Understanding Religious Architecture


How Church is defined frequently determines how we build our places of worship. The liturgical reforms of Vatican II set new guidelines for architects and the design and building of churches. Yet the 20th century has passed and very few modern churches have been successful. The debate continues between traditionalist and modernist perspectives. This course will be an exploration of contemporary Christian architecture based on an understanding of the liturgical actions that are celebrated. Churches today, as they were in their earliest form, remain primarily places for assembling in the name of God. The notion of assembly, together with the notion of liturgy, are both fundamental to interpretation and design of Christian places of worship. In this course we search for answers to questions such as: Is traditional architecture more adequate for churches than modern ones? Is the architecture merely an envelop for the celebration of the liturgy? Is there a deeper connection between liturgy and architecture? We uncover some of these issues, analyzing different buildings, and examining relevant topics such as the sacredness of the space, the direction of prayer, the location of the assembly and the sanctuary through iconic buildings like the Cathedral Church of Our Lady of the Angels in LA, the Chapel of St Ignatius in Seattle, the Jubilee Church in Rome, Christ Church in Vienna, the Church of the Sacred Heart in Munich, Church of the Light in Osaka, Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Kansas, The Church of Father Pio in Foggia, St. Francois de Molitor in Paris, The Holy Mother of Asylum in Croatia, and Santo Volto in Turin.


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