The Most Beautiful Churches

In response to the feature I posted about on the most ugly churches, Michael Sean Winters asked for nominations for the most beautiful churches.  No slide show and just a few links, but go here for some nominations in different categories:  The Most Beautiful Churches | National Catholic Reporter.

These are mostly Catholic churches, except for the Air Force Academy Chapel, but I think there are more beautiful churches than just these, ranging from very traditional to very modern styles.  What are your nominations?  Pictures or links to pictures would be helpful.  And don’t just consider famous churches from noted architects.  Feel free to point to what’s beautiful in your own church. [Read more...]

The Ugliest Churches in the World?

Is your church listed as one of the 35 ugliest churches in the world?  Nicholas G. Hahn, editor at RealClearReligion, has assembled a slide show of what he considers houses of worship that are “bizarre, weird, dumb, and gross. “  These come from virtually all theological traditions.  Hahn says, “There is something to be said of the effect truly bad architecture has on a worshiper, but that’s for another time.”  We might as well take the time here.  Given that the Word of God can be truly preached in any kind of building, what harm can be done by bad architecture in a church?

For the slideshow go to RealClearReligion – The Ugliest Churches in the World – The Ugliest Churches in the World. [Read more...]

The porta-Church

Church-in-a-box … A Russian military Orthodox chapel

[Read more...]

An architect’s vocation

World Magazine has a  profile of architect David Greusel, who specializes in designing baseball stadiums.  In addition to a fascinating discussion of ball parks, focusing on the one hailed as the best in baseball–Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, which Greusel designed–the article by Janie Cheaney highlights the architect’s Christian faith and his sense of vocation.  This excerpt has wide-ranging implications:

Integrating work with family and faith shouldn’t be controversial, but over the years Greusel has found himself running counter not only to the architectural establishment, but also to certain strains of Christian fundamentalism. In an online essay called “God’s Trailer,” Greusel boldly states that “bad church architecture is as much the result of bad theology as it is of bad design”—meaning that an overemphasis on saving souls has blinded some congregations to the value of nurturing souls. Too many Christians buy into a perversion of the old architectural saw that “form follows function,” seeing their buildings as so many square feet of function with a cross stuck on, instead of a place to direct our attention to God’s glory.

Greusel likes to quote Winston Churchill: “First, we shape our buildings, then they shape us.” He believes the need for Christian architects who bring their worldview to their work has never been greater, for at least three reasons. One, the “creation mandate” (Genesis 1:28) implies that we can continue God’s work on earth by designing spaces that are both useful and beautiful. Also, as creatures made in His image, we honor God by following in His creative footsteps and striving for excellence. And finally, designing (and insisting on) beautiful buildings puts us on the front lines of the culture war: Against the dreary functionalism, commodification, and standardization of concrete boxes, our buildings can reflect both the glory of God and the humanity of man—whether their primary function is to encourage worship or to showcase a perfect double play.

via WORLDmag.com | All-star architecture | Janie B. Cheaney | Jun 30, 12.

Read Greusel’s entire essay God’s Trailer.  The contradiction he cites–”fundamentalists” buying into the dogmas of the “modernists”– is very telling.  By the same token, some of the biggest critics of pop culture are insisting on pop music in their worship.  And theological “conservatives” are arguing that the church must conform to the culture, the textbook definition of theological liberalism.

The Christ-al Cathedral

Robert Schuller’s Chrystal Cathedral has been bought by the Roman Catholic Church, which has renamed it the Christ Cathedral.   It will become the cathedral for the Orange County Diocese.

The soaring glass-paneled church known to millions of television viewers around the world as the Crystal Cathedral will get a new name: the Christ Cathedral.

Catholic leaders announced the name Saturday morning at St. Columban Catholic Church during the moving pageantry of an ordination ritual – the type of event that will draw thousands once the Diocese of Orange move to the site.

The naming marks “the first significant effort to identify the iconic venue as a Catholic religious center,” church leaders said.

It came four months after the diocese closed escrow on the $57.5 million sale, ordered by a court during the Protestant ministry’s bankruptcy proceedings. . . .

Meanwhile, Catholic leaders will begin renovations in July 2013 to convert the cathedral site – built by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller more than 50 years ago –to a Catholic place of worship. That process is expected to take at least a year. . . .

“I felt very bad that they lost their home. However, we needed a new Catholic cathedral because our cathedral is very small,” Brown said. “Dr. Schuller himself said he wanted us to be the ones to purchase it, so we would continue Christian worship in the cathedral and Christian ministry on the campus. That would not have happened with another buyer.” . . .

