Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Ugly churches of our time

posted by Rod Dreher

uglyfrenchchurch.jpg
An image of this monstrous French church, L’Eglise Ste-Bernadette du Banlay, assaulted me as I read the NYT Arts section today. Reviewing architect Claude Parent’s work, the Times critic says:

Mr. Parent’s building — massive concrete walls with rounded corners and slot windows — is the expression of a culture living under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation and still haunted by the devastation of World War II.
Inside, two sloped seating areas converge under the light of a long, narrow window running the length of the roof, creating a space of disquieting solitude. The message is ambiguous. Is it a safe haven from the vulgarities of the new consumer society? Or the final resting place for a fixed moral order that is dying out?

Or an ottoman mating with an armchair?
I have a perverse fascination with ugly churches. They’re supposed to lift our eyes toward heaven, and to help us connect to God. It is vitally important for churches to be beautiful, no matter what style (and many different styles can be beautiful … though not all styles are). Given the stakes, when churches fail aesthetically, they fail epically. Consider Our Lady of Chernobyl, in suburban New York, or the Florida church complex that looks like an bologna ziggurat sculpted by Oscar Mayer, next to a giant tortilla warmer. This is what happens when people forget what church architecture and design is for, and when insecure clergy and church lay leadership get fugaboo’d and intimidated by architects who want to make a Statement.
If you have any images you’d like me to share with readers in a Gallery of Regrettable Churches, send me the links at roddreher (at) aol.com rdreher (at) templeton.org — for a limited time.
UPDATE: Submissions for the Gallery of Regrettable Churches are coming in! Look below the jump to see them — I’ll be updating them throughout the day. Do keep in mind that inclusion in the Gallery does not necessarily reflect a judgment on the theology of the church or the fidelity of its members, only an aesthetic judgment on the architecture itself.


A reader in Dallas submits the Oratory at Ave Maria University in south Florida to the gallery, writing:

It’s not so bad from the outside, but inside the main features are massive steel pillars painted grey. I called it the “battleship gothic” aesthetic – you feel like you are worshipping in a battleship turned upside down.

oratory.jpg
UPDATE.2 Our faithful correspondent in the Old Dominion submits the Former Episcopal Cathedral of the Diocese of Western Michigan. ni.jpg Hmm…to me, it suggests the Knights Who Say “Ni” at prayer (see left). knights.jpg I wonder why the Episcopalians abandoned this monstrous carbuncle (besides the obvious reason, of course)? This story suggests that the cathedral congregation had dwindled to just over 100 souls at the time it was sold. Anyway, our man writes:

In 2007 the Diocese of Western Michigan sold the cathedral to a megachurch, Valley Family Church, which is now conducting a massive capital campaign to expand the facilities. This brochure gives the best picture of what Valley Family Church envisions for the campus (see especially p. 13). Ultimately it will look like a community college with a Brutalist wing.

UPDATE.3: A reader submits the cathedrals in both Los Angeles and Oakland as prime examples of modernist/postmodernist grotesquerie — and sends a link with photos of both, and an unfavorable comparison of the cost of these modern churches with contemporary ones built in traditional styles. He submits this photo of a statue of Jesus inside the LA Cathedral, and calls it “Jedi Christ.” A perfect name for this space-age image — except the short-haired, unveiled figure is not Jesus, but his mother, Mary. So it’s even weirder than he thought.
LA Cathedral Jedi Christ.jpg
UPDATE.4: Some apparently serious reader claimed in the “What will we say to the aliens?” combox thread today that Jesus was the product of Mary’s mating with an alien, only we’re too dumb to recognize it. I take it that the Gentle Reader is on the vestry at this church:
churchoftomw.jpg
UPDATE.5: Crescat asks: church, prison, factory, or insane asylum? (this was once a contest, but she then edited the entry to reveal the answers; still, it’s pretty funny). Crescat’s examples of fugly church art are also pretty hathotic; I’m especially moved by the Sith Madonna and the Iron Lung Jesus.
UPDATE.6: Ohhh noooooo! The dear old Dieters in Germany put up a church that, on evidence of its crucifix, is dedicated to the idea that the Romans missed Jesus of Nazareth and got hold of Mr. Bill instead! Look at the interior and exterior of the church where this crucifix is found. You’d sooner find a sign of life inside a meat locker. Yeah, it’d probably be bacteria, but at least it’d be something. mrbill.jpg



