Liturgical architecture, that’s to say the architecture of Christian churches, is one of the oldest means of mass communication on Earth. You are probably thinking that mass communication is a thing of modernity, but for the millennial before that, architecture was the great efficient communicator in humankind. There is a reason behind the elaborate and characteristic designs of Christian churches, basilicas, and cathedrals. To a largely illiterate audience, architecture was the dominant way to communicate and dogmatize the ideas of Christianity on a large scale. An imposing, seemingly impossible building can create a stronger sense of humility and awe in a person than the actual liturgy of a ceremony. So as you can see, the importance of liturgical architecture cannot be understated.
The Principles of Liturgical Architecture
For legendary author Victor Hugo, the language of architecture climaxed in cathedrals and churches. And, like any language, liturgical architecture has common principles that are necessary to properly communicate ideas. While the principles of Christianity will vary from one denomination to the other, a lot of the principles of liturgical architecture are reasonably consistent throughout them. Whether we are talking about a Catholic cathedral or a Methodist church, we can notice a lot of similarities between the architectural approaches to these temples.
Reaching to the Heavens
Why are churches, more often than not, tall? Even if they aren’t actually very tall, they do appear to be so via design and forced perspective. Bell Towers, naves, and spires, common instances in liturgical architecture, are the Christian version of pyramids and obelisks. These, from Ancient Egypt to Washington D.C., are meant to invite people to gaze upward towards the skies. Churches do the same thing. After all, Christianity is constantly pointing to the Heavens. You enter at ground level and symbolically rise towards paradise by stepping into a building that evokes the idea by way of height.
Humility by Way of Size
Have you ever come face to face with a cathedral or a basilica? They are humbling, to say the least. These gigantic structures that seem to be challenging nature just by standing are meant to make you feel humble, even insignificant. It’s the same reason why palaces and pyramids are so enormous. That way, these buildings immediately manage to communicate one of their intended purposes. Across most of its denominations, Christianity intends to instill humility into their congregations, and one of the many ways they do so is by the size of their churches. If these buildings are meant to represent the house of God, the way they do so is by replicating the feeling of standing in front of a divine entity.
Find a Liturgical Architecture Firm
Needless to say, designing a church is a gargantuan task. It is not easy to tackle such an intimidating endeavor, and if you’re looking for people up for it, you will need to find a liturgical architecture firm with experience and ambition. The architects in question need to understand the principles of liturgical architecture and how to apply them in the present. RBB Architects Inc. has designed a variety of liturgical buildings and spaces, thoroughly implementing these ancient ideas in relevant ways. For more information, you can call us at (310) 473-3555 or reach out to us through our website.