Theory
EKA 03 - 30 - 2010

Sustaining Religion in the Church Throughout Europe the cities and countries the tour has visited are full of religious structures. Cathedrals are very proud pieces of architecture, places that honor and display their religion and religious icons. Stained glass, lavish statues, paintings, mosaics, candles, and lighting fixtures are common ornaments used in most cathedrals. As visually pleasing as these ornaments are, are they really necessary? When does ornamentation and other features associated with famous cathedrals start to take away from sustaining the core beliefs of religion (the idea of leading a simple life full of good and free of temptation)? The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona was designed by Antonio Gaudi and is famous for its decoration. The church has only been used for tourists (willing to pay money to see the inside) because it has been under construction for many years. While the church's ornamentation has a strong religous base I feel that it can be visually overwhelming to the viewer. Sculptures and carvings flood the walls making the church seem very busy. I felt bombarded by images and statues of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, designs and passages from the bible. I didn't know what to focus my attention on. I found myself looking around at the decorations, trying to see it all, instead of trying become closer to God (one of the purposes of a church). The church also preaches about leading a simple life free of temptation and materialistic actions. The excessive use of ornamentation is the exact opposite of this religious goal. The church is covered in unnecessary decorations and is then contradicting is teachings. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is one of the most well known religious buildings. It is a classic example of Gothic architecture, famous for its flying butresses and stained glass windows. These pieces of art throughout the church show religious scenes of Mary and Jesus. The windows fill the cathedral with color and light reminding people of the heavens and magnificence of their religion. While many people come to visit the church to see its special ornamentation, its first use is still a church. I wonder where the boundary of excessive onamentation is crossed; when is it too much that it distracts the people from the religious reasons and beliefs of the building? Tourists can distract as much as excess ornament. They are still allowed into the cathedral when mass is in service, defeating the purpose of creating a stronger relationship and sole focus upon God. The light from the rose window fills the church and illuminates the statues of the apostles and detailed columns but would that window be just as beautiful without the statues and column detail? I think it would be. As beautiful as Notre Dame is all the ornamentation isn't needed for practicing and celebrating religion. The amazing cathedral would be just as awe inspiring with a few key points of the design and then simplifiying the rest. With a simplified design it would then be holding true to the basic teachings of the church and freeing it from the unnecessary extravagances. The Jubilee Church is located in Rome. It is a modern design and focuses on basic shapes, the use of natural lighting, and materials. While from first glance the church's design is obviously less complex than a gothic cathedral but it still has a strong meaning behind its design as well as a strong religious connection. The church's design was inspired by a boat, a strong symbol seen through the bible (many apostles were fishermen, Noah's arch, etc.). A boat is also connected to the idea of a community; the crew on a boat has to work as one to keep it afloat. Instead of stained glass, high vaulted ceilings, and multiple apses, this church directed its natural light to draw attention to the cross and the heavens through the positioning of the windows on the ceiling. The scale of the church is more moderate making the visitor feel less overwhelmed by its size. The space is very open with plenty of natural light, very little ornamentation is used and people's attention is easily draw to the front. The design is simple, effective,and creates an interesting space for the congregation, and nicely connects to the teachings of the church through its design. Ornamentation has the ability to benefit the design of a church but it also has the ability to take away from the purpose of the church. The same thing applies to tourists. Excessive amounts of decoration can easily distract people and deliver a message that contradicts the teachings of the church. But with effective use of design that uses a limited amount of decoration and focuses more on meaning in the design can be just as effective as a rich Gothic cathedral. Image 1- a drawing of the inside of Notre Dame Cathedral Image 2- Interior shot of the Jubilee Church

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