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Richao

posted March 10, 2010 at 8:55 am


Mr. Parent’s building — massive concrete walls with rounded corners and slot windows — is the expression of a culture living under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation and still haunted by the devastation of World War II.
The overweening pretension of the sentiment reflected in the above sentence is intolerable. As if the twentieth century were the first to come to grips with the grim reality of humanity’s precarious position in the cosmos. One is thankful that the craftsmen who brought the great Gothic cathedrals to life did not think it their responsibility to create an “expression of a culture living under the” constant threat of barbarian invasion and the plague, not to mention the agony of living in a world without effective means of mollifying pain not to mention curing it. Or if they did, they realized that there was something noble about expressing those realities of the human condition in a way that lifted the spirit rather than doing so by adding soul-crushing architecture into the mix.
I mean, really. To accept the excuse in the sentence above – and it is nothing more than an excuse – one must have succumbed to a near-terminal presentist bias.



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rama

posted March 10, 2010 at 8:58 am


This ugly church was near the neighborhood I grew up. Never been inside, but when we would drive by I would think – boy, that’s an ugly church!



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Katie in FL

posted March 10, 2010 at 9:01 am


LOL. Thanks for the morning laugh.



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Richard

posted March 10, 2010 at 9:15 am


Richao, that was really well-expressed. I could not agree more.
See Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House for more on the inescapable nonsense that has become modern architecture (and architectural ctiticism).
I remember Ravi Zacharias commenting on a building where he once lectured: it was the pinnacle of silly deconstructionist architecture where thumbing your nose convention is more important than the function/purpose of the building. Stairs leading to nowhere, “structural” elements suspended in mid-air, that kind of thing.
Ravi commented “I hope they didn’t do that with the foundation!”



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Karl G

posted March 10, 2010 at 9:18 am


Richao, I took that not to mean that they were actively trying to comment on that culture, but that it looks like that because of the influence of the culture and fears at the time. They were worried that it might have to survive a nuclear blast, so it was built to do that.



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Your Name

posted March 10, 2010 at 9:26 am


One last thing: I grew up in a Lutheran church that was built in the late 1960s. Lots of blond wood, tall windows, you know the whole Danish Modern type of thing typical of that time.
While there were elements of that church that worked, and many were OK, what strikes me even now is how the whole building is a testament to the fads of the day. Much of the wood has been replaced/painted/stained because it got filthy. The high poorly insulated ceilings were for a time of cheap and abundant energy. There was little thought ever given to how the space might be expanded or cooled. Flat roofs on the education wing that were a headache because flat roofs aren’t all that practical in the mid-Atlantic except on larger buildings.
I don’t blame churches for no longer building Chartres-type churches. Even if you could build it, could a church maintain one? And I sympathize with the architect’s idea that form and function are as important as aesthetics – a well-designed space is a joy.
But it seems to me that trendiness – avant-garde, if you prefer – too often takes over and we end up with these nightmares.
Although, in defense of the chuch Rod posted, French had Le Corbusier, so maybe they are used to this sort of thing.



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John E. Agn Stoic

posted March 10, 2010 at 9:55 am


The French church brings the fortifications of the Maginot Line to mind.
I like the geometry of the Ave Maria oratory.



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David

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:09 am


With all the truly hideous churches out there, I can’t see the Ave Maria Oratory as being worthy of submission to the gallery of regrettable churches. The altar is in terrible need of something ornate, but aside from that it is very traditional, and quite interesting to look at.



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Frog Leg

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:11 am


I have kind of a side-ways comment on these churches and their architecture. I have seen many churches, both in the U.S. and abroad. I have found the most beautiful churches awe-inspiring, but not particularly conveying something particularly religious. They felt more like pieces in a museum than a place of worship. In contrast, when I went to the catacombs in Rome and saw the chapels there, I was overcome with how much of a religious presence there was there. And the chapels had absolutely nothing to commend them in terms of architecture. There was a simplicity there that really grabbed me.
What I see in the French church is really a poverty of wealth. They seem to be trying to replicate this feeling I described above, but it fails. It is an opulent display of poverty, but what comes through is not simplicity and poverty, but just waste. We are too wealthy to duplicate the catacombs experience. This shows a paradox innate to Christianity–that it does the best, is the most authentic when it is being oppressed.



