Sacred Architecture


Saint Meinrad Archabbey

I once got berated by a friend for saying I did not care much for the new Christ Cathedral’s architecture.  He mentioned in some places like in Africa they may not be able to build such traditional churches as you can see throughout the world at least by the 1950’s.  That’s absurd.  Traditional churches are less costly than these new churches of the same size which a Vatican official said look more like museums than churches.

Honestly I would say they look more like a scene in Cloud City.  The reason why traditional churches would be less costly than modern churches is that traditional churches use less materials and said materials are used out of more common and thus cheaper materials, whereas more modern churches use rarer materials which are thus more expensive.  Here is a great article about how the poor deserve to have churches that reflect the splendor of Heaven.

I’m not saying the church has to be huge per se.  You don’t need a huge church for it to be beautiful; it just needs to look and feel like a church.  While architecture is not the most important thing, it should reflect an otherworldly look in a world which has left said architecture.  It is an external way of showing we have not compromised with the world.  Sometimes, the architects of today’s modern churches get too proud of their work and make these churches look like anything besides churches.  Architects want to be known through their art, but sometimes they go about it in the wrong ways and the architecture for a modern museum may not be the most appropriate style for a church.  The way some of these churches are built, how could you tell a church from any other building if you were on vacation in a town you’ve never been too?  It should be noted how many people are fascinated by the traditional architectural styles of churches, even if they may not be the most religious person you come across.  Sure, architecture is not a reason for why we should or should not go to Mass.  Yet, we must glorify God in all things [1].  Are we glorifying God when we build futuristic churches that look like anything but a church or are we glorifying our own achievements?

Here is a link of churches which contains some architectural no-no’s.  There are plenty more links out there showing not-so churchy churches, some of which are literally shaped like a submarine, an airplane or other vehicles and non-ecclesiastical buildings.

Evan McWilliams notes, “It is the hubris of architects trained to believe that the only way to be progressive is to be futuristic that has brought about this thinking” [2].  Thomas D. Stroka states authors of a particular document on contemporary church architecture “give the project specific praise for its innovation for innovation’s sake” [3].  Stroka also mentions that many of these contemporary churches “bear no Christian symbols on the exterior or interior” (ibid).  This architectural innovation by the way is being done primarily in 1st world countries like the United States and Germany, not impoverished African or Latin American countries.  I do find futuristic churches to be dull in addition to be spiritually and intellectually non-stimulating.  I can still pray in a futuristic church or chapel, but the feeling isn’t the same.  His Eminence Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi stated, “At best, these are like museums, spaces that do not suggest prayer or meditation” [4].  Antonio Paolucci, Vatican Museum Director, lamented that one church in Rome “could just as well be a museum in Texas or an auditorium in Melbourne” [5].

I pray the following for church architects when I pray the Rosary: “For church architects, that they may glorify God in their artwork.”

[1] 1 Thessalonians 5:18

[2] McWilliams, Evan. “An Offering of Beauty”. Institute for Sacred Architecture. <;.

[3] Stroka, Thomas D. “Contemporary Church Architecture”. Institute for Sacred Architecture. <;.

[4] Kington, Tom. “Modern Catholic churches resemble museums, says Vatican”. Telegraph. <;.

[5] “Modern churches aren’t up to scratch, says Vatican museum chief”. Journal. <;.


Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Saint Louis, MO


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