Sometimes an architect should conserve what other architects have done, promote an architecture from the past and seek to bring it back to life.
The list of artists, architects, and dancers who are canonized saints is not very long.
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.
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.
There is an unprecedented crisis in our cities, yet most are not aware of it.
As buildings get more complex, owners hire individuals to assist them in working with the architect and contractor.
One of the most noted artists of all time was also notorious for being a terrible businessman.
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.
What is the state of sacred art today? Not surprisingly, many of us see it as mediocre, impoverished, or in crisis.
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?
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?
Something unusual is revealed here as well: the house of God is the true house of humans. It becomes the house of humans even more the less it tries to be this and the more it is simply put up for him. — Pope Benedict XVI1
One of the recommendations of Vatican II was that priests be formed in the arts: “During their philosophical and theological studies, clerics are to be taught about the history and development of sacred art, and about the sound principles governing the production of its works.
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.
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.
Back in the late Twentieth century I received an invitation to teach architecture at small midwestern Catholic college...
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.
Part of the history of art and architecture is the revivification of elements found in the past...
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The subject of iconography, the creation or study of images with specific narrative or symbolic intent, raises complex aesthetic and philosophical questions for the modern world about the universal legibility of pictorial messages.
In recent years in Italy, all debate on the design of new churches has been focused almost exclusively on technical aspects.
Faith-Based Land Use Planning proposes that our churches, synagogues and mosques become the central buildings of our lives. Why?
The Church Building and Participation in the Paschal Mystery: Assessing the NCCB Document Built of Living Stones
In November 2000 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) approved a new statement on art and architecture entitled Built of Living Stones (BLS).
Those of us who work among the Hispanic immigrant population are shocked at how rapidly these immigrants are losing their faith.
As the Old Testament begins with the Creation of the cosmos and the New Testament with the Incarnation of Christ, the Judeo-Christian world is reminded how the act of making becomes central to our faith.
Remember that you are the guardians of beauty in the world.
The Cathedral of St. Augustine in Bridgeport, Connecticut was built from 1865 to 1868, and recently underwent a two-and-a-half year renovation.
The debate generated by the recent release of images of the initial proposal for Ave Maria’s new chapel cuts to the heart of larger discussions which have been circling the Catholic architectural debate for almost 50 years now. Can glass and steel be used for a Catholic church?
During the last five years I have had the great good fortune to be the agent for a last long look at American sacred architecture. My opportunity came as the result of my attempt to save the architecture firm of Ralph Adams Cram.
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."
What is it that makes a Catholic church different from other churches?
Just as the Cathedral liturgy is meant to be an example for the diocese so too should be the art and architecture of the Cathedral.
What dictators throughout history have used force to do, we have done willingly.
Leon Battista Alberti made the pagan architecture of Greece and Rome safe for Christian churches.
The first fully articulated expression of the Renaissance mastery of classical architecture, Bramante’s Tempietto, was created to honor the place where pious tradition located Saint Peter’s crucifixion in Rome.
"Christian humanism” seems an oxymoron.
The Church faces more violent secular iconoclasts.
A priest once told me that the best place to teach students the faith is in a church.
Venice has a problem.
The Roman basilica, exemplified by Constantine’s fourth-century Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem and by the many other monumental churches he had erected throughout the Roman world, remained the standard of church architecture in the West for more than a thousand years.
The Romans called it damnatio memoriae. When we deface or destroy an image of a leader, we reject his rule as illegitimate and call for the ending of his memory.
Gabriele Zarri formulated the term recinti sacri or “sacred enclosures” to describe how convents represented sacred spaces that assumed a decidedly female character.
Much thought—including many articles in the special Notre-Dame issue of Sacred Architecture—went into the complexities of rebuilding the collapsed Medieval roof of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and replacing the nineteenth-century wooden spire (flèche) of Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.
When some of us think of architecture for the poor, we think of the Los Angeles Cathedral.
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.
The Church is people, true. We can get by if we have to with Mass any old place. But the Church requires churches.
Prayers for deliverance are made. Heroic priests visit the sick and dying, and heroic medical personnel serve them. It is a time for the works of mercy. It is also a time for cornerstones.
The famous sixth-century Constantinopolitan cathedral of Hagia Sophia epitomized the might of the Byzantine Empire.
While Beijing is a city of traditional Chinese architecture, identified by its emphasis on horizontality and sloped roofs, Shanghai is a city of Western modernity, marked by bright neon lights that illuminate the heights of soaring skyscrapers and monumental Neoclassical banks.
The unicorn represents “our Lord’s Incarnation and sinless life”—a symbol of Jesus Christ and of purity. How did the unicorn come to be associated with Christ and purity?
