From the early basilical churches of the Roman Empire to the unfinished Sagrada Família, there aren’t many facets of Christian architecture that haven’t been sufficiently perfected over the past two millennia. Church architecture has had over two thousand years to evolve partly by innovation and partly by imitating other architectural styles as well as responding to changing beliefs, practices and local traditions.
“Christian architecture was enriched through the cultural interaction with the Greco-Roman world.”
In 312, the Emperor Constantine defeated his principal rival Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. After that victory, Constantine became the principal patron of Christianity. By the beginning of the fourth century, Christianity was a growing mystery religion in the cities of the Roman world.
“The invention of the Christian church was one of the brilliant – perhaps the most brilliant – solutions in architectural history.”
Thousands of churches have since been built, rebuilt, or restored. From an aesthetic point of view, a lot of the church architecture featured below is unprecedentedly novel with a good appropriation of pre-existing structures that fit in with the local landscape, which already have a history and facilitate the formation of a church building.
With the National Geographic putting images on the map and now the Internet fuelling easy access to pics, it’s easy to forget how difficult these churches were to build. Behind the scenes, much goes on to tackle the making of a magnificent church building.
Here are a few such images that should cause you to sit up and have your breath taken away because of their grandiosity, complexity and stunning beauty.
One of New Zealand's iconic photo locations is on the shores of Lake Tekapo, the Church of the Good Shepherd. Lake Tekapo is the second-largest of three roughly parallel lakes running north–south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island of New Zealand (the others are Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau).
Perhaps in an effort to challenge that notion, a new project from UK-based firm Denizen Works seeks to posit not only a new, functional aesthetic for a place of worship but also one that eschews the traditional concept of real estate as well.
The Hackney-based architecture studio developed the design in collaboration with boatbuilder Turks, sailmaker Jeckells and yacht specialists Tucker Designs, after winning a competition for the project at the start of 2017.
The structure will be able to wind its way through London’s canals to reach more of the community.
The project is still in the process of securing funds, but construction is slated to begin in March 2018 in the hopes of Floating Church’s maiden voyage taking place before the end of the year.
The Floating Church is designed to journey through London's canal network to reach Christian worshippers.
Be dazzled by the 1,113 stained glass windows at this jewel of the Rayonnant Gothic period.
A gem of Gothic style. Built in seven years, an impressive feat, the Sainte Chapelle was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ's crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis. Religious and political influence. Having these sacred relics in his possession made the already powerful monarch head of western Christianity.
This chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes stands on a promontory overlooking Mġarr Harbour. It enjoys spectacular views of the Gozo Channel and the Island of Malta and can be easily reached on foot or by car from the harbour or from the village of Għajnsielem.
Nanjing Wanjing Garden Chapel, AZL, 2014, Nanjing, China. YAO LI. The project - a 200 square meter small chapel, is located in Wanjing Garden along Nanjing’s Riverfront. Hosted by priests from Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, it supports religious activities like worship and wedding services.
Suvela Chapel, OOPEAA, 2016, Espoo, Finland. MIKA HUISMAN. The goal was to create a building that could offer opportunities for a rich variety of different types of activities and to provide a framework for the residents to come together in a flexibly adaptable and functional space.
Tainan Tung-Men Holiness Church, MAYU, 2015, Tainan, China. SHAWN LIU STUDIO. This project originates from a vision that the pastor has received from God: Tainan Tung-Men Holiness Church (TMHC) symbolizes an eagle as a biblical metaphor, and it is like an airport, serving as a boarding gate for non-believers to enter into God’s kingdom.
Called Sunset Chapel, the faceted building appears to balance on the rocky terrain and a triangular-shaped aperture forms the entrance.
Sunset Chapel, Esteban Suárez and BNKR, 2011, Brisas del Marqués, Acapulco, Mexico.