The new appointment also has personal meaning, [Vicar of the Cathedral Father] Smith said. He grew up visiting his grandparents on the property next door to the Orange Drive-in Theater where Schuller started his church, before creating the famous cathedral visible from the freeway. With his siblings, Smith would watch Schuller preach from the top of a snack bar.”We were amazed at all these people going to church in their cars,” Smith said. A church where you “don’t even have to get out of your car,” he said. “We thought this was very cool.”

“This is a memory that I now cherish,” Smith said.

Smith’s responsibilities will include managing the renovations, which will include installing a central altar, a bishop’s chair and a tabernacle to house the Blessed Sacrament.

The modern structure “is not a highly liturgical place in the traditional sense,” Catholic leaders have said.

“Yet, the Diocese of Orange considers it a ‘clean palette’ – while renovations are called for – not much deconstruction would be required and the iconic personality of the original architecture and design would, for the most part, be retained,” Catholic leaders said in an earlier announcement.

They particularly praised the imposing organ “as one of the finest in the country,” and the quality of light “and its allegory is consistent with the enlightenment of Christ.”

“It will be glorious,” said Sister Susana Guzman, of the Poor Claire Missionary Sisters in Santa Ana. Celebrations such as Saturday’s ordination sometimes require tickets, she said, because the 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County don’t have a large enough cathedral.

St. Columban is the largest Catholic venue in the county, with about half the number of seats as the cathedral site. The Diocese of Orange is the 10th largest in the nation, Smith said.

At an event last April, Smith was introduced to Schuller, the new head of the Christ Cathedral said in an interview. Schuller told him: “I built the cathedral for Christ. And I know that with the Catholic Church, it will be for Christ.”

via Catholic Church renames Crystal Cathedral: Christ Cathedral | cathedral, church, smith – News – The Orange County Register.

Not much “deconstruction”?  Isn’t this whole transaction a deconstruction of the megachurch, contemporary Catholicism, and what it means to be “Iconic”?

I find it odd that Roman Catholics would be so open to megachurch architecture and its meanings.   Do you find anything else odd about this?

HT:  Grace

This is the church, where is the steeple?

Steeples and bell towers have gone out of fashion for church buildings, reports USA Today. What hurts is the reason:

Nationwide, church steeples are taking a beating and the bell tolls for bell towers, too, as these landmarks of faith on the landscape are hard hit by economic, social and religious change. . . .

Architects and church planners see today’s new congregations meet in retooled sports arenas or shopping malls or modern buildings designed to appeal to contemporary believers turned off by the look of old-time religion.

Steeples may have outlived their times as signposts. People hunting for a church don’t scan the horizon, they search the Internet. Google reports searches for “churches” soar before Easter each year. . . .

After three decades of repairing steeples, [steeplejack Michael] Hardin still considers it “a bit of joy to restore something so old and so beautiful and help it retain its integrity.”

The average age of the churches he works on is a half-century. The older steeples, “built with top-notch lumber and a lot of heart,” are holding up structurally, and more often need only cosmetic fixes.

In more recent decades, Hardin says, “church builders went a little haywire. People used shortcuts and cheaper lumber or they moved to the fiberglass steeples that claim to be maintenance-free. And if there’s a problem they stand back and try to get band-aid repairs or they just remove it and cap it off.” . . .

Providence Baptist Church in McLean, Va., a congregation of 450 in the Washington suburbs, managed to get a whole new aluminum steeple and $25,000 annually for its maintenance budget by hopping on the leased-tower trend last year.

Senior Pastor Tim Floyd says the original steeple, moved from the congregation’s first location, was “in good shape, but it was too small for the larger, newer church. And we needed to bring in more money for our maintenance budget. So what could we do? We saw that cellphone companies are using innovative methods, like artificial trees with antennas, to disguise their equipment and bring in cell coverage without unsightly towers.”

Church leaders located a company ready to deal, negotiated the design and “now we have a steeple, hiding two cell antennas, that gives us a really big profile on the horizon. It’s elegant and majestic and a win-win for us,” Floyd says.

It’s also a visual contrast to a massive, modern megachurch across the street that boasts no steeple.

No surprise, says architect Gary Landhauser, a partner with Novak Design Group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who worked on nearly 30 churches in past 15 years.

“We have done a lot of church designs, but we haven’t done a steeple design in 15 years,” Landhauser says.

Today, he says, people want their church to look comfortable and inviting, “more like a mall.”

via Church steeples, aging out of fashion, meet their maker – USATODAY.com.

Architecture, like other art forms, expresses meaning.  Do you know why older churches built steeples?  Why they had bells?  What does it mean that today’s churches tend to use cheap materials?  Why are they being made to look “more like a mall”?  What does it mean when the sanctuary has a stage with studio lights, big speakers, and a drum set?  What do these design features  tell us about contemporary Christianity?

HT: Mollie Hemingway


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