According to the last few pontificates, the most pressing questions of culture and doctrine are properly about the human person.
Munich Airport Terminal Two was voted the world’s best terminal, not so long ago, by a global survey of fourteen million travelers.
Early in 2019 the spire of the Paris cathedral had disappeared under scaffolding as it was undergoing restoration.
After Notre-Dame burned, most non-specialists assumed that a monument of its importance would be restored to its former state.
The catastrophic fire that damaged Notre-Dame in April was not the first event that afflicted the great cathedral.
Reconstruction according to a divine masterplan is the key to life.
Set against the evening sky, the fiery plunge of the copper rooster that had crowned the lead-encrusted flèche of Notre-Dame de Paris seemed to herald a dreadful nightfall for the cathedral church, which for centuries has endured weathering, cataclysm, violence, and caprice.
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.
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.
Seen from the sky the contrast was striking: an immense plume of smoke rising to dizzying heights from the city’s glowing heart, while the metropolis was bathed in a soft evening light.
The French people have a lot of experience in rebuilding churches.
Built right after the Council of Trent, the Church of the Gesù (1568) stands in the heart of Rome on what seems to be an island flanked by streams of busy streets.
Over the past several decades Evangelical Protestant churches have sought to build buildings that differ from traditional church architecture in order to attract unchurched individuals to the church.
It may have been partly the bright light, I admit, after all those crepuscular chapels.
Renaissance art was essentially public art, even as it was commissioned by single individuals and religious and civic organizations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most people would struggle to identify the church in Rome dedicated to Saint Mary and the Martyrs. But refer to it as “the Pantheon,” the home of all the gods, and everyone would immediately know what you are talking about.
The architectural implications of the Augsburg Confession were probably not top-of-mind for those who signed it in 1530.
On a lovely October afternoon I rode with William Burleigh to the Pontifical College Josephinum, he for the meeting of the board of trustees, and I to see the newly renovated and rededicated chapel of Saint Turibius.
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.
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.
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.
by Margaret M. Grubiak, PhD and Timothy K. Parker, PhD, appearing in Volume 32
What does it mean to enact religious pluralism, a key component of the American project?
John Anton Mallin was a well-known ecclesiastical artist and decorator in Chicago, whose works are found in more than one hundred churches and chapels, as well as several residences, banks, and theaters. His career spanned almost sixty years, from the time he came to Chicago in 1907 until he retired in 1963.
The hymn “Urbs Ierusalem beata” (Blessed city, Jerusalem), by an unknown author, is from the eighth or ninth century at the latest. The Liturgy of the Hours as revised by Pope Paul VI, consistent with the tradition, has assigned it to Evening Prayer for the anniversary of the dedication of a church.
Every year I am struck visually and spiritually by Passiontide.
Is there a place for the beauty of the liturgy in what Pope Francis calls “a Church which is poor and for the poor”?
“The discussion of the beautiful occupies a marginal place in Thomas’s work.”
Such a premonishment is very nearly de rigueur for essays on the theme of beauty in the works of Thomas Aquinas.
As unlikely as it seems, a mystical vision experienced by Saint Francis of Assisi eight centuries ago recently found a parallel in a twentieth-century Chicago church associated for decades with anxiety and terror.
“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.”
The Alliance des Arts, The Chapelle des Lazaristes and the Reliquary Shrine of Saint Vincent de Paul
Located at number 93 rue de Sèvres, and just down the block from the Bon Marché department store in the chic VIème arrondissement, is the Chapelle des Lazaristes, which exemplifies the Catholic Renouveau movement of nineteenth-century France.
The Second Theme of Architecture: Artistic Beauty: From Aesthetics Vol. II. Trans. Rev. Brian McNeil and John F. Crosby
The artistic beauty of buildings depends on very definite means: forms, proportions, material, color, and many other factors.
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, buildings carried great narrative themes, on the exterior by sculpture and on the interior by glass and wall painting.
In a 2010 TED lecture, musician David Byrne made the interesting and counterintuitive observation that musicians create music for particular spaces.
Imagine what the Vatican and Rome would have looked like today if the popes, architects, and other masterminds of this architectural complex would have designed and built something to only commemorate the tragedy of Saint Peter’s death?
The concluding section of Josef Pieper’s essay “What Makes a Building a Church?” begins with his admission that his reflections “are, on a practical level, quite useless.”
Motley rows of reused column shafts, capitals, and bases were among the most conspicuous features of medieval church interiors in Rome and south Italy for over a thousand years, from the time of their first appearance under Constantine the Great (d. 337) until the end of the Middle Ages.