American Sacred Architecture: Houses of God


At our nation’s center, an obelisk: Named in memory of our first president, George Washington, the Washington Monument stands upon highest ground that it might touch the first and last light of the Sun’s day, Ra’s day … below, Apophis, great snake who would devour all, et cetera.  Forms in themselves and by convention have meaning, religious, spiritual, numinous meaning.  The forms of our nation’s definitive buildings hold within themselves abstractions, ancient implications understood by the Classive Founding Fathers and those who next followed.  These Progressive generations know almost nothing of the world, its meaning and genesis, they are like pig-herders with thumb-machines living in the ruins of ancient Roman temples.

The Washington Monument through the Lincoln Memorial columns. credit Sausey Photos

The Washington Monument through the Lincoln Memorial columns. credit: Sausey Photos

Our forebearers gifted us with purpose and meaning.  Our nation’s capital and all our great cities ascend from temples.  What are these temples.  What do they honor; what do they remember.  The Lincoln Memorial is a Greek Doric temple whose resident god might be Athena or Zeus.  The Jefferson Memorial is a Pantheon, temple of all gods.  The United States Capitol is the ascendent of the Renaissance Duomo and Saint Peter’s Basilica, temples of Jesus Christ.  The United States Supreme Court building is a Roman administrative basilica.  The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a ditch where names are buried.

And what of our cathedrals, our Houses of God.  The Episcopal, Washington National Cathedral is Gothic, composed to elevate the soul, to lift the lowly to heaven.  The Catholic, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is late Roman, a Byzantine Romanesque composed to awe, to inculcate submission, Christian humility before God.  Our Houses of God, alike the houses of our neighbors, speak to us of who they are, of who together we are.  Our houses of God center the meaning, purpose, and history of our family homes.


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Luxor Temple Egypt. credit Alex Anton

Luxor Temple, Egypt. credit: Alex Anton



The earliest House of God was likely washed away in the deluge of the rising oceans some 7,000 years ago.  There are ancient caves and curious settlements that might be religious (Göbekli Tepe), yet certain knowledge is not possible.  Our earliest houses of god are Egyptian, bilaterally symmetrical, massively abstract, intricately decorated with narrative pictuary and inscriptions, and crowned with colossal statuary.  The Lotus Capital, the pyramid, the obelisk, the sphinx are enigmatic, inscrutable objects that admit infinity.  The hieroglyphics, most human in chatter, speak on-and-on about, well, everything, as even now we do.  The Sun, Ra, the solar cycle, the immanent gods, green-skinned Osiris, long snout–tall eared Set, jackal-headed Anubis, and all the others, from these the phenomenon, you, I, everything.  And then there was Aten, the one god whose hymn describes, “How manifold it is, what thou hast made! They are hidden from the face of man. O sole god, like whom there is no other! Thou didst create the world according to thy desire, Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts, Whatever is on Earth, going upon its feet, And what is on high, flying with its wings…


Downtown Presbyterian Church Nashville. credit DPC Steven Hyatt

First (Downtown) Presbyterian Church, Nashville. credit: DPC, Steven Hyatt

The Pharaohs too were gods, of a type, not unlike the divine king, mediator between the people and the great god(s).  Our first vogue for the Egyptian was in archaic Greece, a vogue that sporadically appears, as it did with our Founders who looked into the abstract essence of things.  That latest vogue lasted a century-plus and was built into our national monuments, our cemeteries (as you would guess, sphinxes, pyramids, obelisks, scarabs, etc.), and our churches in what is named, Egyptian Revival.  The First Baptist Church (Essex, Connecticut), The Whalers Church (Sag Harbor), the First Presbyterian Church (Nashville) are excellent examples of the Egyptian Revival.  Think “the Passover and the Flight from Egypt”.


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Reconstruction of Herods Temple the Second Temple Jarusalem James Tissot artist

Reconstruction of Herod’s Temple, the Second Temple, Jerusalem, James Tissot, artist.



