Posting in Architecture
While traditional architecture is the trend for many U.S. churches, the Catholic faith benefits from modern designs and contemporary arts.
Modernizing the Catholic Church usually doesn't refer to architecture. But it should.
In the wake of abuse scandals and resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, it seems the perfect moment to explore a new language of church design. The new Pope Francis, charismatic and somewhat socially progressive, could inspire today's look. Yet Catholics and their commentators this year, as ever, are conservative to a fault when it comes to the physical trappings of their faith.
Bring us traditional architecture, they say, for the good of mankind.
Highlighting the mood, last week the news was about the imminent selection of an architect to help redesign Crystal Cathedral, which a Catholic diocese in Southern California bought for $57 million. Designed by Philip Johnson, with an arboretum by Richard Neutra and a welcome center by Richard Meier, the glass-cloaked complex has an auditorium-style nave.
Auditorium? No good for Catholic worship, say conservative critics.
Form follows faith?
It's not just the blasphemy of "people-oriented worship spaces," as blogger Thom Nickels has opined for The Huffington Post. It's also the symbolic power of art in the church, too.
In June, a high-level Vatican official criticized modernist church architecture. The sentiment was echoed all over.
It was Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican’s cultural council, who sees "a lack of integration between the architect and the faith community." The same month, the Vatican opened an art exhibit at the Venice Biennale, on display through November, trying to bring art and religion closer together.
The three-room installation suggests a church in synch with contemporary arts. While the sepia photographs by Josef Koudelka and monotone paintings by American artist Lawrence Carroll -- and interactive videos by Milan's Studio Azzurro -- all focus on the theme of (biblical) creation, they are stark, intense and very modern.
We like old things
Inside the church, however, Catholics won't bear it. They call for statuary that is representational, old-looking and familiar. And they want "sacred places, not meeting spaces," as Michael S. Rose wrote in his book, Ugly as Sin. Pews for people? Perish that un-Catholic thought.
Many conservative Catholics blame the reforms of the early 1960s Second Vatican Council, which addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and modernity. These critics think Vatican II opened the door for U.S. bishops to experiment with church styles and layouts. Rose wrote that the "new-style churches aren't merely "ugly, they actually distort the faith and lead Catholics away from Catholicism."
What power does historicism have over the faithful? Relics are worshipped, period. Even the ones made yesterday in a factory and distressed by hand to look all old and authentic-looking. Conduct a focus group -- I dare you -- and you'll hear the most fervently religious asking for more historic-looking churches.
Many of the newest U.S. church designs reflect this predilection.
America's new traditionalists
Last week the National Catholic Register quoted Denis McNamara, an architectural historian in Chicago, spotting the trend that U.S. Catholic church architecture "is definitely, without question, becoming more traditional” over the last few years, adding that, "With the exception of a few recent cathedrals on the West Coast, the era of hiring a famous modernist star architect is over."
Emblematic of the “new traditional Catholic architecture” are Houston's Our Lady of Walsingham, Nashville's Motherhouse Chapel, and new churches named for saints in Westerville, Ohio; Leawood, Kan.; and Leesburg, Va. These churches look old and, in some cases, expensive. The designs range from banal to brilliant, with some clearly undertaken by accomplished classical architects.
Yet, the walls, built using unseen modern technology, only pretend to be old. Do the churchgoers share this duality? They are modern folks, cloaked on Sunday morning in an idea of antiquity.
In spite of the trend, the success of modern churches can't be denied. The best example may be Richard Meier's Church of 2000 in Rome, a remarkable, brilliantly sunlit spiritual experience that exalts man and God. Go inside, and you will believe.
America's best cathedral
Other works suggest the earthly powers of gravity, firmament, and the inspiration of the heavens and the strength that is enduring faith. The Latin-rite Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, designed by Rafael Moneo, is among the most convincing. It has a lively, growing congregation, and people who worship there absolutely love the place.
For tradition-minded Catholic visitors, it's hard to understand the attraction.
But as the Los Angeles congregants show, the church is changing. The times are changing. And the Catholics -- and their worship halls -- should move along with them.
Aug 27, 2013
Thanks, Henry. I think you are right. With that in mind, only good architectural solutions are needed, right? Buildings that are efficient, comfortable and of a style that is suitable to the congregation or the diocese.
Friend, if you have details on architectural trends facing Muslims, I'd be glad to hear about them. I'm currently tracking an important change in Judaic synagogues, which are adapting their interior layouts for increasingly polarized congregations -- some more orthodox, and others more reform (progressive).
Remember, we're not judging religious ideas or histories of bad behavior, just trying to identify current architectural trends.
