Monday, November 2, 2009

B&W, W&O Chapter 6: Sacred Places for Sacred People

It's the architecture chapter! :)

We start off with the reminder that while we use the word church to refer to specific buildings, for the most part, the true meaning of the word is reference to the people who worship in them. The point of the building is to provide the proper space and atmosphere for the members of the Body of Christ to experience the presence of God. Everything in the building should be aimed at assisting the worshiper to get into focus and *keep* that focus from the moment they enter the door.

He points out that *most* people (there're always exceptions to every rule) act differently once they enter 'sacred space'. Their voices drop, they get politer, just in general more the people we should all probably be all the time. As Archimandrite Webber points out, God doesn't need the building to live in. He is everywhere, at all times. We, the members of the church, need the church building. To make us step outside of everyday life, to remind us that we are here for God, to remind us of who we should be, all the time.

We get a brief tour of the basic parts of the church building.

1. The Steps - many churches are built up, so that you have to go up steps to get into them. He also points out that some of the most sacred sites in Christianity are built in or on high places. He uses the examples of Mount Athos, Patmos, and the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. The point, he says, is that we tend to build upward movement into important places, because it gives us a feeling of *ascending* to God, even if it's just a little bit. Yes, we know we can't actually climb up to God in that way, but it's the psychological effect that matters.

2. Narthex - The 'entryway'. It's the space right inside the front doors, before you get to the doors (assuming that your church has them) that open into the nave. This is a place where (the author says), we begin to drop our 'outside persona' and start becoming who we are in church.

3. The Nave and Sanctuary - the nave is where the congregation sits/stands during the service. The sanctuary is the space around the altar. In the Orthodox church the iconostasis separates the sanctuary off from the nave.

I found a church layout for illustrative purposes. This is just one, so every church isn't laid out in this *exact* fashion, in re: coat rooms, confessionals, etc. But the general, narthex, nave, sanctuary, altar layout should be basically the same.


  1. random art history fact: All churches were originally designed in the shape of a cross. It is only recently that designs have deviated from the original format. Even if you look at a circular church you can sometimes vaguely make out a cross shape in the interior from the atrium down to the horizontal isle infront of the congregation and down the center isle.

    Teehee I know random but I love old churches, I could stare at them for days. So complex.

  2. LK,

    Yes. Also, they used to all be built facing east. This is not so true anymore. :)

    Our church is basically shaped like a cross, which I like. :)

    Old churches are the best! I love them so much. As opposed to the 'new' ones, which might as well be an auditorium. I get no sense of reverence there.

  3. Totally agree. Not a fan of new churches. The one my parents go to looks like a round jewelry box. Not pretty.

  4. Interesting stuff! I enjoyed this. I love old churches as well. It was great seeing some in Damascus earlier this year.

  5. I *love* old churches! Those and castles! That was actually the high light of my trip to Germany - castles. :)

    Funny story, my uncle was taking me around to all these old castles, and he knew of one that was just a tower, in the middle of a field. So we drive there, and we're looking at it, and this guy comes up. (It's his field.) My uncle talks to him (he was a very nice man, by the way), and we find out, it's not a castle tower at all - it's an old windmill that lost it's room/fan doohicky. Still cool.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...