Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley

Article excerpt

RICHARD KIECKHEFER Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley. Oxford, England, and New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. ix + 372, illus., index. $39.95.

Richard Kieckhefer's excellent book is an engaging, readable, and useful study of the form and ornament of Christian church architecture, its relationship to liturgy, and its impact on personal and collective religious experience. This might seem a mighty task for any one book, but Kieckhefer pulls it off by setting up a clear and comprehensive typology that responds primarily to questions of liturgical use. He categorizes churches as one of three types, each with distinct guiding principles: a "classic sacramental church can be seen as a dramatic space for a subtle interplay of transcendence and immanence; a classic evangelical church as a dignified environment for edification; and a modern communal church as a hospitable setting for celebration" (102).

The first four chapters of the book establish four important properties of churches: the overall configuration of space, the central focus of attention, the immediate (aesthetic) impact, and the gradual accumulation of impressions (or, how the building would come to mean something as one worshiped there repeatedly over time). After establishing the nature of these four properties, Kieckhefer illustrates how churches of each of the three types respond. Regarding space, for instance, a key aspect of church architecture that organizes activity, sacramental churches generally have longitudinal spaces for procession and return, or "kinetic dynamism;" evangelical churches organize space for proclamation and response, or "verbal dynamism;" and modern communal churches strive to promote "social dynamism" in their use of more intimate spaces for gathering in "community" (10). Kieckhefer develops all his points with historical background and illustrates them with examples of specific buildings. For example, his chapter on "centering focus" includes rich discussions of the material and liturgical histories of altars, pulpits, and baptisteries and illustrative descriptions of Dura-Europos, St-Jacques at Perpignan (France), and the Castle Chapel at Torgau (Germany). …