Trusting texts, and dismissing debunking scholars who themselves become debunked, we can suppose that wandering Father Abraham never forsook God, pitched his tent, and there made offerings by which he came to covenant with God.  Abraham’s tabernacle (a tent of meeting … later employed by Moses) held behind a veil the incense sweetened Ark of the Covenant, and around the tabernacle tent, a courtyard surrounded by 48 tall boards covered in gold taken from Egypt.  In the tabernacle compound, the menorah, a bronze washing bowl, and an altar for ritual sacrifice.  Later, a permanent temple, the Temple of Solomon, retained features of the tabernacle tent, though it was larger, as the Bible reports, 20 cubits wide by 60 cubits long, and the whole was surrounded by defensive walls that proved ineffective in holding back Babylonian invaders who destroyed Solomon’s Temple (587 BC).  The Second Temple, Herod’s Temple, was expansive, 36 acres of basilica (synagogue), stoa, ramparts, tower and all you would expect of Roman imperial architecture (with adaptation to local conditions).  When the Israelites rebelled against Rome, Rome destroyed Herod’s Temple and leveled most of Jerusalem (70 AD).  Spoils of this second temple funded the Colosseum.


Wilshire Boulevard Temple Los Angeles. credit Downtown Gal

Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles. credit: Downtown Gal

Synagogue design is diverse, consistent only in the Ark, menorah, sanctuary lamp, Star of David and Lion of Judea, though these too are inconsistent, for all that is required in God’s dwelling is a quorum of ten faithful.  A synagogue might be Egyptian style or Greek style or Roman style; Jews tend to build in best styles of the resident tradition.  Though lately, a Progressive Israeli style self-consciously admixes the international and modernistic with the archaic Jewish, a manner of folksy sophistication, heady and self-conscious.  Last century, the steeped-tent look was common, heavy in concrete, stark in deep colored glass, showy in engineering and construction.  Temple Tifereth (Cleveland), Wilshire Boulevard Temple (Los Angeles), Congregation Beth Israel (Portland, recently damaged by an arsonist) each beautifully, boldly recalls the dome structures now occupying the site of Jerusalem’s first and second temples.


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Lakshamana temple Khajuraho group of Temples Chattarpur District Madhya Pradesh. credit Dahwani 46

Lakshamana temple, Khajuraho group of Temples, Chattarpur District, Madhya Pradesh. credit: Dahwani 46



You might say “philosophy”, though “reckoning”, a calculation of the universe, its infinities and your speck, your spot in it, is more accurate in description of the Asian All.  You will not encounter God in the East, and will not find a House of God, though you will discover more gods than can be reckoned, more notions than can be comprehended.  Theology, the Queen of Science, the study of God and His Creation, is not comprehended in Eastern considerations of the All.  There is no house of the All, though there are temples of magic, mystery, merit, duties, cause and effect.  Buddhism, the liberation from attachment to existence, offers an architecture mound-like, often vast and decorative and frightening, though forms vary, as in Japan, China and Tibet where the aesthetic domesticates Buddha and offers beautiful temple forms adaptable to diverse places and peoples.  Like a drop in a vast ocean in a vast ocean in a vast ocean ad infinitum, the Hindu never begins never ends always is the same in change, in each drop that is not a drop but a becoming in unbecoming.  As you can see, the Hindu is cosmic, the Hindu is responsible for the universe that he is, its duties, punishments and rewards.  The Hindu temple fuses symbolism with gods with people in a cacophony of statuary, color, form, sensually personifying everything in vast immensities of great heaps of meaning.  The other reckonings, Jainism, Taoism, and my favorite of the type, Shintoism, are each a variation upon the spirited, unpurposed everything.


First Chinese Church of Christ Honolulu. credit Daniel Ramirez

First Chinese Church of Christ, Honolulu. credit: Daniel Ramirez

There are few East-Asian building traditions in the United States.  There is the torii gate, entrance to a sacredly natural place, the chigi, the structural, crossing roof element popular among Progressives, and the Japanese and Zen gardens with their tiny bridges, glistening fish, and poodle-like hedges.  There is the occasional pagoda lantern, the happy-fat Buddha, though little else because Indian dreamcatchers, totem poles, and teepees serve a similar purpose.  Remarkable Eastern temples in the States include the Sitagu Buddha Vihara Temple (Austin), the Palace of Gold (Moundsville, West Virginia), the First Chinese Church of Christ (Honolulu) in Hawaii, that ocean-centered punctuation between the East and the West.


