Architecture and Belief

Last weekend my family went hiking. I was given the task of picking the location. It took us about 90 minutes to drive there, and my competence was doubted. “Trust me,” I said. After a few minutes on the trail, we saw this:

photo credit: me

My wife and children couldn’t get enough. I was a hero!

The trail abounded in similar vistas. Dramatic changes of elevation, lush vegetation, and waterfalls created a mood, a feeling of transcendence. Any concerns about the daily outrages in the news faded away. Timelessness beckoned.

The attraction of such scenes has to do with what humans are. We are not merely animals, purely material beings who spend our lives gathering food to eat and reproducing. Rather, we are spiritual beings who spend our lives gathering food to eat, reproducing, and delighting in beauty. Maybe you won’t go that far with me; what, after all, is spirit? Just go with me a little further.

Look at this church. What does it say about the people who worship there?

It appeals to the same spirit, I think. Humans are creatures capable of being elevated, and the architecture takes that into account. God makes an appearance as well. The atmosphere is prayerful, as the builders intended. It doesn’t take much effort to recollect oneself in a building like this.

Such places abound if you know where to look. I make a point to seek them out.

We don’t build like this anymore. Why? I think it has to do with belief. A congregation that believes in the greatness of God and the spiritual nature of human beings builds churches like that. What sort of belief does this building evince?

anonymous church

Do they believe the same things as the other church? Judging from the architecture, they have nothing in common.

9 thoughts on “Architecture and Belief”

  1. I was able to take 2 weeks in college and visit Italy. The architecture throughout the country was amazing! Impressive in scale and beauty!

    However, what I heard growing up (not Catholic or Orthodox and not many around to talk to), was that it was wasteful to put all that money into a building instead of directly into mission work, benevolence, etc.

    Whats the general response to that?

    1. Beauty is itself mission work, benevolence, etc.

      I may write more about this. But humans are embodied beings, and we need beauty like we need food.

      1. Yes, but in the following verses, when Jesus is asked about doing that, He says that they do not always have Him and that she did this to anoint His body for burial.
        It doesn’t show that it’s a principle to apply outside this situation.

  2. This was a beautiful read and has inspired me to seek out such tranquility this weekend. October 4th was my birthday. Thanks for the gift.

  3. I am tired of going into a church and seeing modern and somewhat communistic buildings and decor. The beauty should be out in the open. Like in nature

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