Why waste all of everything that goes into the contrasting of the worlds' religions by members of these different secular groups when congregations cannot agree on architecture or miracle whip. To live by what I am trying say, I pity the fools fighting over the same god (supreme being etc.) and to waste ones time with any of this spiritual nonsense is none of my business nor do I care how or if any of you practice (I do however reserve my right to practice or to not practice as granted by Constitution) and furthermore I prefer you keep all of these actions to yourself. I can understand not infringing on freedom of speech or assembly but have some damn manners for heavens sake and keep your bullshittt over there. Where ever that is.. I won't be to find out.. That goes for every damn last one of you believers....-nonbelievers... doesn't matter... over there... Thanks in Advance... SULLY
Nothing should surprise anyone when it comes to the Catholic Church. I could say plenty but let history and present day speak for itself. If you dare, read the book "Petrus Romanus" by Thomas Horn and Cris Putnam. This gives the reader the history and future of the the Catholic Church.
Here's another correction to the article, which may or may not make a difference: Our Lady of Walsingham, in Houston, was not designed as a Catholic church, per se. OLoW started as an Episcopalian church and is now part of the Anglican Ordinate. So whatever opinions you have on this church, you can thank (or blame) the Episcopalians. One reason towards the move back to "traditional-style church architecture" is because in the past 20 years we've had a spate of churches designed by architects **for other architects**, rather than being designed for G_D. I recall one Catholic student center which was so "minimalist" it was like being inside a hollowed-out concrete slab. Nothing uplifting there, by golly! As for Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, I'm not sure I would state that the people worshiping there **love** the place. If you go to some of the Catholic forums and poll the people, be assured you will find a ... wide ... variety of reactions. (And no, Huffington Post does NOT count as a Catholic forum.) And finally, I'm one of the people who applauded the purchase of the Crystal (now Christ) Cathedral by the Diocese of Orange (CA). If nothing else, even with the costs of remodeling, it's still a bargain over building a new cathedral from scratch. And when you ask what needs to be changed to make it suitable for Catholic worship, consider that all the pews have to be removed and replaced, since none of them are spaced to allow for the installation of kneelers. That's only one detail of many that have to be dealt with.
Often I am assisting at Mass in the Church by Richard Meier in Rome: I suffer from the heat in summer and in winter it is cold. Its acoustics is a disastrous. I also know very well the church dedicated to Padre Pio, designed by Renzo Piano in San Giovanni Rotondo. Renzo Piano exceeds Meier for any inconvenience, the thermals and the acoustics. I live in Rome. Anyone who enters into an ancient church can realize the architectural wisdom that makes it enjoyable to attend religious rites, comforted by a pleasant climate and by the acoustics that support both the understanding of the word, as well as the spread of music and singing, without annoying echoes. On the contrary, I can make a long list of modern churches, all defecting like the Meierâs and the Piano's ones. These buildings are not designed for prayer. They are the result of a creative narcissism, rather concerned to homage to their own aesthetic rules. I do not demand they should change their styles but I must emphasize that the modern churches were built thanks to a client who pays the considerable amounts. Unfortunately, till now, this client has so far been more anxious to appear as a true modernist rather than a religious pastor. So, welcome to corrective actions. After all, the design of the churches is an affair of the Catholics and of the Church.
Actually, a modern church should do what the couple of Mormon churches I've walked into over the past four decades should do: be flexible so that once the services were done for a few hours or so, the pews are moved, walls are shifted around, so that people, including children , can participate in sports like basketball and table tennis, seniors events, conferences, prayer sessions, community events, and then be put back into place within minutes by ordinary folks. Good design, useful, attractive -- yup and religiously attractive with the pews in place -- and so on. Useful places for people to congregate, pray, talk, and love their God. Wonderful design as I remember it. But since it has been at least two decades, perhaps it is time to walk into a Mormon church again and talk to somebody about the church design, why, and if it has changed in recent decades. If the design is ugly rather than the way I remembered, damn. Maybe my false memories should be adopted and built and make everybody happy -- and useful.
I am a Catholic for 73 years from Sri Lanka. My view is that the architectural style of the church does not really matter. The most common and acceptable is the cruciform (like a cross). However, if one examines history, it had not been the desired form always. The early Christians met and celebrated the eucharist in the catacombs! For the first 3 hundred years there were no churches. So why is architecture a problem for the church? The Eucharist can be celebrated anywhere - in a house, under a tree, in a tent....