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Temple of Concordia Valley of the Temples Agrigento Sicily circa 430 BC. credit Vladimir Korostyshevskiy 1

Temple of Concordia, Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily, circa 430 BC. credit Vladimir Korostyshevskiy



As in the hierarchy of God above His angels and saints, there is variety in the unity of Greek religion, in the literature, history, and practices of a people that extended from Massalia (France) to Gandhara (Pakistan).  The pantheon of Greek deities is a genesis of our Classive civilization, the inspiration of our philosophy, arts, sciences, and architecture … and we must mention that ancient Greece is potent in hierarchy, structures of thought, practice, and organization, structures modeled on Zeus’ godhead, Olympia, and inexorable Fate.  First temples (houses of gods alike houses of men) were located where gods appeared or where gods were present, as at Dodona (2nd millennium BC) where Zeus spoke through rustling oak leaves, or at Delphi (active since the time of Homer, 8th CBC) where Apollo spoke through the Pythia, priestess of his oracle.1.

Abraham Lincoln Daniel Chester French scupltor LIncoln Memorial Washington D.C. credit Viii

Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Chester French, scupltor, LIncoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. credit: Viii

We suppose that earliest temples were wooden huts, two roomed, double gabled, containing the relic or icon of a god.  These simple wooden huts required rebuilding after generations of use, so the practical Greek recreated the temples in stone, stone mimicking the wood construction of a god-sacred hut.  Evidence of wood construction is yet seen in the triglyph and metope, the capital of a column, et cetera.  And it should be said that Greek temples were expressive of personality, the stout Doric, the upright Ionic, the florid Corinthian, each style suited to the character or deeds of a deity.  These styles, the “Orders of Architecture”, are most obvious in columns.  See expressive columns holding aloft pediments of civic and sacred buildings.  Notice statuary in the pediments, as in the Temple of Zeus at Olympia with its implacable gods (and in metopes, the 12 Labors of Herakles, Zeus’ son), and other episodes that illustrate a building’s purpose or meaning, as in the pediments of our National Archives building.  Too, you will notice the similarity between the statue of Zeus at his temple and the statue of Lincoln at Lincoln’s temple, The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

The Greek god is human, but more so, his power, size, faults and foibles are magnified, obvious where we are subtle, fixed where we have choice, potentialities of improvement.  The Greek god will always be just a god.  You will notice that statues of gods and men are just the same, that both aspire to great things, perfection in form of being, that both statues of gods and statues of men exist in that higher realm, silent, timeless, ideal.  You might say that the Greek degraded gods, truer to say that the Greek elevated man to an ideal, godlike, spirited, deserving of a temple if he is true in the way of God.


First Baptist Church Charleston. credit Historic Charleston

First Baptist Church, Charleston. credit: Historic Charleston

Temples of Poseidon at Corinth (7th CBC) and Serapis at Alexandria (3rd CAD) extend the period of Greek temple building to a thousand years … a temple form little changed from primitive wood huts to the masterpieces of the Parthenon (Athens) and the Temple of Artemis (Ephesus) where, beneath a colossal statue of the twenty-breasted goddess, Artemis, Saint Paul preached “the Way”.

Worth noting: Greek, Greek temples are open to the air; American, Greek Revival temples are enclosed.  A few examples of American Greek Revival temple churches include, the First Baptist Church (Charleston, Robert Mills, architect), Lloyd Street Synagogue (Baltimore), the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul (Boston).  A Greek Revival hybrid, the steepled temple, is well represented by Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church (Richmond), the “Church of the Confederacy” where General Lee and Confederate President Davis worshiped … another fine example, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church (Charleston).


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The Pantheon Rome. credit J Fabrix 101

The Pantheon, Rome. credit: J Fabrix 101



Rome’s pantheon was majestic; its gods, the parents of families; worship was an exchange, cooperation in achievement of Rome’s glory.  The world is violent, unstable, unpredictable, gods had power to master chaos and would if Romans submitted to jus divinum, “divine law”.  Roman religion was not moral, Roman religion was ceremonial, a performance of rituals to placate the gods and achieve success, avoid failure.  Greeks conceived of gods in a mythology of divinities; there was little mythology in Rome, just law, obligation, and the continuation of Rome.  From a small settlement along the Tiber, Rome by conquest grew to occupy all that was Hellenistic Greece, and more, by a little.  Rome subsumed the customs and practices of people it conquered, people that were for the most part, Greek.  The majority of the vast Roman empire spoke Greek, in time, for reasons practical and cultural, the Roman Empire subdivided into the Latin West in Rome (the city of Romulus, founder of Rome), the Greek East in Constantinople (the city of Constantine I, first Christian emperor).  Rome in the West fell in 476 to the Vandal king, Gaiseric; Rome in the East fell in 1453 to Sultan Mehmed II.

