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Religious architecture October 14, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Architecture/Design, Travel Diary.

 See my pics of religious architecture here

On this trip we have seen some amazing churches that have really moved us and it makes me think about the nature and purpose of the architecture and design of these buildings.

I’ve grown up with the notion that the building doesn’t matter and it is what goes on inside the people inside the building that is important. However some of the places we have been have altered this perception, along with the fact that I think good design enhances our lives in lots of ways. I am thinking now that these buildings focus our attention towards the spiritual and there is something special about being in a space like that.
The first building that we saw on this trip that fits this is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. This is a cathedral completed in 2002 and is a fantastic modern building that maintains the awe of old cathedrals and uses really modern design and techniques. We thought that it felt wonderful inside and was a really welcoming space. More info about the Cathedral here.

At the other end of the scale is the Chapel of the Reconciliation in Berlin. This chapel replaced a church in the death strip that was blown up by the East Germans. It is made of rammed earth including some of the rubble of the old church. It is extremely simple and the building and everything in it is made of natural materials. I can’t express the feeling of peace that I have in this place the times I have been there. It is like the smell of earth and wood pervades the air and brings a calmness. more info here
The final example is the incredible Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This cathedral isn’t even finished but the architecture and art is a sermon in itself. The first thing that strikes me is the sense of joy that I see in Gaudi’s architecture. There is colour and text and ornamentation and storytelling. It really is an exhilarating experience to climb the towers and examine all the aspects of the facades. I found the design to be very sincere in its telling of the gospel stories. It was probably the most spiritual experience I have had on this trip. The text that is included in the design is particularly affecting. I am afraid again I can’t express in words what you need to see. Sagrada Familia website
But suffice to say this has changed my mind and made me think quite differently about church buildings. I have made a set on my Flickr site so you can see my photos and hopefully get an idea of what I am talking about here.

PS: To add some more to this subject, today we went to Talbot House in Poperinge Belgium. This was a retreat set up for soldiers in WWI by an organisation called Toc H. In the attic of the house is a chapel and it was so simple and beautiful that I had to include it. The furnishings were made of found objects. The altar was originally a carpenter’s workbench and the priest who set up the house thought this very appropriate. Candlesticks were made from the uprights from a four poster bed and the baptismal font was sent from Maryborough, Queensland by the chaplain’s mother. It also has a number of carvings and objects from churches destroyed by the shelling in the war and found by soldiers who brought them to Talbot House.

So my thoughts are now that the design and construction of church buildings can be a form of worship by the architects/artists and this is as valid as any other form of worship even if we disagree with how much it may cost.



1. huw Luscombe - October 17, 2006

Greetings Delvinks
never been to mainland Europe
always thought it was too burgoise a thing to do
but reading your blog has made me think again
seems like you are having the adventure of a lifetime

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