Just tax it like any other business. You mentioned specifically the Catholic Church. An organization that has killed, murdered, raped, sodomized, mutilated, tortured, scammed, robed more people then any other organization in all of History. (the Crusades, the Inquisition, Jesuits, all pop to the top of the list in case you forgot) Burn people at the stake for disagreeing with them aka Martin Luther. Genocide of the Catars and more Since the collapse of the Roman Empire. While your at it save Al qaeda. Compared with the catholic church the Al qaeda terrorists are the good guys.
Thanks to Cabo Wabo and stilesclub -- your comments are appreciated, especially the clarifications of why one should not use the terms "meeting center" or "worship hall" in this context. Also the sentence on relics and worship is regretful, in hindsight; that would have been clearer with different words. Most of all I thank wirth@ for your comment -- it's the celebration that should matter, not the building in which it happens. Again, thanks to all three for your viewpoints and clarifications. --C.C. Sullivan
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Why does Smart Planet insist on commenting on things they do not have a clue about? Catholic Churches are not merely "meeting centers". More seriously, any Roman Catholic that practices worshipping relics is committing mortal sin. The statement "Relics are worshipped, period." is a lie perpetrated by other religions along with calling Catholics 'idol worshippers'. This article is not worth the bytes it is made of...
Calling a Catholic Church a worship hall shows an ignorance of basic Catholic Theology. Only Protestants have worship halls. However, ever since Protestentizing the Catholic Church with the new theology of Vatican 2, novus ordo, and the new sacraments, I can understand why they are now called worship halls and meeting centers.
Practicing RC's should be more focused on the spiritural aspect of the Rubric that takes place in the building, so called Church. As a practicing RC for now almost 70 years it really make no difference if the celebration of the Consecration occurs in a magnificent building or under an Iris tree with a broad leaf cover - it is the celebration that is all-important. If you take the words to Pope Francis literally I would suggest he is against the building of expensive and fancy buildings. Churches do add to the cultural well-being of a community but Chris hardly essential when it comes to what goes on in a Church.
Also, I'm familiar with the tactics you are using. Remember, if you are spreading lies, which with this book apparently you are, then you are violating one of the Ten Commandments. Don't throw "Once saved, always saved" at me. Most Christians don't believe it is Scriptural, and most of those that do do not believe it is license to lie and hate.
I found I couldn't put "Petrus Romanus" down. That's because I had to throw it across the room. Here are two writers who have been actively antithetical towards the Catholic faith in previous books, claiming that this time they'll treat their subject with respect. They have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of Catholic faith, history, or culture, yet they claim to be writing an accurate interpretation of a purported prophecy that depends on an understanding of Catholic faith, history, and culture in order to interpret it. It reminds me far too much of some Jack Chick pamphlet for me to take it seriously.
@csumbler: You're either an arch-fundamentalist, and arch-modernist, or a militant "Freethought" atheist. Anyway, you exaggerate and spew nothing constructive here; you just get in your one-sided cheap shots. Praising 'Al-Qa'eda the way you do makes me think you think the KKK are good guys.... Well, do you? One of the many reasons I became Catholic was because, like Jesus, the Catholic Church is vilified by both the extreme left and the extreme right. Since the Hitlerians, Stalinists, and other hate-mongers are against her, she must have something of true value. BTW, Martin Luther was NOT burned at the stake. He died in his own bed. You're so blinded by rage that you can't even get your facts straight. either that, or you'll just lie to make your point. If you have a problem with every Catholic you meet and every Catholic Church you see, you own the problem. We're not going away. Actually, csumber, you're rather childish. You went off-topic to rant and rave like a Yahoo! blogger or a Ku Klux Klansman. BTW, are you one? If you want to debate me, have at it. I've dealt with people who'd have loved to put me in the hospital, so someone like you is small potatoes.
If you are going to go back 1,000 years in judgment of Catholics, why not do the same for Muslims and Islam? There are just as many atrocities in their past. And far more in the present where even today Imams are calling for the murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt for the simple act of being a Christian, or where Imams in many arab nations frequently order the execution of women who were raped or the execution of people who are gay for the crime of being gay. If you want to talk the present, do that and compare the present day Catholic church to Al Qaeda and Islam in general and see if your assessment holds up. Failing to offer equal assessments would support calling your hatred of Catholics rather blatant and disgusting.