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David

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:29 am


I have in my possession a copy of “Environment and Art in Catholic Architecture” a 1978 document from the National Conference of Bishops that still sets the tone for church renovation and construction. Every example they picture as the proper way to design a church for the modern age is absolutely hideous, nothing but bare concrete and wood, a kind of cold aesthetic of nihilism. Churches pictured include Church of St John the Evangelist, Hopkins Minnesota, and Church of the Risen Savior, Apple Valley Minnesota (poor Minnesota!). This document has taken on the character of holy writ in some circles, and is often used against those who would propose more traditional forms of church design.
So, at one time the Church hierarchy was actively promoting this kind of hideousness- we can’t just blame insecure priests and pushy architects!



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Hector

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:47 am


Re: Ravi commented “I hope they didn’t do that with the foundation!”
That’s funny, I heard that same Ravi Zacharias talk as well! He had a point, too.



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Hector

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:50 am


Re: Or an ottoman mating with an armchair?
Hilarious.



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Anglican

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:53 am


I disagree about the Ave.Maria, oratory,it could be dressed a bit,but it isn’t nightmarishly ugly like the other churches.Nowthe former Episcopal Cathedral was and is plain old creepy,I seen it from outside in real life and it is truly ugly.



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Dale R. Patterson

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:57 am


Am I the only one who looks at it and thinks “toilet”?



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Mark Johnson

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:58 am


I wonder whether the earliest Christians had masses in the catacombs. Kinda musty down there. . .



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AnotherBeliever

posted March 10, 2010 at 11:45 am


I LIKE the battleship gothic church. But in the first picture, I think the armchair is eating the ottoman, not mating with it. ;)



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Lord Karth

posted March 10, 2010 at 11:56 am


I was surprised to hear that that French church wasn’t named St. John’s. All it needs is a giant air freshener on top and a handle on the sides.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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David

posted March 10, 2010 at 12:31 pm


Am I the only one who looks at it and thinks “toilet”?
Indeed, a Japanese squatting toilet in particular…



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Andreas Lights

posted March 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm


Fred Phelps’s church, Westboro Baptist Church, is uglier still, but in a different way. Hatred and bigotry are ugly no matter what, but when used to profess belief in God, they are uglier yet.



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David J. White

posted March 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm


I remember Ravi Zacharias commenting on a building where he once lectured: it was the pinnacle of silly deconstructionist architecture where thumbing your nose convention is more important than the function/purpose of the building. Stairs leading to nowhere, “structural” elements suspended in mid-air, that kind of thing.
The business school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland is one of these ugly “modern” buildings designed by some award-winning architect. It’s designed in such a way that the roof looks as if it’s melting down onto the sidewalk. Anyway, several years ago I was working in the same neighborhood, and there was a hostage situation in that building. The police were called, the area cordoned off, etc. — the usual. It took the police awhile to resolve the situation (which it was, IIRC, with no fatalities). According to later reports, one of the difficulties the police had was due to the fact that the building had been designed in such a way that there are are no straight lines inside the building — apparently that made it difficult for the the police sharpshooters to line up a clear shot. ;-)



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Spambalaya

posted March 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm


Hungry hungry hippo!



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted March 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm


At first I thought I was looking at a concrete sculpture of Scooby Doo’s head



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Quiddity

posted March 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm


I really DO like that “giant tortilla warmer”. Yum!



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RSG

posted March 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm


A friend of mine passed this along after I showed him the picture of the giant toilet.
http://www.sfnortonshores.com/guided_tour/page1.htm



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celticdragonchick

posted March 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm


It’s not so bad from the outside, but inside the main features are massive steel pillars painted grey. I called it the “battleship gothic” aesthetic – you feel like you are worshipping in a battleship turned upside down.
I love it! It looks so very Warhammer-ish I can practically hear the chants of the Ministorueum calling for the extermination of Xenos and heretics in the Name of the Emperor in the chapel of an Imperium battleship.
http://www.myfreewallpapers.net/fantasy/pages/battlefleet-gothic.shtml



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Your Name

posted March 10, 2010 at 5:39 pm


“Or an ottoman mating with an armchair?”
Oh, don’t go dragging the Turks into this, Rod. :)



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Erin Manning

posted March 10, 2010 at 7:04 pm


Sometimes, in order to appreciate fully the unfortunate nature of a church’s design, you have to look inside. There’s an example I wrote about here:
http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2010/01/altared-states.html
I also think this Richard Vosko-designed church deserves a look:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lancerrevolution/3266918375/
I can’t decide if it’s the Church of the Holy Four-Square Game, or if the commissioner uses that projection on top of the roof to send out the bat-signal. Either way, as a Catholic church it leaves a lot to be desired.
As someone who greatly prefers traditional church architecture, I’m enjoying this post and comment thread quite a bit!



