Churches are to be commended

There’s a lot to like about churches.

By that I mean the buildings, not the ethically compromised trans-national bureaucracy of men with funny hats. I’d also further clarify by saying that I’m referring to churches with a bit of age on them, the ones that refer back to mediaeval times, even if they’re not quite that old. As far as I’m concerned modern churches with “creative” architecture are universally sterile and dull.

I rarely, if ever, set foot in religious buildings but yesterday was an exception. I visited a giant Catholic cathedral for work, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Not only was it cool and refreshing after the 42 degree nuclear blast of the weather outside. I could smell incense, candle wax and old stone.

They’re magical places, even if one doesn’t subscribe to that particular variety of magic. Over the millennia they’ve evolved to evoke very specific feelings – awe, peace, majesty, separation from the mundane world. This is still of value in this post-religious age, because it fills a basic human need. We all need to step outside ourselves from time to time.

Perhaps of interest to architects and town planners is the idea of architectural evolution. Churches do their jobs very well due to an awful lot of iterations, each a slight embellishment on the last. Styles of religious architecture have cross pollinated, each finding different ways to achieve the same aim.

Perhaps we could pay attention to this – often the best solutions are extrapolated from past solutions, rather than revolutionary change ex nihilo. I suspect that this is as true of architecture as it is of politics and other manifestations of human nature

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