Renewing spaces

Designing distinctive churches

Houses of worship have certain physical characteristics that appeal to the senses. Building materials are often precious and placed with care. They include carvings of symbolic and allegorical meaning. Through their design and decoration, churches tell stories of the faith. Stained-glass windows lift one’s spirits from earthly concerns. Vast interiors not only accommodate those who come to worship but are symbolically big enough for God to join us. The shafts of sunlight that spill from upper windows to the cool stone floors below seem like ladders to the heavens.

These elements reflect some of the traditional aspects of sacred space that have been passed down for centuries. But like all works of architecture, sacred buildings reflect not only a faith tradition but the values and concerns of the builders’ immediate context. When people build churches, they are embodying their faith in their own particular social world and historical moment.


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