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Jon

posted March 10, 2010 at 7:20 pm


That French church would be butt-ugly if it were the HQ for the Force de Frappe or the city morgue. I hope I never encounter whatever drugs the architect and parish council were doing.



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Jon in the Nati

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:15 pm


As long as we are talking about ugly churches (and I get to hear about this all the time, since my fiancee is an architect who studies church architecture) I figure I oughta throw out Liverpool’s Cathedral of Christ the King (aka Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral).
Here is a rendering of the original (pre-war) design:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/37/Sir_Edwin_Luyten%27s_Building_design.png
Not bad, right? Now, here is what they came up with:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Metropolitan_Cathedral_of_Christ_the_King_in_Liverpool_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1304.jpg
UH OH! Here is the interior:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Liverpool_Metropolitan_Cathedral_inside.jpg
Is it a church or a disco? I can’t tell!



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James P.

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:42 pm


http://www.boredpanda.com/50-most-extraordinary-churches-of-the-world/
Here are many to ponder. Some are really nice. About half are waaay hideous. Have fun.



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Mark Scott Abeln

posted March 10, 2010 at 10:58 pm


Ugly…. what were they thinking? Well, one can guess what they were thinking, and it isn’t pretty.
Instead, feast your eyes on this: http://www.romeofthewest.com/2010/01/photos-of-cathedral-basilica-of-saint.html



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PólÓC

posted March 11, 2010 at 11:09 am


“what strikes me even now is how the whole building is a testament to the fads of the day.”
What, then, were Chartres, or Notre dame, or Cologne, or St Paul’s, or St Peter’s? The great cathedral cities of Europe spent centuries, and the equivalent of billions, trying to build bigger, more fashionable, more opulent, more intricate, and yes – faddier – churches than their rivals. No-one should imagine for a moment that the motives of past builders came from much more than good old-fashioned human ego.
Church architecture today is, in its root-source of inspiration, no different from what it was a thousand or more years ago: fashion, ego, available technology, and the prevailing political/philosophical/doctrinal realities of the day.
Just as the Romanesque period saw massive, intimidating, fortresslike structures radiating raw, brute power and mirrorring both the technology of the day (the round arch) and the precarious geopolitics of the church’s expansion into Europe (the ‘Church Militant’); so too did the Gothic represent a ‘Church Triumphant’ that no longer had to watch for enemies on the ground, but could instead use the developing technologies of pointed arches, flying buttresses and ever-thinning columns to draw the eyes upward and induce in the churchgoer the feeling of being very, very small indeed.
Rod and others may lament that today’s churches do not properly direct the churchgoer’s mind and soul, but the desired effect of church buildings on the churchgoer, historically, was never limited to mere spiritual inspiration. The very human impulse toward conspicuous consumption, aristocratic preening, cultural triumphalism and sticking it to the Joneses are part-and parcel of it all, and are (largely?) to thank for the rich heritage of ecclesiastical architecture left to us.
Church building has followed local and international fads ever since arches went pointy. Whatever one may think of the various architectural fashions of the past 100ish years, their progression merely reflects a thousand-year tradition of innovation and experiment. Fashion changes more rapidly now (the Gothic period lasted about 600 years, after all), and clearly some fashions are more successful than others; that said, however ugly and alienating some churches might look to our eyes, and however much you may dislike Vatican II, don’t forget that the spartan lines and spare decor of 20th Century architecture may have represented a relief from the heavier, ornate, perhaps even alienating architecture of previous eras.
Subjective judgements on aesthetics aside, I think the idea that the churches of the past represent some higher ideal of ecclesiastical architecture than those of today is just plain wrong.



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Mark Scott Abeln

posted March 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm


Certainly the neo-Gothic churches of the late 19th century were alienating to atheists, since this style tended to lift their minds to a place where they didn’t want to go. But it is far too easy to reduce all architectural style to mere historicism, power-politics, and ever-changing preference, as PólÓC seems to imply. Rather these are the claims of marxism – and not orthodox Christianity.
It is far more fruitful to investigate the ideas which a style of architecture and specific buildings embody. Many churches of the 20th century, while nominally Christian, do largely in fact embody the ideas of the Enlightenment, German rationalism and – dare I say it – atheism, and not Christianity as properly understood.
I strongly recommend this new book: Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy by Denis McNamara, of the Liturgical Institute of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. This book considers what a church *is* and what it ought to be, while not descending into either romanticism or rationalism. It strongly makes the point that the founding and guiding principles of much contemporary architecture are unsuited to church architecture, however, it also avoids the trap of designing churches via mere emotionalism.
McNamara argues that a church – be it grand or simple – ought to be designed from a solid orthodox Christian philosophical understanding. Many churches of the 20th century were not designed from this philosophy.