Hagia Sophia interior. credit Maksym Koslenko

Hagia Sophia, interior. credit: Maksym Koslenko

Roman temples of West and East differ, remarkably.  Roman temples of the West are similar to Greek temples but are enclosed, containing two rooms, one room for the god’s icon and a table (to hold incense and offerings), the other room for storage; outside, in the temple precinct, an open space for gathering and an altar for sacrifice.  Because converted to Christian churches, many Roman temples survive, as in the Pantheon, temple of all gods, now the Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs.  The basilica, a Roman administrative building, became the model for church architecture in Christian Rome (circa 325) and continued beyond West Rome’s fall into the time of division, the kingdoms of Europe.  The basilica, a large, high-ceilinged, long room building (as in the Pension Building, Washington, DC) was given the Latin Cross form to signify the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a form first seen at the Papal Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, a church commissioned by Saint Constantine I, the Great (who might have invented the form).

Roman temples of the East are for the most part domed alike the Pantheon, as in Hagia Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom, Constantinople (now a mosque, Istanbul) where the dome rises above the center of a squared cross, a Greek Cross (cross arms of same length, different from the cruciform Latin Cross [three short, one longer arm]).  Later, the cross-in-square church might have five domes, a dome centered with domes above each cross arm.  And in the East the first use of the bell tower, towers that in Islam became minarets, towers yet found free standing and in steeples.  As you know, the Roman church of the West is Roman Catholic; the Roman church of the East is Greek Orthodox.


American Sacred Architecture, Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C. credit: Stanislav Sergeev

Traditions of both the Roman West and the Greek East continue in our nation.  The first Catholic basilica built in these united states is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Baltimore, 1821, Benjamin Latrobe, architect), a church in the Latin Cross that recalls the Pantheon and commingles the East Orthodox (notice the onion domes atop the bell towers).  Mary Immaculate of Lourdes R.C. Church (Upper Falls Newton) is a fine example of the “West Rome” basilica.  Fine examples of “East Rome” churches include, the magnificent Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, D.C.), Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral (Columbus), and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral (Salt Lake City).


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Blue Mosque Istanbul Turkey. credit Benh LIEU SONG

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey. credit: Benh LIEU SONG



The Middle-East has long been a region of political and religious tension.  Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, pagan, Christian, Zoroastrian ebbed and flowed and crashed into one another, fracturing the migratory people who were literally “off the map”, a desert people, part Christian, part Zoroastrian with few settlements and little organization.  The great powers, Eastern Rome and Persia were yet recovering from plague and Hunnish invasions when a war leader arose in the Arabian desert far outside Rome’s Arabia province (early 7th CBC).  The leader, Muhammad, intermixed Persian, Judaic, and Christian themes in prophesies that bound a people and inspired conquest.  The architecture of Muhammad’s religion, Islam, translated “Submission”, derived first from captured and converted Roman temples both West and East including Hagia Sophia, Athens’ Parthenon, and many other famous temples, churches, basilicas, and cathedrals (one such, the Temple of Jupiter that became the Church of John the Baptist and is now the Great Mosque of Damascus).  Conquering into Persia and India, mosques assumed an Asian posture.  Remarkable mosques include Al Haram Mosque (first of the mosques, much remodeled and expanded), the Blue Mosque (something of a Hagia Sophia copy), the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (built upon foundations of a demolished church, and now reconsecrated “Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption”).


The Bahai Temple Wilmette Illinois. credit Michael D Photos

The Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. credit: Michael D Photos

Mostly composed of Christian domes, columnar arches, and patterned mosaics, mosques are in essence large halls suitable to compulsory daily prayers.  The mosque, the masjid, is a “place of prostration”, an open court often beneath a dome of a building surrounded by minaret’s, tall towers from which men yowl a call to pray.  Islamic architecture is rare in the United States.  A few examples will serve for all: Diyanet Center of America (Maryland), Islamic Center of America (Dearborn), Islamic Center of Washington (Washington, D.C.).

Also of Persia-Arabia, the Bahá’i, from the Arabic “Bahá’” meaning “Splendor of God”, the name the prophet Baháʼu’lláh chose for himself.  Bahá’i teaches that religion is orderly and progressive, that from Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad a new prophet will come to unify all people and save the world.  A Bahá’i house of worship, Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, Arabic for “dawning-place of the remembrance of God”, is a one room, domed, nine-sided temple surrounded by nine pathways leading to nine gardens for social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific contemplation.  Bahá’i’s primary temple is the Shrine of Báb (Haifa, Israel).  The Bahá’i House of Worship (1931, Wilmette, Illinois) is a lovely building, the world’s oldest Bahá’i temple.


