City Journal Autumn 2014

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Autumn 2014
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Colette Arredondo
Sacred Revival « Back to Story

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But, even more importantly, re: the INSIDE of church buildings, let preachers preach ALL of God's Word and apply it to ALL of life because Jesus Christ is the Lord of and over everything!

John Lofton, Recovering Republican
Dir., The God And Government Project
JLof@aol.com
Nice article. I will read this book. I have had this conversation with my children for years and they agree that the new modern churches are completely inferior to the beautiful old ones. There was a crisis of confidence in Western Civilization in the last few generations that did tremendous damage to most institutions. When one returns from sightseeing in Europe and attends a new church it feels as though we humans have regressed over the last 500 years.
I've been to the Stroik-designed "chapel" at Thomas Aquinas College in So. Cal. It is a masterpiece that will keep growing in beauty in the years to come.
Absence of ornament does not nullify beauty as it's presence does not guarantee it.
Ideal proportions applied to a building are enough to elavate the spirit as the Greeks and Romans have long ago proven. The Golden Mean's beauty can bring one to tears with it's stark geometric purity. Curlicues need not apply.
There is no lack of spiritual modernistic architecture just a failing of the writer to see it.
If churches are uninspiring don't blame the architects or "modernism". Look at museums - they are the true spiritual spaces of today.
Yes very much so . I now attend at a very correct traditional church nave apse transept Just so . My last church was one of those dreadful Vat2 mass in the round horrors and done by a Benedictine Abbey no less . But as to all this lack of tradition , might I add another complaint or two . The first , furniture . Not many can afford a Thomas Chippendale original , but most everyone can afford a reproduction , a pure CAD/CAM chinese knockoff . Go to Winterthur , take a few photos and done . Same with homes . Tudors are in fashion in my 'hood , but they all add some out of place mismatched tower or bay window . Again go to the Cotswalds , take a few photos , CAD/CAM away and now we all can live in our own Downtown Abbey
I have long thought that many modern architects are the greatest cultural criminals. We can simply avoid reading bad poetry or looking at bad art but buildings are too big to ignore.
Tawdry religious buildings degrade the spirit and are an insult to man and to God. Many secular buildings can make man small and meaningless. The Barbican (London) oppresses humanity as much as chains of iron. After two hours in that horror, I found my soul again at St. Stephen Walbrook. Even there, the modernist ego had decided to "improve" the work of Wren. It's difficult to get the mindset of of Varah and Palumbo,as they decided that Henry Moore was just the thing to make one of the most perfect interiors ever built "better." As per Tom Wolfe, the "common people" call the altar stone the "Big Cheese" and hate it. Not all additions are abominable. The Louvre pyramid has references to cultural heritage that please the eye and mind. As far as churches go, perhaps architects should adopt the Hippocratic oath: "First, do no harm." Is it politically incorrect to suggest that architects for religious buildings should believe or at least thoroughly respect the sacred scriptures of the religion that has commissioned the structure? No one would hire an architect who did not know acoustics to design a concert hall. Lack of faith in God is what C.S. Lewis calls "a hole in the soul." Such a soul cannot build a whole testament to God. Nihilism begets nothing sacred, beautiful or eternal.
Gilbert W. Chapman January 11, 2014 at 4:29 AM
While reading this book review about church architecture, I couldn't help but think about the designs for public schools in recent years.

Need I say more?

couldn't agree more
Especially noteworthy in this excellent article, is the observation that presider's chairs have replaced the high altar. This follows the disastrous and groundless decision to invert the direction of worship to emphasize immanence over transcendence. Liturgy "facing the people" means the people face the priest; it is he who then became the focus of the liturgy, with myriad malign results, as hordes of post Vatican II clerical slapheads saw all the eyes on themselves, and lost all sense of humility.
Hard to imagine, but I read nothing on Gaudi's Sacrada Familia in Barcelona? Surely, I am mistaken. I believe it qualifies for this author, but would love to hear straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak
Wonderful piece. Though I am a little lost on the fine points of altars and tabernacles, let alone the purpose of ornament in worship, I despair that the fan-shaped, amphitheater-style sanctuary form has triumphed in my own Protestant denomination, the Seventh-day Adventists. You can certainly find older SDA houses of worship, and occasional examples of newly built sanctuaries in a more rectilinear form and traditional (colonial Protestant) style (Worthington, Ohio has a fine example). But most new SDA churches embrace a mediocre flavor of modernism focused on the simple enclosure of space, the ideal of "sightlines," and above all the accommodation of projection screens and sound amplification systems needed to overcome the requisite heavily padded seating and carpeting. It's not quite as banal as throwing up an aircraft hangar-style steel building, or renting a spot in the nearest strip mall, but such architecture is bound to appear more dated within the next generation than the rectilinear 1960s-era churches that many of our more affluent congregations have left behind in the last few years and feel they are "upgrading" from. I like the ideal of "noble simplicity" described in the article, but as our worship service itself has shifted to a more casual, personality-driven, performance-oriented variety show, the concept of noble anything has pretty much been lost. It's hard to discern which was first to go--the church that looks like a church or the reverence that even simple versions of the old one seemed to encourage.
What a bunch of crap! Ecclesiastical architecture is about good taste, as explained by Veblen. Theology don't enter into it, and any attempt to do so quickly leads to unprovable assertions. Good taste is defined by the renaissance ecclesiastical architecture of the HRC Church, from the gothic cathedrals to the baroque churches of Rome. Who's idea was it that American Catholic churches and Jewish synagogues should be Bauhausian? I can tell you who: stupid philistines who were afraid of having their houses or worship look "too Protestant". Now we have a huge collection of leaky and ugly suburban churches and synagogues that no now will go to. Here's a tip for Catholic architects: copy the closest Episcopal church; you can't go wrong.
Thank you. Nicely written and very educational.
One cannot possibly be surprised that church architecture is these days uninspiring. Architects in our time (both religious and secular) build monuments to themselves with other people's money. God, grandeur and inspiration have nothing to do with it.