Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Here’s Why You Hate Round Churches

December 11th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

by  on the Patheos Website Here

Have you noticed that nobody loves modern churches? Nobody. I mean NOBODY.


Seriously. Have you ever met anyone who sees a church like this and and heard them whisper, “I just love that church! It is so inspiring!”

interior round

That’s because these buildings were not designed to inspire awe or to remind you about the presence of God. They are  people centered, not God centered. They are auditoria not temples.

There is a gut level negative respond to these buildings. Even those who have got used to them make comments like, “Well, it’s our church and we’re doing the best we can.” Worse still, they have grown up with these monstrosities and they do not know of anything else.

I have spent the last week in central Missouri worshipping in a…       Read More Here

Thank you Raymond Rice for forwarding to us this link to Patheos.


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13 Responses to “Here’s Why You Hate Round Churches”

  1. militia says:

    I sometimes go to Mass in the chapel of a local church where it is a cross-shaped, but two of the sections are facing each other rather than the altar. It is disconcerting. Yet, when I go to St. Thomas the Apostle which also has 3 wings, I don’t feel that way. Why is that? Is it related to the distance I am from the others and the “substantialness” of the Sanctuary space, compared to the chapel situation? Please explain.

  2. Sid says:

    Great post, Bernie! As I said alluded to in a comment of mine the other day, I’ve yet to be “pleasantly surprised” at the liturgy when visiting an in-the-round church. My experience has been that goofy looking churches can be expected to beget goofy-looking/sounding homilies, music, decor, and liturgical practice. Somewhere undoubtedly, an exception can be found, but why bother looking for that rare confluence of banal modern architecture with reverent practice? Better to fiscally support parishes that marry BOTH traditional reverent architecture with sound orthodox liturgical practice. They are out there…

  3. Bernie says:

    Hello Militia. I’m not sure if I am visualizing the chapel situation you describe, accurately. St. Thomas I am familiar with. In the case of Saint Thomas, the altar is raised and prominent and somewhat blocks the view of the folks on the opposite side. The huge stained glass windows behind and over the congregation in each transept also diminishes the visual importance of the congregants and ads a spiritual element to the view –acts as a backdrop to the liturgy. Distance plays a role in Saint Thomas as well. People on the opposite side of the altar appear as a group and not as individuals. They effectively become part of the architecture, visually, and so do not distract from the altar. In the case of the chapel situation I suspect that you are forced into viewing the people across from you as individuals because 1) they are closer to you and 2) because the altar is not between you and them and or it is not prominent enough to compete with the natural tendency to look at other individuals in front of you. Is this of any help to you. Others may have a better idea/response.

  4. Bernie says:

    Sid: I believe you have enunciated a “truism”. Unfortunately, the opposite is not always a guarantee of orthodoxy especially if the interior has been renovated since the Council.

  5. Bernie says:

    I agree with Fr. Longenecker and for the most part I have made a similar argument in posts on CF.

    But, there is a problem. The Catholic Church has a rather long tradition of centrally planned churches, churches in which the altar is at the center, surrounded by 4 arms of a cross (the Greek cross plan). Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the most obvious example. No one would say that St. Peter’s is not awe-inspiring.

    I believe the problem is not the central plan or “church-in-the-round” (even completely round) but rather the style of the architecture. Contemporary church architecture, for the most part since 1970, broke with the long line of traditional church styles and emphasized bizarre architectural styles that prized uniqueness and experimentation for itself.

    If “in-the-round” churches were built, let us say, with an eye to the profound style of centrally planned churches in the Renaissance period or even with an eye to any of the traditional previous styles in our Catholic tradition they would produce the same sense of awe and inspiration we traditionalists and orthodox expect. I am not suggesting copying the past but rather learning from and developing from the past.

    Of course, the liturgists of the past 40-45 years did not want awe inspiring or uplifting churches buildings. That was the last thing they wanted. They wanted emphasis placed on the congregation; they wanted the congregation to be self conscious. Looked at from that viewpoint, the architecture they got was exactly appropriate.

  6. christian says:

    I remember going to the Shrine in Auriesville with my parents, siblings, and maternal grandparents in the very early 1960’s, and the interest among my family as well as other pilgrims, was the new church built in the round, which was built before Vatican II (or at least before Vatican II concluded). My family and other pilgrims present at mass, were taken up with the church in the round because it was so new and different from what they had been used to.

    I went a second time with my parents and siblings in the early -mid 1960’s, but haven’t been to the National Shrine since I was a child. I believe the church was built in a coliseum style. I think Diane Harris has been at the Shrine in Auriesville fairly recently. I wonder if she can weigh in on her experience at the church, The Shrine of Our Lady of the Martyrs.