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Forum Romanum. credit Givaga

Forum Romanum. credit: Givaga



“Europe”, from “Europa” (daughter of Phoenix), carried from Phoenicia by lustful Zeus, deposited in Crete (southern-most tip of Europe) after Zeus was satiated.  Europe describes the kingdoms (later, states) formed after Christian Rome of the West dissolved, an area extending from Portugal to Armenia (later, to all points north).  Before dissolution, Rome (Europe) shared one language, one currency, one law, one tradition in literature, arts and architecture.  After dissolution, language diverged, currencies devolved, law disintegrated, and traditions died.  In time, separate, distinct societies emerged, societies not unlike a dysfunctional family of peculiar, willful children, each eager for autonomy, each willing to harm the other for personal gain.  From the dissolution of Rome until tomorrow, Europe has attempted to reunify, yet like a Humpty Dumpty the thing cannot be put back together, though Progressives and Caesars have tried (from “Caesar”, tsar, kaiser, fuhrer).  For a millennium the Roman Catholic church unified Europe, as much as possible; for this past half-millennium, heresy, heterodoxy, and deviance have degraded Christianity and diminished European Christians.  Five distinct periods of sacred architecture, the Houses of God, illustrate the decline: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Empirical, Material.


Westminster Abbey London. courtsey Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, London. courtesy: Westminster Abbey



The Goths were a mostly Christianized people (of the Arian heresy) from the harsh, unmapped forests north of Rome (Germania through Dacia to what is now Sweden) who invaded, Romanized, then destroyed West Rome.  The name Goth, “Gothic”, is often credited to the great Raphael (artist-architect, official keeper of Rome’s antiques) to describe the barbaric, emotionally chaotic buildings of a people who destroyed then supplanted the beautifully restrained architectural artistry of Rome.  The first architecture of the Goth retained some of Rome’s classical beauty, the “Romanesque”, but when Greekness was removed all that was left was Rome’s brutal power and Europe’s thick defensiveness.  In time, with political stability, return to wealth, and impassioned faith, a soaring architecture arose that interwove Nature, God, engineering, Heaven and devotion into the temples we name “Gothic”.

The Gothic is tall, ambitiously, faithfully tall; it is an architecture that vertically stretches the Roman in reaching to Heaven.  The Gothic is Roman in its engineering, its inventive buttresses and pointed arches that raise walls and ceilings to heights barely possible.  And the Gothic is like a canvas in stone where the Throne of Heaven, the innumerable angels and college of saints are assembled in majesty.  Yes, emotional, as in the enthusiasm of prayer that lifts the soul into dimensions of the other realm.  Noteworthy Gothic churches include the Basilica of Saint-Denis (Paris, the first Gothic, now with diminished towers and spires after French revolutionary vandalism), Westminster Abbey (London), the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens (Amiens, tallest Gothic in France, remarkable for its angelic statuary).


American Sacred Architecture, Duke Chapel

Duke Chapel, Durham, North Carolina. courtesy: Duke University

The American Gothic, as in the first Gothic, was a drawing away from classical, Classive reason to inspired faith, its extremities and enthusiasms, enthusiasms sometimes simply, eloquently expressed.  The American Gothic followed the Founding Fathers, their faith in Reason and in a divinely ordered universe reasonably made.  The American Gothic was enthusiastic, passionate for the transcendent and sublime God of Nature.  As you know, the world in whole contributed to our architectural traditions, and in the Gothic many direct imports, especially from Spain, England, France.  Of France, the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, the “St. Louis Cathedral” (New Orleans), from Spain, the Cathedral of San Fernando (San Antonio), from England, the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist (Savannah); the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the “Washington National Cathedral” (Washington, D.C) is a Gothic, classical in restraint; Duke Chapel (Durham) is simply eloquent.  Notice in each Gothic cathedral the tower, the sculpted portal, the elongated windows, the spires that point to God in Heaven.


