Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley

Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley

Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley

Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley

Synopsis

Thinking about church architecture has come to an impasse. Reformers and traditionalists are talking past each other. Statements from both sides are often strident and dogmatic. In Theology in Stone, Richard Kieckhefer seeks to help both sides move beyond the standoff toward a fruitful conversation about houses of worship. Drawing on a wide range of historical examples with an eye to their contemporary relevance, he offers refreshing new ideas about the meanings and uses of church architecture. Kieckhefer begins with four chapters on the basic elements of church architecture-the overall arrangement of space, the use of an altar or pulpit as a centering focus, the aesthetics of church design, and the functions of sacred symbols. He goes on to offer three extended historical studies, dealing with churches of medieval England, revival-style churches of America, and modern churches of twentieth-century Germany. Drawing on these case studies, he concludes with a vision of a new theology of church architecture--historically grounded, yet framed for our own time. Examining church architecture from the third century to the twenty-first, Theology in Stone is a thoughtful, fresh, and informative work that addresses questions vital to the present while shedding a great deal of light on the past. The conception of church architecture that emerges is one that moves beyond the polemics of the "worship wars" to embrace the best of both the traditional and the modern.

Excerpt

Church architecture is a contentious field of inquiry. Polemics, dogmatism, and caricature abound. It would be unrealistic to think any book could resolve the controversies, but a fresh look at the most basic questions about churches, their meanings and their uses, may prove useful to all sides. The incentive to write this book was mixed: it grew out of historical interest, but also out of an urge to see more clearly what churches have meant and what they can mean for communities that build and use them. It might seem that the first four chapters deal with theological questions, while the extended case studies that follow shift the focus to history—but in fact theology and history are intertwined throughout.

With a book of this sort, readers may have more than the usual degree of curiosity about the author's background and point of view. Suffice it to say that my most extensive experience of worship has been in Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches; that I am old enough to have recited mass responses for many years in Latin and to have learned plainchant in first grade; that over many years I have visited churches extensively in Britain and North America and have had occasion to study them in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Greece; that I dream of exploring the churches of Lalibala—indeed, I literally dream quite often of visiting churches—but have not yet done so; that my academic research has focused mainly on western Europe in the late Middle Ages; that my doctorate is in history but I have taught for decades in a department of religion; that I have done much work on the history of magic, which I see as . . .

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