? From signs and symbols to images of the saints and angels, from paintings of the Trinity to sacra conversazione, biblical scenes, and even historical scenes (i.e., the battles of Lepanto and Vienna), the imagery of Catholic churches is rich and varied. So, when a colleague recently journeyed to Rome in search of sacred architecture, I challenged him to find one church with the “American church formula.” What is the American formula? A life-size crucifix centered behind the altar, with a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the left and Saint Joseph on the right. Many American Catholics see this as the “traditional” solution for a church layout, because it is all that they know. Yet in over five hundred historic churches I have studied in Rome, Florence, and Venice, I have seldom seen the formula (so ubiquitous in the U.S.) employed.

Editorial: Ecclesiae Pro Pauperibus

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 26

We all know that the poor need food and clothing, decent education and good jobs. But what about their spiritual and cultural needs? Can a church building serve the poor spiritually through the material? It is an expensive proposition, but I would suggest the answer is yes. Which leads us to the question, how can we design a church for the poor?

Editorial: Sanctum Paupertatem

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 25

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?

Editorial: Quo Vadis

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 21

Three miles from Disneyland there is another famous theme park, which proclaims itself as “America’s Television Church.” The Crystal Cathedral, perhaps the first mega-church in the United States, is about to undergo conversion classes so that it can finally get the cathedra and bishop it has always wanted.

Editorial: Estote Ergo Vos Perfecti

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 19

A well-known architect, who was really an artist, was asked to design a cathedral. The project did not go smoothly. He was difficult to work with, had his own ideas, lost his temper when things did not go his way, and kept asking for more money.

Editorial: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam et Beatae Mariae Virginis

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 15

Unemployment is at a high level, and the economy is in recession. In order to give thousands of people jobs, the state embarks on some major infrastructure projects designed by an award winning architect. A parable for how the U.S. government can get the economy back on track? No, the story of how Pope Alexander VII and Gianlorenzo Bernini built Piazza San Pietro, the greatest public piazza in the world.

Editorial: Catechismus in Lapidem

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 14

People often ask me why we have not been building beautiful churches in recent decades. It is not a simple answer of course: there are the changes from Vatican II; the embrace of modernism by the architectural profession; the expense of craftsmanship; the parsimony of the faithful; and the belief that the church is merely a functional building. Today, when laity and clergy alike desire to build beautiful churches again they are confronted with a limitation that their great grandparents did not have to contend with: the strict monetary policies of the diocese.

Eucharistic Tabernacles: A Typology

by M. Francis Mannion, appearing in Volume 3

An examination of the art of Eucharistic tabernacles in Catholic liturgical history yields a considerable variety of operative meanings. In this brief essay, I want to suggest that tabernacle design may be categorized under a five-fold typology: ark, building, treasury, tower, and a

The Spirit of Mediator Dei

by Denis McNamara, appearing in Volume 4

Despite the prevailing belief that architectural modernism was the only available option for the modern church, the early twentieth century provides considerable evidence of representational, historically-connected and often beautiful architectural designs responsive to the same principles canonized in the documents of Vatican II.

Catholic Architecture and New Urbanism: An Interview with Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk

by James C. McCrery, appearing in Volume 4

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture and a partner in the design firm Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company. She is an ardent promoter of New Urbanism, a movement that has been successful in designing new communities as towns rather than subdivisions and revitalizing older communties. Among Duany Plater-Zyberk’s best known projects are the towns of Seaside in Florida, Kentlands in Maryland and downtown West Palm Beach, Florida, all designed to be pedestrian-oriented with schools, churches, libraries and shops within walking distance of homes.

Editorial: Caveat Emptor

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 7

And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. Matthew 21:12-14

Editorial: Domus Eucharistica

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 4

Over the years, church buildings have received numerous titles: domus Ecclesiae, domus Dei, temple of the most high, image of the eternal, holy place, and body of Christ. John Cardinal Newman called churches gospel palaces. In this Jubilee year dedicated to the Eucharist it is appropriate to reflect on the domus Eucharistica, the church as a Eucharistic house. Our churches are the places we gather to eucharist, to thank God for His marvelous gifts.

Environment and Art in Catholic Worship - A Critique

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 2

By all accounts, the past forty years have produced few church buildings that the American laity are proud of and fewer of which the cultural establishment approves. No doubt some credit for the present state of architecture should be given to a small booklet entitled Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (EACW) presently being revised.

Editorial: Vocatio Architecti

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 2

One of the reasons that we are amazed by the beauty of architectural masterpieces is that they appear to go beyond the ability of mortals to conceive them. Their harmony and proportions seem to have been constructed by angels. In order to bring to fruition these sacred works, ranging from the nave of Amiens Cathedral to the exterior of San Vincent de Paul in Los Angeles, many hills have to be climbed.