  7. Diane Harris says:

    Hi Christian,
    Yes, you are right that I went to the Auriesville Shrine last summer (and stopped in Fonda to pray to St. Kateri to reopen STA (2 weeks before Fr. Bonsignore’s announcement; so it was obviously in process at the time, and I got the chance to add prayers unknowingly.) I went then to Auriesville and because the foundation of the old chapel is collapsing, Mass was held in the Coliseum. There were 14 people in attendance, including the Priest, in a building which holds 10,000 (72 doors). What was a strange experience for me was that I got to lector, and hear the words go out into such a loud space! But since the attendees were looking at the altar and not at other people, it wasn’t a distracting experience — just unique.

    One of the best parts of my visit was one that I almost skipped over — walking down into the ravine where the first martyr on US soil (Rene Goupil) was buried by Isaac Jogues in an unknown spot. The whole stony ravine seems filled with a holy presence. And one observation was made that these stones are “The Altar Stone” of America.

  8. christian says:

    Hi Diane,
    Reading your inspirational experience at Auriesville National Shrine last summer has made me decide to travel there this summer. It’s a shame that there were only 14 persons at mass including the priest, in the Coliseum which can hold up to 10,000 people, but at least there were 14 people. (It’s making me think of Genesis 18: 22-33).

    In the early 1960’s, there were a lot of people present for mass in the Coliseum. Auriesville National Shrine -Shine of Our Lady of Martyrs was also a very common pilgrimage for families to make back in the 1960’s.

    The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Auriesville can link US and Canadian Catholics (and other Christians) to that seed of the church in North America. I think there should be information posted for the Auriesville National Shrine, and that there should be some encouragement from parish priests for parishioners to make a pilgrimage there. The faithful need inspiration in their daily life, following in Christ’s footsteps, and that place would offer a lot of inspiration. There could also be a chartered bus and scheduled bus trip to Auriesville National Shrine from a church parking lot.

  9. Diane Harris says:

    Thanks, Christian. When I posted on the Fonda portion of my trip,
    it was with the opening of STA in mind. I’ll have to look through the rest of my pictures, from Auriesville, and see if I have some I could post. I tried to organize a trip such as you describe about 5 years ago, but the distance seemed to suggest either a professional driver, or an overnight, and most of the people interested couldn’t do either at the time. But I agree with you, and hope that such a trip will happen in the future.

  10. Diane Harris says:

    Thanks, Christian. When I posted on the Fonda portion of my trip, it was with the opening of STA in mind. I’ll have to look through the rest of my pictures, from Auriesville, and see if I have some I could post. I tried to organize a trip such as you describe about 5 years ago, but the distance seemed to suggest either a professional driver, or an overnight, and most of the people interested couldn’t do either at the time. But I agree with you, and hope that such a trip will happen in the future.

  11. christian says:

    Here is a photo from the Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine/North American Martyrs Shrine, Auriesville, N.Y.Website of the Coliseum when it was full for mass.

    According to the website, there are 4 altars: 4 from the pre-Vatican II era and 1 from the post-Vatican II era. On top of the 4 altars is a high altar. It is noted that Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston used the high altar for mass in 1958. According to the website, the Coliseum was built in 1930. It probably has had renovations through the years.

    There apparently is a Latin Mass Choir which sings for special masses at the Coliseum. There is a video of their practice posted on You Tube.

  12. Diane Harris says:

    Shown below this comment section is an inserted view of the Coliseum at Auriesville about 10 minutes before Mass began.

  13. christian says:

    Thank you Diane for posting a recent photo of the Coliseum at Auriesville from July of this year (2014). What a difference! We could sing a parody of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”—- “Where have all the people gone?”

    The Coliseum built in 1930, was deliberately made in the round shape of a Roman Amphitheater so at this shrine for martyrs, there would be a connection to all of the early Christian martyrs who were killed for their faith in a Coliseum. When I visited the shrine as a child, people were in awe and reverence of the North American martyrs and all those who suffered terrible persecution and torment, and death, for their faith; the same faith we shared. We all felt part of that Communion of Saints and Christ’s Mystical Body, and we made that connection. Is there a disconnect nowadays?

    Attention: Previously, I stated there were 4 altars from pre-Vatican II and 1 from post-Vatican II. Correction: There are 4 altars built in a Palisade style -3 altars from pre-Vatican II and 1 from post-Vatican II. Above the 4 altars is a high altar. There is a large wooden carving of crucified Christ on a hemlock cross suspended above. There are also wooden carvings of the North American Martyrs. The website states that mass is currently celebrated at the Main Martyrs Altar which is in the Vatican II style.

    At one time, there were 4 altars in use at one time, with 4 masses going on at the same time. When the Coliseum was built in 1930, it was built from the funds of pilgrims who came to the shrine. Currently, according to the website, the shrine is in financial hardship and is at risk for closing. They need the faithful’s support and also their willingness to come.

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