Contemporary Church Architecture vs. Toothpaste

August 8, 2012

In one of his insightful analyses of Western Culture the English historian Christopher Dawson made the following observation:

The ancient Egyptians built pyramids that were even greater than the skyscrapers of New York, in terms of human effort expended, but they were for the tombs of God-Kings.  The relatively poverty stricken peoples of medieval Europe erected vast cathedrals and abbeys, but these were the expression of their common faith and their hopes for eternity.  But today we build temples greater than the Egyptian pyramids or the Gothic Cathedrals and they are dedicated to toothpaste or chewing gum or anything that anyone wants, so long as enough people want it.

This says a lot about our world today and can most especially be seen in the construction of churches today. In the past 50 years there has been a great concern with the functionality or usefulness of the building, i.e. it has become the only concern. This same mentality is applied to the building and decorating of churches, but a church is not just there to be “used” by us, rather it is supposed to be “used” by God. The construction of the quality of building and the art that is placed in them tells a lot of the importance of the place. Since skyscrapers are covered inside with all kinds of marble and expensive furnishings, churches have cheap carpeting and the ugliest furnishings maybe its because in the past 50 years we find toothpaste and chewing gum more important than God. Hopefully we will realize that after all God deserves the best that we have to offer and He will reward us for giving it to Him.

About Father Matthew Bartulica

Father Matthew Bartulica has written 3 post in this blog.

A priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph,

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  • Doc

    As God is Truth and Beauty, so let His places of worship reflect Him as much as we can which is much.
    See the Gothic and the Renaissance churches and artwork to start.

  • St Donatus

    I agree with this post. Every morning I stop at a beautiful church built around 1910 and pray for 10 or 15 minutes before I go to work. All the beauty, the statues of the saints, Jesus, and Mary help me feel like I am in the presence of God and the saints. When I am in this church, I can feel the prayers of thousands of worshipers that have made a more holy place.

    We also have a newer church that is gorgeous by modern standards. No statues, no beautiful artwork. Sad to say, I don’t feel nearly as close to God there, even at mass. I think most people are visual and those visual clues either remind us that we are in mans world (modern art) or Gods world (gothic art).


    We should also ask the question: why are we passively agreeing to the plans of bishops (or their diocesan flunkies) who are rapidly selling off some of the most beautiful churches in our dioceses, esp. in the northeast and midwest, in the name of diocesan “renewal” (i.e., downsize and shuck off) programs????

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