Editorial: Architectura Sacra

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 1

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Sacred Architecture, a journal committed to the promotion of the cultural heritage of the Church. 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.

A Vacuum in the Spirit: The Design of the Jubilee Church in Rome

by Breda Ennis, appearing in Volume 9

While on my way in the car to see the new church built by Richard Meier on the outskirts of Rome, named 'God the Merciful Father" (in the original Italian, "Dio Padre Misericordioso"), two phrases kept coming into my mind from Pope John Paul II's Letter to Artists, in which he remarked: "even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience."

The Soul of a Church

by Dom Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B., appearing in Volume 38

​In 2016, three earthquakes scattered over three months shattered the town of Amatrice in central Italy, killing 300 people, and continued its devastation through the towns of Umbria, bringing down houses, schools, shops, and churches.

It Ought to Be Gothick

by Witold Rybczynski, appearing in Volume 36

In 1681, the great Christopher Wren was called upon to add a bell tower (today known as Tom Tower) to the unfinished gatehouse of the Great Quadrangle of Christ Church in Oxford.

The Throne of Paris

by C. J. Howard, appearing in Volume 36

Imagine a re-enacted processional route to escort Jesus’s crown of thorns from Sainte-Chappelle, commissioned by Saint Louis IX King of France, to its new home in Paris’s Catholic cathedral a few blocks away.

Except the Lord Build the House: Restoring a Sense of Beauty

by Anthony Esolen, appearing in Volume 34

The men who built the cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres did not have diesel engines, or lightweight metals like soft aluminum or firm titanium, or steel girders. The men who built Europe’s greatest Gothic church did not have cranes that could tower a hundred feet in the air without toppling, while lifting pre-formed blocks of concrete. They did not have computer models. They did not have the calculus. Most of them assuredly could not read.

Beijing’s “New” Cathedral: Renewal of a Classical Monument

by Anthony E. Clark, appearing in Volume 34

When we build,” John Ruskin famously remarked in The Lamp of Memory, “let it not be for present delights nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think ... that men will say, as they look upon the labor and the wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our fathers did for us!’” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing is undertaking a substantial restoration and renovation of its most famous church, the Xishiku North Cathedral, in a way that would have contented Ruskin’s sensibilities.

Continuity in Purpose: Warsaw after World War II

by Marcus van der Meulen, appearing in Volume 34

Most of Warsaw’s historic places of worship are post-war renovations, and several are even reconstructions. The reconstruction of Warsaw, once described by the historian Robert Harbison as the “largest war memorial,” is the most comprehensive attempt to rebuild a past reality. The reconstruction of churches was an essential part of it.

Backing Beauty

by The Rt Hon John Hayes, appearing in Volume 34

Truth is an absolute. And beauty the means by which it is revealed to us in its most comprehensible form. In John Keats’ words: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Through our connection with beauty, we enjoy a taste of the sublime and both an escape from and a compensation for the inevitable pains and trials of daily life.

Globalist Architecture in Kenya

by Kalinda Gathinji, appearing in Volume 34

My experience of Kenyan sacred architecture left me hoping to encounter more of the rich, vibrant colors of the culture: the patterns and textures of its textiles, the delicacy of its bead work, and the character of its sculptures revealed, celebrated, and translated into the sacred architecture. What I found instead was that many of the churches are of an austere, minimalist aesthetic which hardly evokes the sacred nature of the space and the vibrancy of Kenyan culture.

Bigness of Touch: Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

by Craig Hamilton, appearing in Volume 33

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s magnificent Liverpool Cathedral commenced construction in 1904, shortly after his initial design, prepared at the age of twenty-two, had won a now-famous competition, and was finally completed seventy-four years later in 1978.

Oppression and Indifference

by George Rutler, appearing in Volume 33

In the late 1990s, I watched the rebuilding of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, replicating the nineteenth-century cathedral that had been dynamited by Stalin in 1931.

What Good Can Come Out of Nazareth?

by Joel Pidel, appearing in Volume 32

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? While the historical and spiritual answer to this question is so well known as to make the asking tongue-in-cheek, the question has remained one of continual renewal and response for a certain property on the outskirts of the city of Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Human Figure and Contemporary Sacred Art

by Cody Swanson, appearing in Volume 31

“The Beauty of all things in the world as well of architecture lay in proportion, the origin of which may be said is divine; for it derives from the body of Adam who was not only made by the divine hands of God, but shaped in His image and likeness.”