Sacred Architecture

Biden vs. Bork, 1988: Democrats Smear a SCOTUS Nominee

Editor’s note: this article originally appeared in the May 1988 print edition of Crisis. It has been edited for brevity. Many people have asked me what it was like to live through the nomination and hearings of my husband, Robert Bork. I usually answer that it was like being besieged in a battle where the reinforcements [...]

S.O.S.: Save Our Spire

The French people have a lot of experience in rebuilding churches. World War II, World War I, various nineteenth-century governments, the French revolution, the Huguenots and, before that, the barbarian hordes all took a toll on these heavenly palaces—not to mention fires and damage due to the travails of time. This latest fire, watched by [...]

What Is Beauty and Why Do We Need It?

Let us suppose there is such a thing as objective beauty. Suppose, along with the classical and Christian traditions, that the human person is made for beauty. Now suppose further that beauty is a kind of composite, that the beautiful is made up of two parts, one metaphysical and the other psychological. If such were [...]

To Resurrect Notre Dame Is a Work of Faith

This Monday, the world watched as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the magnificent symbol of Paris, of France, and of the Catholic Church, was engulfed in flames. People watched from the streets and on screens across the world in stunned disbelief. Parisians gathered in the streets gasped as the flames and smoke rose to the heavens [...]

What in the World Is a “Worship Space”?

Euphemisms are de rigeur for revolutionaries. Communist states call themselves “people’s republics.” When they instigate conflicts, they are called “wars of liberation.” Abortionists call their abattoirs “pregnancy centers” and their executions “terminations.” Most currently, surgeons call sexual mutilation “gender reassignment.” All of this a clever strategy to stave off natural human revulsion so that after [...]

The Time Has Come for A New Counter-Reformation

We need a new Counter-Reformation in sacred art and architecture. What was the Reformation’s effect? First, it preached iconoclasm, the rejection of the human figure in religious art. Second, it reoriented worship, so that people gathered round the pulpit rather than the altar and the baptismal font became more important than the tabernacle. At the [...]

Restoring Sacred Architecture Will Reaffirm Theological Truth

This past spring, a marvelous new cathedral was dedicated in Knoxville, Tennessee. The dedication of Sacred Heart Cathedral is certainly a sign of the return of traditional architecture in sacred buildings. The cruciform cathedral was designed in a classical style, featuring arches and Corinthian pilasters in the nave. With a traditional long nave and cruciform [...]

Some Church Architectural Styles Really Are Profane

Architecture speaks, and, like a homily or proclamation of scripture, it can change us profoundly. It preaches and teaches every time we enter a church building. When it speaks truth it reminds us that God is central, and that we are broken and in need of a savior who offers us a place of eternal [...]

The Time Has Come to Ban “Reconciliation Rooms”

Amid the recent revelations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, there have been calls for substantive actions to prevent future abuse by clergy. While most of these calls have focused on transparency, accountability, punishment of guilty parties, and lay oversight of cases after the fact, there are a few which deal with how to [...]

How to Save the Church’s Architectural Patrimony

There is an unprecedented crisis in our cities, yet most are not aware of it. It does not affect residents nor shoppers in our tony neighborhoods. In working-class neighborhoods some see it as a concern, but they are a minority. What is this crisis? In dioceses across the country, including Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, and New [...]

7 Reasons I Love My Urban Parish

The answer to the question “What parish do you belong to?” is important where I live. Cincinnati is a town in which until the recent past “parish” was included on real estate listings. It was something most buyers wanted to know. My answer brings responses ranging from “You drive that far?” to “Isn’t that downtown?” [...]

Traditional Architecture: An Expression of the Divine

Naming Prince Charles as one’s favorite Royal is rather like choosing Ringo as one’s favorite Beatle: there are no wrong answers … except that one. The Left still hold him personally responsible for Diana’s death. (It was, of course, his fault that she ran off with Dodi Fayed. And he probably got Henri Paul drunk, [...]

The Wisdom Of Saint Mary Of Bethany

Six days before the Passover, one day before Palm Sunday, and not long before Holy Week, Jesus came to Bethany to where Lazarus was with his siblings, Martha and Mary (John 12:1-8). Parallel accounts in Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9) tell us that they were at the house of Simon the leper. While Martha served [...]

When An Opera Is Like a Vatican II Liturgy

Years (and years) ago I went to an opera in Graz, Austria—I guess the American equivalent to this is going to see the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park (if you are a huge baseball fan) or Ricky Skaggs play the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, if you are a big country-western aficionado. Anyway, [...]

The Church Needs Artists

“The Church has need especially of those who can do this [communicate the message] on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ Himself made extensive use of images in His preaching, fully in keeping with His willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the [...]

A Parish School Turns Failure into Success

A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
      ∼  John Keats, the opening to Endymion In 1923 Polish immigrants, living in Grand Rapids and earning [...]

The Problem with Pews

The queen consort of George V was consistent in her sense of duty and unswerving in how she expressed it. Crowned with dignity and corseted with confidence, at five feet six inches, Mary of Teck was the same height as the king, but they were called George the Fifth and Mary the Four-fifths. Of her [...]

Does Iconoclasm Further the New Evangelization?

“You will know them by their fruit.” Thus says Our Lord, in a guarantee as concise and direct as it is sobering. Catholics today, it seems, hear fairly constant talk of the new evangelization. The word “new” can sometimes be a source of confusion, but it really isn’t so much something new and different, as [...]

The Resurrection of Sacred Architecture

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome is one of the oldest churches in the city and in the world. Originally constructed in 340 by Pope Julius I, it replaced an earlier house church that had been established on the site by Pope St. Callixtus I in 220. As one of the original [...]

A “Liturgy Snob” Answers Her Critics

Last week I wrote a piece here on Crisis about good liturgy and its effect on the minds of children. It provoked a number of strong reactions, with some positive and others very critical. This is unsurprising. All liturgy-lovers have heard these critiques before, because they arise as a matter of course whenever liturgical practice [...]

Wrecking Churches: Iconoclasm or Continuity?

There are few better illustrations of the clash between conservative values and progressive ideologies than the church architecture wars of the last fifty years. Although traditional architecture was dismissed by most Christian denominations, the conflict comes into focus most clearly within the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s ushered in the most [...]

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