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Saint Peters Basilica with the Egyptian obelisk Vatican City. credit Kirill Neiezhmakov

Saint Peter’s Basilica with the Egyptian obelisk, Vatican City. credit: Kirill Neiezhmakov



The name “Renaissance” means “rebirth”, the rebirth of classical Greece and imperial Rome, and something more, Neoplatonism, the reasoned soul described in Plato’s Socrates.  The Old & New Testaments were books of the Gothic, books of the Renaissance included Plato’s books and books of all Classive authors, Homer to Cicero to Marcus Aurelius, books that disappeared in the dissolution of West Rome, books that were rescued by scholars of East Rome when Islam conquered and crushed their cities.  And too, Renaissance, in Italian, “rinascità”, is a word coined by Vasari in his book on artists and architects (Lives of the Most Eminent Sculptors, Painters, and Architects).  The Renaissance, properly understood, is a right placement of aesthetics at the summit of philosophy, the branch of wisdom that constructs the human, humane world.  The Medici, patrons of the arts, founded in Florence the Platonic Academy which trained Michelangelo, Pico (Oration on the Dignity of Man, manifesto of the Renaissance), Lorenzo the Magnificent, and many others.  From this academy, and other courts and schools of the type, came the Duomo, Saint Peter’s Basilica, our United States Capitol, all that you see and understand of the dignity of man.  You will find in Renaissance churches “geometry”, evidence of immutable God, “harmony”, spheric music finely tuned, “symmetry”, bilateral as is man, made in the image of God.  The architectural Orders, the Dome of Heaven, and our divinely purposed story told in pictuary and statuary are essential elements of the Renaissance church.


American Sacred Architecture, Basilica of Saint Josaphat

Basilica of Saint Josaphat, Milwaukee.

To be great, American Renaissance Revival needs the statuary and pictuary of genius, which it might have had during the period of its construction (circa 1850–1930) when artistic genius in America could be easily found.  These days, artistic genius is rare, but can be found, and when found should be employed in the creation of statues, altarpieces, et cetera.  Most great churches are built in layers of centuries.  Even so, there are remarkable examples of American Renaissance Revival churches: the very fine Central Congregational Church (Providence), the impressive Cathedral of Saint Paul (Saint Paul), the striking Basilica of St. Josaphat (Milwaukee), the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (Altoona) which needs a better HVAC solution, the pretty Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (Sacramento), and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Waterbury).


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Karlskirche Saint Charles Church Vienna Austria. credit Doser

Karlskirche, Vienna, Austria. credit: Dozor (edited)



“Baroque”, borroco, the “imperfect pearl”, the aesthetic response of the Church, now the Catholic Church, to heresies against the Magisterium and the Protestants’ Sack of Rome (1527).2.   After the sack by Luther’s Protestants and confederates, the murder of priests, rape of nuns, theft, arson, vandalism, and massacre, Rome reasserted its Heavenly Faith and worldly authority by commissioning great architecture, art and music, proof of God active in the Holy Catholic Church.  Some little of the Baroque was expressed in Protestant countries, Germany especially (its music divinely sublime), though here too the destruction of altars, stained-glass windows, pictuary and statuary until all but the most naked beauty remained.

In Italy, Spain and the Catholic countries, the Baroque dress of magnificence, its eye-stinging Beauty, and the soul expanding glory of Truth.  Magnificence, as in the Jesuits’ Chiesa Gesu, Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Karlskirche (Saint Charles Church) the Baroque “Counter-Reformation” church of Austria, and the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter (interior), the church of Constantine I (built over Saint Peter’s tomb), a church expanded by Bramante, Michelangelo, Vignola, Fontana, Maderno, Bernini … Saint Peter’s, the church ascended from Saint Peter, Christ’s first vicar on Earth, origin of papal authority and the Magisterium of Christ Jesus.  The expansion of Saint Peter’s by the selling of indulgences (assets in exchange for Heaven) was a primary cause of Martin Luther’s revolutionary protest.  The preternaturally talented Bernini (painter, sculptor, architect, poet, playwright, designer of furniture, operas, festivals and cities) embodied the energy and excellence of the Baroque.


American Sacred Architecture, Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tuscon. credit: Traveler 70

The continental United States boasts numerous Baroque churches of the Spanish Mission style, our famous Alamo (San Antonio) and the luscious Mission San Xavier del Bac (Tucson) bracket from simple to grand.   Our Lady of Victory Basilica (Lackawanna) is our best example of Italian Baroque.  The fully Baroque, celebratory altars of the ruined mission of San Juan Capistrano remind us of the daily eucharistic miracle, Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, the promise of life ever after, and the return of our perfected body at the ending of Time … if good, true, and blessed.