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JW

posted March 14, 2010 at 6:21 pm


You can’t fool me. I recognize an Omaha Beach bunker when I see one.



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MaximusNYC

posted March 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm


I think it would be wise to wait till these churches are at least a hundred years old before passing judgment on them. Some of these styles may seem bizarre or dated now, just a few decades out from when they were built, but we are too close to the mid-20th century to have a really good perspective on them.



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Tom

posted March 14, 2010 at 6:40 pm


You’re out of your league here, Mr. Dreher. Why is it you did not choose any – ANY – of the godawful 19th and early 20th century Roman churches in the US that are cheap knock-offs of neo-gothic architecture? I suppose that any building that looks like the platonic ideal (i.e. the gothic church of your dreams) is going to fall short. It’s sad that you publish this without any understanding of the principles invovled in contemporary liturgical design and architecture. But it’s a lot easier to criticize what you do not understand. I have to say that the St. Mary church in Florida (i.e. your Oscar Mayer comparison – probably because of color scheme) is really stunning. Both the reservation chapel and the gathering space are strikingly beautiful. But what do I know? I’m just a church theologian who works in the field.



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Tom

posted March 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm


If you’re looking for a reactionary, ideologically driven text that is meant to defame church architects and the liturgical renewal of worship space since Vatican II, then, by all means, read McNamara’s book.
If you would prefer solid scholarship on the matter, I recommend Richard Giles’ wrok on contemproary architecture. His “Re-Pitching the Tent” is invaluable.
See http://www.amazon.com/Re-Pitching-Tent-Re-Ordering-Building-Worship/dp/0814627099



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MJ

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm


For mixed-use development, you can’t beat Our Lady of Exxon in Arlington, VA:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mvjantzen/3107619316/
Get your oil changed while you worship!



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Jim Aune

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:13 pm


I agree, but couldn’t you take a moment to note that your “conservative” defense of capitalism has something to do with the decline of craft unions and the sort of good labor that more beautiful churches used to represent?



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Jack

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm


Here’s an instance of a mid-20th century “brutalist”-style church, designed by an I.M. Pei associate, with such serious cumulative structural problems (including cracking concrete) owing to its original construction, that the congregation wants to demolish the structure and the city of Washington, D.C. agreed — but D.C. preservationists have apparently successfully sued so far to stall that action, because they like the architecture. Background: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2009/05/13/tregoning-allows-demolition-of-third-church-of-christ-scientist/
http://reason.com/blog/2008/08/11/monument-to-aesthetic-imperial
http://davidwrotethis.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/oh-the-brutality/
I’ve been in the church, and while it’s out of place in its neighborhood of nondescript office buildings, and eccentric in relation to the classicism of Lafayette Park and the White House only one block south, there is a kind of radical austerity in the interior which creates an affectless calm, which forces the churchgoer to consult his or her own thoughts. It models an almost monastic severity. But the physical problems (having to pipe in warm and hot water from a nearby building in order to heat and cool the structure) and the sheer cost of maintaining this heavy relic of modernism make it no longer functional for the congregation.



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Walt

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:40 pm


(Churches)”They’re supposed to lift our eyes toward heaven, and to help us connect to God.”
That depends on the meaning your want the church to convey. Renaissance Churches definately did not want to convey the same message at Gothic Cathedrals. That is why they are so different. Personally, I prefer a simple, modest protestant church to the Vatican.
While I’m not one to defend Michael Graves, I do believe that architecture is not your area of expertise. Stick to what you know best.



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Strat

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:55 pm


Here’s a retro-modern Howard Johnsonesque truly ugly church.
http://www.lutheranmountaineer.org/



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Vega9000

posted March 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm


In Portugal, there’s been a huge controversy over this beauty:
http://troufareal.blogspot.com/
The Caravel Church of Restelo – Church of St. Francis Xavier.
That’s the architect’s (Mr. Troufa-Real) web site, with some pictures of a scale model. Work on this aberration have started late last year.
Some more pictures can be seen here, at the parochy website:
http://www.paroquia-sfxavier.jazznet.pt/folha/igreja.htm
They should have written “Help us make this nighmare come true”



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Old School Catholic

posted March 14, 2010 at 9:59 pm


Predictable mess from the progressive Mahoney. His homage to modernism is the antithesis of sacred space. Reminds me of a government office building designed by this week’s trendy architect. Topical architecture that will look woefully out of date in 25 years.



