Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Functions of a Catholic Church Building

July 9th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

by Father Dwight Longenecker

From “Catholic Exchange”

Architects will quibble about the “form follows function” dictum, but assuming that there is at least some truth to it, we can then ask, “What is a church for?” If we are being merely practical about it, a church is for people to gather for divine worship. Therefore the seating should be comfortable. Everyone should be able to see the altar and the pulpit. There should be a good sound system and adequate amenities like air conditioning, heating and toilets and cry rooms and bride rooms. However, is a church simply an auditorium? Many modern Protestant churches are built with this criteria. All that is required is a large, comfortable, efficient space for everyone to meet.

The Catholic tradition offers something greater. When we ask what a Catholic Church is for the answer is more than simply an auditorium. Within the Catholic tradition the Church building has more than a practical function. Therefore if “form follows function” we have to ask what these other functions might be for  a Catholic church… Read more here.


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One Response to “The Functions of a Catholic Church Building”

  1. christian says:

    One of my biggest complaints is trying to over-modernize older churches. I think high altars should be kept in place. Even if they are not in regular use, they serve an aesthetic function as it lifts our eyes to the Divine. I also do not like altar rails removed.
    There are some wonderful examples across town of churches who did an excellent job transitioning to a free standing table-altar format (priest facing parishioners) while maintaining the tradition and heritage of that church. Three examples of churches still open in the Diocese of Rochester are St. Stanislaus Church, St. Michael Church, and Our Lady of Victory. Another church is SS. Peter and Paul Church, which is now part of the Coptic Church.

    I felt like crying when I first discovered that all the beautiful artistry painted about the ceiling of St. Mary Church Downtown had been painted over. There have been various older churches who have gutted their sanctuary by removing high altars and altar rails in an effort to modernize their worship space, and what has been left, doesn’t look like it fits that church. (It’s another thing if it’s a modern church. But even with modern churches there can be problems with renovation as Diane Harris can attest to).

    I think our Catholic tradition in regard to church design has been to bring about inspiration for the Divine and create reverence for God, in addition to accommodating people for worship.

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