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Pantheon Paris. credit Jerome Labouyrie

Pantheon, Paris. credit: Jerome Labouyrie



Experience before knowledge, before wisdom … without the aid of God, observation writes on the brain what is, without recourse to tradition … empiricism is the belief in progress by experiment, a protestant prejudice against received wisdom and Natural Law.  The first empiricist, Martin Luther, rejected fifteen hundred years of accumulated tradition arising from Christ’s authority, choosing instead to rely on his experience of reading the Bible.  Another empiricist, René Descartes, refused to accept the authority of all philosophers who preceded him, relying on observation … a straight stick appeared bent in water which proved that his senses lied, so in distrust of his senses Descartes proposed that proof of existence was his thought, cogito, ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am”, without considering that in the bent stick his eye perceived a natural quality of light, without considering that if he was not, he could not think.  Such are the errors of empiricists, rationalism, and progress.

The Empirical Age in Europe is named The Age of Reason, or sometimes, “The Enlightenment”, an Age that produced this nation and the French Revolution.  This nation, as in Athens, accepted the authority of God, God’s active hand in all affairs of man, and enshrined God in founding documents, believing that all religions inculcated good, and understanding that liberty is possible only in a people of virtue.  The French, as in the Protestant (from “protested”), threw down structures of authority, destroyed persons and buildings, murdered priests, raped nuns, massacred populations, and, with a new social contact, the new liturgy, renamed the twelve months, struck the old holidays, created new holidays of freedom and liberation, and canceled the inconvenient with a humane, scientific invention, the guillotine of the empiricist physician, Freemason Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.

In Europe, churches were burned, used for livestock or storage; new churches to man were designed in pure geometries of huge proportion, the “Neoclassical”, as in Boullée’s Newton Memorial (the Society for Atheistic Spirituality is raising funds for construction).  After excess, sobriety.  Following Napoleon’s defeat (1814), the proposed monument to his glory was finished (1842) and became the Catholic, Church of Saint Marie-Madeleine.


First Presbyterian Church Dallas. courtesy Steven Martin

First Presbyterian Church, Dallas. courtesy: Steven Martin

Even in these united states, faith began to retreat into science, into schools and academies that codified and systematized.  Architecture ceased to be a practice of artists and became the job of professionals who sought that approval and recognition which comes from conformity.  Rational in the way of Evolution Theory, its systems and categories, architects eliminated characteristics superfluous to a pure style, and subdivided styles in that Tree of Death invented to describe evolutionary modification in descent, the Neoclassical style being the most advanced, most pure, and most resilient.  The revolutionary neoclassicism of France and America was honored in the First Congregational Church (East Chicago, Indiana); the Temple Israel (Minneapolis), ideal, timeless in abstract geometries; and the First Presbyterian Church (Dallas), sparing, bold in simplicity, academic in Order.


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Saint Johns Abbey Minnesota. credit Olga Ivanova

Saint John’s Abbey, Minnesota. credit: Olga Ivanova



Atoms and the void, and chance, change, the all of what is.  Neither God nor gods, spirit nor soul, purpose nor meaning.  Material, Progressive, atheist, are all of a piece, a philosophy that began with Socrates’ contemporary, Democritus, continued with Darwin, expanded in Marx, reached a summit at Vatican II, and is downhill growing in weight, speed, energy.  Materialism, commonly named, “Modernism”, was condemned by Saint Pius X in Pascendi Dominici gregis, subtitled “On the Doctrines of the Modernists” which defined “modernism” as “atheism” and warned against atheism’s effects, an unheeded warning that led to annihilations by the atheists Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others.  Lenin, who kept on his desk a statue of a monkey sitting on Darwin’s books while contemplating a human skull, applied evolution theory to political action, as do all eugenicists, the Nazis to Margret Sanger (Sanger’s publication The Woman Rebel, motto was “No Gods, No Masters”).

Progressive modern, materialist buildings are recognized by asymmetry, a violence against human bilateral symmetry, by structures without comforting natural reference, structures that are aggressively material, blatantly concrete, steel, or glass, by broad meaningless walls whose only purpose is physical function, as in the oppressive Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption (San Francisco).   Progressive, Woke, transhuman atheists are often recognized by Crayola color hair, piercings, tattoos, and other antihuman markers, markers found in the body of Progressive art and Progressive churches.  The Progressive rejects history, God, tradition and punishes the “others” who do not share Progressive opinions of compassion, justice, mercy, and tolerance, as in Progressive Cardinals of a Catholic Church that forbids the Traditional Latin Mass to encourage Queer Theory, open marriage, alternative gods and alternate rites.