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Rand Careaga

posted March 14, 2010 at 10:07 pm


I live around the corner from the new Oakland cathedral, and regard it as a rather handsome addition to the neighborhood.



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booch221

posted March 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm


I like the inside of Oratory at Ave Maria University in south Florida at least from the photo, since I’ve never actually been there. It’s the outside that I find ugly.
http://www.jjkllc.com/images/portfolio/education/edu-ave-maria.jpg



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alex

posted March 15, 2010 at 12:32 am


To compare Oscar Mayer’s meat products to Michael Graves architecture is insulting. Oscar Mayer’s composite meats are loved by many children while Mr Graves composite designs are hated by all.



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Russ

posted March 15, 2010 at 2:09 am


L’Eglise Ste-Bernadette du Banlay made me think of an Easter Island statue gone wrong.



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Charlie

posted March 15, 2010 at 3:08 am


One’s ecclesiology plays a great part in what he or she considers the role of the church building. Mr. Dreher’s statement,”they’re (churches) supposed to lift our eyes toward heaven, and to help us connect to God,” betrays an ecclesiology that places God outside the assembled community. In the book of Acts the first Christian communities experienced a connection to God within believers’ homes where they gathered to lift their prayers heavenward. Perhaps Mr.Dreher is speaking about the power of the gothic arch. In that case, he would be correct. It was the purpose of the great gothic cathedrals of Europe to “lift the eye heavenward unto God who there abideth.” That is not the purpose of every church structure of varying architecture. One need only look into a Baroque ecclesial structure. The purpose of a baroque structure is to invite within; to find within “the pearl of great price.” Usually, these churches are grand structures to house the Blessed Sacrament, where God resides on earth. In the LA cathedral, one can scarecely look at the wall of alabaster and not be overwhelmed by the beauty of this natural translucent element which God created. The warmth and strength of the tapestries of the Saints, rather than making one lift ones eyes skyward(is that where heaven is, Mr Dreher?), make the Saints present and accessable to the observer. According to the most traditional writings, the Heavenly Court is present when Holy Mass is celebrated. The worshiper is not transported anywhere. Rather, Heaven comes to earth. That is what the mystery of the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus’ flesh is about. The image of The Blessed Virgin Mary, especially in the Great Doors of the LA Cathdral, needs to be seen within the context of the structure in which it abides. That particular statue of Mary stands surrounded by the twelve stars of the woman of the book of the Apocalypse. Interestingly, the stars are on the inside of the door behind her. Here, one finds Mary, Gate of Heaven. To see the entire structure, and to know scripture, one can only be left breathless at the sight. Just because the statue doesn’t look like the cheap blue plaster statues to which we American are sadly accustomed doesn’t make the image ugly. How sad that we are so biblically illiterate and narrow in our perspective! So, too, narrow is the view of the purpose of a church to which Mr. Dreher ascribes. Would it not be more honest, Mr Dreher, just to say that you like gothic churches, instead of touting that you have any idea of true ecclesiolgy?



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John

posted March 15, 2010 at 9:32 am


Islam has it contenders, as well. This one I call the Mosque of Ming the Merciless:
http://notesfromacommonplacebook.blogspot.com/2009/01/while-at-first-glance-this-may-look.html



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BEmama

posted March 15, 2010 at 11:38 am


Thrilled to see that the former Episcopal Church of Southwestern Michigan made your list. My mother despised that church – we drove by it two-three times/week for years. At least once a week she complained about it – either under her breath or aloud as we drove by. My mom has no interest in architecture, but she had a real beef with that ugly building!



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LFC

posted March 15, 2010 at 12:43 pm


Claude Parent, the architect who designed the French church you posted, seems to have been inspired by the tractors in the animated movie “Cars”:



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Eric Stoltz

posted March 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm


Hmmm, in the link to the post comparing costs for four churches, do you really think it’s fair to compare the costs for a cathedral seating 4,000 on some of the most expensive real estate in the nation (downtown Los Angeles) to a shrine seating 400 people in a rural area? Or comparing a cathedral seating 1,350 people on lakefront property in downtown Oakland, a large California city, to a small college chapel also built in a rural area?



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Wilma27KLINE

posted April 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm


When you are in uncomfortable position and have got no cash to go out from that, you would have to receive the credit loans. Just because that will help you unquestionably. I get commercial loan every year and feel myself OK because of that.



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