PHOTOS: See the award winners for stunning religious architecture

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Church of St. Gregory the Great in Portsmouth, Rhode Island - 
Religious Architecture, Restoration, Honor - Northeast Collaborative Architects. Photo by Aaron Usher, courtesy of Faith & Form

Church of St. Gregory the Great in Portsmouth, Rhode Island - Religious Architecture, Restoration, Honor - Northeast Collaborative Architects. Photo by Aaron Usher, courtesy of Faith & Form

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(RNS) Take a visual journey of sacred spaces around the world through the winners of the 2014 International Awards Program for Religious Art & Architecture.

  • rossor

    Glad to see so many congregations putting vast sums into serving the poor. /sarcasm

  • T Ford

    I find most of these designs elitist and appeal more to secular notions of art and design rather than feeding the spiritual needs of the congregation.

  • Patrick Johnson

    The poor also appreciate beauty and things that lift the spirit. I hope these communities are welcoming them and reaching out to serve their material needs as well.

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  • Back in Roman Empire days churches were built along the “basilica” style one main aisle… two side aisles… using rounded arches.

    Then in Gothic times churches were built using soaring pointed arches. Today we have steel superstructure for our buildings. How to make a sacred space using today’s building materials??? I have yet to see one. Perhaps the Chrystal Cathedral???

  • Marcy

    I agree. They all look like either a barn or an auditorium. Except for the small occasional cross, if you did not tell me they were churches I would have never guessed. Sad really.

  • Raguel

    I agree, they do not emphasize the Catholic truth that the Mass is a Sacrifice. The people facing altars and curved shapes display a man centered meal type celebration rather than the sacrifice of Calvary.

    The overall design of most of them is also “vulgar” in the sense that there is no clear sanctuary in many of them. The Sanctuary is either the lowest point, at the same level, or the distinction between the Sanctuary and the Naive is not distinct.

  • Raguel

    I’m a Catholic and I actually agree with you do a certain extent. In the past Churches were built by the poor, or by donations given by poorer people. After Vatican II, many parishes destroyed many of these beautiful Churches that were built by the original parish communities. You can see from the architecture in these modern Churches that the design is very inward, not directed at Godly things (like charity) but towards man. Many Catholics today are very selfish and only “liberal” when it comes to other people’s money, but will not give of their own money or time.

  • Stunningly mundane, you mean?

  • Darran McDonnell

    Over a period of 2000 years, communities have put what building materials they had to create the most reverent sacred space they possibly could. Learning as they went. Improving as time went along.

    It’s a shame when what 2000 years had got right isn’t improved, but replaced by modern design, assuming to be superior to everything that came before it for no other reason than because it is modern. I suppose on just one level, that is really quite arrogant.

  • Tantumblogo

    Good comment. God bless you. My impression from all the above was the overwhelming inward focus and near total lack of obvious cues pointing to the transcendent object of worship. Bland, modernist, devoid of sacred art…….the post-conciliar playbook in microcosm.

    At the same time, I deride the lazy and intellectually bankrupt claim that building suitable houses of worship somehow robs the poor of their due. As you pointed out, many of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals ever built were funded en masse by very poor people (desperately poor by today’s standards) who gave willingly and joyfully for the greater glory of God. It is a travesty that our collective Catholic birthright was so despised by a narrow elite that did all in their power to destroy or deface incredible works of the highest human achievement.

    And the destruction rolls on, especially since March 2013.

  • Richard M

    “Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said,“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” … Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”” John 12:3-7

  • Richard M

    Except for the Our Lady of Mercy Chapel at Salve Regina – and possible Christ Church Cambridge – I’m afraid they all leave me quite cold. Sterile. No human warmth or character.

  • Alex A.

    At first I thought this was Eye of the Tiber. I think you have the wrong winners, though. These are the award-winners of the “Architectural Horrors of Modernism” contest.

  • Liz Neville

    Thank you, Richard.

  • DeaconJohnM.Bresnahan

    Most of the church buildings are ugly and cold–devoid of any spiritual warmth. The winners were not surprising because the jury was made up of virtually all art professionals—frequently the worst judges because they are too busy scratching each other’s backs.
    How about a jury of just average parishioners with a wider selection given to them to select from

  • Hawthorne

    What beautiful modern art museums!

    …wait, these are churches?!?


  • I absolutely love all of the selections! There’s a sense of peace in all of them, removing the clutter of the world so the worshippers can focus on the presence of God. One of the Catholic churches honored isn’t too far away, so I’m planning to make a trip to experience it.

  • Rossor, I am a member of one of the listed churches here – Watermark in Dallas. Your comment implies that the church perhaps mis-allocated its resources, but much of the property was a renovation and adaptive re-use project turning an old office building into admin and ministry space. Another huge portion was three tilt-walls and one curtainwall. It was done very economically and very prayerfully. Additionally, I would like to assure you that the church has an amazing external service ministries and is a known entity in Dallas (and Africa) for how it serves the community. Here is their blog on all the different service opportunities in case you’d like further evidence.

  • Many of these churches are not Catholic, and I am very interested in seeing the scripture that states mass is a sacrifice. And why must there be a “sanctuary” if Christ’s message is to worship Him in ALL that you do throughout your life, after you leave church. So wouldn’t it be logical to create a space that transitions more into its urban fabric and blurs the line of what is church and what is not?

  • I would argue that it’s more true to its time and place. Are we expected to continue to design inauthentic replicas of basilicas and cathedrals when that simply isn’t where design is right now?