Style Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church Norton Shores Michigan. courtsey St. Francis de Sales 2

Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church, Norton Shores, Michigan. courtesy: St. Francis de Sales

Materialist church architecture is Progressive first, faithful, later, especially in the United States where fashion is its own excuse for being.  The early materialist churches might echo American Indian burial mounds, Roman basilicas, building blocks or Lincoln Logs; current materialist churches are architecture school cardboard design projects magnified to gargantuan scale, increasingly silly, increasingly ugly, increasingly expensive.  The Catholic, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the “Los Angeles Cathedral”, often credited with being the world’s ugliest church, cost $193,000,000 when completed in 2002 (the 2023 equivalent, $324,000,000).  Other materialist churches illustrate Progressive evolution: the concrete Saint John’s Abbey (Minnesota), architectural metaphor for Modernism, center of homosexual abuses; Christ Cathedral, the “Crystal Cathedral” (California), a hollow glass atrium with cold organ and sharp glass tower; and North Christian Church (Columbus), a Modernist masterpiece with maintenance challenges, now condemned.  And we must mention that church which seems to be a spy-thriller, horror-film movie set, Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church (Norton Shores, Michigan).


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American Sacred Architecture, Immaculata Church

Immaculata Church (consecration, 3 May 2023), Saint Mary, Kansas. courtesy: Immaculata Parish


From inception until yesterday, Christ centered this nation.  Since inception we honored ancestors and revered tradition, traditions that recall the best of what has been thought, said, done.  Now, the Progressive purges history, tradition, beauty, and liturgy to regurgitate oppressive ceilings, crooked walls and empty pews in the empty faith of I’m Okay, You’re Okay, and “God has left the building.

A material, soulless body has different needs than a souled body.  A souled body wants Goodness, Beauty, Truth, guidance in virtue and the moral compass to achieve Heaven.  A soulless body needs only to be fed, and to die.  Churches of the Classive tradition are suited to souled man and the Will of God.  Churches of the Progressive tradition are suited to the soulless and to changing fashion.

This nation is made wealthy by the rich, refined traditions of the world, a wealth stripped from us by censorious Progressives of atheist modernism.  The Theory of Evolution and Divine Revelation are incompatible.  The Material and the Faithful are at teeth and claws.  The Progressive ends in nothing.  The Christian ends in glory.  We are far from ending, one way or the other.

There is a renewed Classive, congregations returned to millennia of practice in wisdom, architects who create from memory churches that honor tradition, the Christian tradition of our foreparents and of other faiths that inculcate good.  The Classive Founding Fathers gifted us with an architecture rich in purpose, deep in meaning, historically resonant and essentially Christian, then left us to choose, as did God in granting us free will.  As always, we can choose Hell, or we can choose Heaven.


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In proof that cross-species evolution is myth, examples of new Classive houses of God that are newer than new Progressive houses of, well … does it look like God lives in the Progressive?


American Sacred Architecture. Thomas Gordon Smith

Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary Chapel, Denton, Nebraska, Thomas Gordon Smith, architect.


American Sacred Architecture, Duncan Stroik

Thomas Aquinas College Chapel, Santa Paula, California, Duncan Stroik, architect. courtesy: Duncan Stroik

American Sacred Architecture, Cram & Ferguson

Syon Abbey, Roanoke, Virginia, Cram & Ferguson, architects.







American Sacred Architecture, Francl & Lohsen

St. John the Apostle Church, Leesburg, Virginia Franck & Lohsen, architects. courtesy: Franck & Lohsen

American Sacred Architecture, James McCrery

Saint Mary Help of Christians Roman Catholic Church, Aiken, South Carolina, James McCrery, architect. courtesy: James McCrery








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1. Emperor Julian (the Apostate) in 362 A.D. sent an embassy to the Delphic oracle offering patronage and assistance. The embassy returned with Pythia’s final oracle, “Go! Tell the King the Temple has fallen.  Apollo abandoned his home, his oracle, his priestess.  The spring is dry.

2. “Catholic”, from Greek katholikos, kath’ holou, “on the whole, in general”.

Featured image: Temple of Canova, Roman Catholic, Canova, architect, Giuseppe Segusini assisting, Veneto, Italy, 1830.  credit: Elleon

The Beautiful Home: American Sacred Architecture, the Houses of God


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