Saturday, September 22, 2007

A return to architectural traditions.

Though it's old news to many in the Catholic blogosphere, the New York Times has caught up with the movement back to more traditional church architecture - a movement that crosses denominational boundaries:
In 1997, St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston was a congregation bursting at the seams. The community of 6,600 members was housed in a building that could seat just 675. It took six services every Sunday just to give everyone a chance to worship.

But more frustrating than the lack of space to church leaders was a paucity of spirit in the architecture of the boxy, brick 1950s-era chapel.

The Rev. Laurence A. Gipson, then rector of St. Martin's, started talking to church members about what they might want in a new building.

"In 300 conversations with people, universally, it was clear," Mr. Gipson said. "Traditional worship within a traditional building was the thing that enabled us to draw most closely to God."

Working with the architectural firm Jackson & Ryan, St. Martin's drew up plans for a new building modeled after St. Elizabeth's in Marbury, Germany, a Gothic cathedral completed in 1283. The interior takes its inspiration from the cathedral in Chartres, France, circa 1260.

"If modern architecture is meant to be nonreferential, Gothic architecture's whole purpose is to reference God," said Mr. Gipson, who is now retired. "This building is a great finger lifted toward the sky."

The church's new building has become the focal point of what some architects are calling a revival of traditional religious architecture in the United States, as congregations like St. Martin's have begun to yearn for a return to traditional appointments in their buildings and worship services.

"We're actually seeing kind of pendulum swing back toward some of the great traditions of religious heritage," said Charles J. Hultstrand, secretary of Faith and Form, a division of the American Institute of Architects that focuses on liturgical architecture. "People have missed that heritage, and that's reflected in a good number of new church buildings."
To read the rest, click here. AMDG.


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