Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Banshee's Guide to American Catholic Church Architecture

I know this sort of thing's been done before, but here's my whack at it!

God's Country: Tiny rural town, impressive old church.

Immigrant church: Poor urbanparish, impressive old church with statues of St. Patrick, St. Joseph, and the Infant of Prague.

Spotlight windows: Windows in the altar wall focusing natural light on where the priest at the altar would have been standing or giving out communion at the rail.

The donors went to Europe and all they brought me was this lousy church: church
imitating a European art style from somewhere nobody in the parish is from.

Cafeteria-line Catholicism: Currently in use communion rail, with kneeling
cushions and everything.

Strained Glass: Windows illustrating some bizarre piece of Catholic trivia you
never thought you'd see on a piece of stained glass and will probably never see again.
Examples: Obscure church councils, Marian apparitions you've never heard of, St. Brigid with her bishop's crook. The National Basilica is a good example of this.

Colorful Concrete: 1930's church built quickly out of concrete but then beautifully painted with elaborate artwork. Once the present generation is gone, many modern churches with plain walls will probably be repainted in this style.

Fallout Shelter: 1950's church built to serve the survivors of a nuclear war.

Let There Be Abstract: Stained glass windows and church art that aren't pictures of anything or geometric designs.

Destruction of the Altars: Pre-Vatican II church with its altarpiece gone.

Modern Weird: Church with no apparent rationale for its architecture.

Modern Ugly: Relentlessly unaesthetic church.

Church Circular: Church built in a circle. Also, Church Triangular.

Dance of the Dais: Dais for current altar built somewhere other than the
original altar wall, whether that means being closer to the center of the church
or against another wall altogether.

Movable Priest: Altar sometimes one place, sometimes another. This may be for
practical reasons of space and acoustics in a gathering space; or it may be just plain

Where's Mary?: Church severely deficient in saint statues and images.

Where's Jesus?: Tabernacle moved from front and center to...somewhere, making people wonder where to genuflect to.

Perpetual Where's Jesus?: Tabernacle moved, allegedly to facilitate perpetual

Three Coins in a Font'n: Birdbath or fountain-shaped baptismal font placed to block the main aisle and attract pennies.


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