"I found I couldn't put "Petrus Romanus" down. That's because I had to throw it across the room." I'll have to borrow that response from you. There are a lot of anti-Catholic beliefs out there, many in print or on screen. There was a time I bought into that; I grew up Congregationalist (United Church of Christ). Those modernists are as anti-Catholic and dishonest about the Catholic Church as are the the writers of Chick publications and other fundamentalists. When I realized that some of my beliefs about U.S. Catholics were false, e.g., that Catholics don't know the Word, I realized the anti-Catholic arguments of some Protestants were a house of cards. eventually I became a Catholic Christian. @mikeandhelen1127: I hope you're reading this. such books as _Petrus Romanus_ are based on lies, which means the authors are violating one of the Ten Commandments. If one must base one's argument on lies, one really has no good argument. Contrary to what many fundamentalists (Pharisees) and modernists (Sadducees) believe, and perhaps you believe, the ends rarely, if ever, justify the means. I invite you to read _Catholic and Christian_ by Alan Schreck for starters.
I think @csumbler is confusing Martin Luther with St. Joan of Arc -- I guess that's easy to do. BTW, the in the end Church authorities had no problem with Joan, deciding that the English were trying to use the Church to justify their execution of Joan. The day after that decision, the English went ahead and burned her.
you don't have to go back 1000 years to find atrocious behavior by the Muslims. They are doing it today, facts which you point out. In fact, their entire history is atrocious behavior as that is how their book and prophet instruct them to behave. At least the Catholics have attempted and largely succeeded in cleaning up their act. We still hear about pedophile priests which they really need to take care of. Back to the article: The author chose to focus on a minor issue (at least to me). The building and it's architecture is irrelevant to worship. That can occur anywhere. By the way, to csumbler, it's Cathar, not Catar. And comparing Al Qaeda to Catholics and calling them the good guys is beyond the pale. If you love them so much, go join them and may a drone find you.
@wnematollahi, I would prefer to think that Thomas Horn and Cris Putnam are writing out of ignorance. I doubt very much that they consulted the Catechism of the Catholic Church or any Church-approved materials for their research. I imagine they simply used the materials they had at hand. To accuse them of lying is to act against charity in assuming that they knew what they were writing was false and chose to write it anyway. I WILL accuse them of sloppy research and lazy intellectual expression, which are not necessarily sinful actions. In the interest of accuracy, I have to confess that I lifted the gist of the "throw across the room" statement from a writer from the 1930's. I want to say Dorothy Sayers but I don't have the time right now to confirm the source. Apologies.
"Oh BTW if (insert deity here) doesn't do the right thing and kill you. Then I'll do it for him". By your definition, I guess the atheists Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse-Tung, and Pol Pot were deities. "[T]he Catholic Church. An organization that has killed, murdered, raped, sodomized, mutilated, tortured, scammed, robed more people then any other organization in all of History." So how many people did the Catholic Church burn at the stake? Was it more than the number of people the Ku Klux Klan killed? So how many people did members of the Catholic Church kill compared to the more than 30 million killed by the atheists Hitler and Stalin combined? IMHO, anyone who distorts the truth to encourage hatred is a coward. Also, I don't believe you care much for the truth at all. you just care to throw out half-truths and outright lies to support you prejudices. I have no doubt you believe "The Myth in very short time becomes the truth" and use it to your ends.
Unfortunately the truth has become what people make of it. Recent interview by the director Ron Howard. When questioned about a few historical inaccuracies in a recent movie Apollo 13. Paraphrasing a bit here but basically "If what is truth gets in the way. Print the myth". That is just an example. The Myth in very short time becomes the truth. There are so many myths out there that people have come to believe the myth rather then the truth. The truth in religion is a touchy subject for many. "my mind is made up don't confuse me with the facts" I care very much about the truth, what bothers me is how the truth can is easily be manipulated to conform to ones belief. I bare no ill will on anyone. Nothing no opinion or belief is worth dieing for or hurting someone else that does not believe in what you believe. Such can not be said about many religions. Neither a bully or a coward. I think of myself as an outsider to religion looking in and seeing what others are doing with it. The Torah, the quarn, the bible are all based on the same historic writings, the only difference is how they have been interpreted and edited over the millenia
Sorry my mistake. They burned so many it's hard to keep track. nor do I support Al-Qa'eda, but only using that as yet another organisation the uses religion as a means to control others. Pray our way, believe as we believe or suffer the rather of (insert deity here) Oh BTW if (insert deity here) doesn't do the right thing and kill you. Then I'll do it for him
Yes, and that decision was contrary to everything the Church taught and teaches. People have used their religion as an excuse to act completely contrary to their religion since the dawn of time. Look at the KKK, the IRA, the Ulster Unionists, 'Al-Qa'eda, the Jewish Defense League, the "Hindu" RSSS of the 1940s, etc. However, csumber doesn't really care about the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. his twisted mind is made up, and he doesn't want to be bothered with the facts. Note that he hasn't returned to defend hios position, just like any bully or other coward.