Friday, January 17, 2014

Church Architecture

I’ve recently been asked to explain a little about the inside and general architecture of our Church here at St-Denis.  It seems as providencial that our Church is very close in design to the classic, historical cruciform architecture which can be generally understood to be as the diagram below.
As you can see the ‘Nave’ is where the members of the church sit during Mass.  It is the church proper (ie the believers coming to worship).  As you look around, you’ll notice that the windows of our Church that are on the left side of us when facing the Altar are depictions of the writers of the four Gospels along with the Apostle Thomas who is the one who finally believed in His Resurrection after touching the wounds of Jesus and then said “My Lord and my God” (John 20-27-18).  The right side is traditionally thought of as the Epistle side.  In our case though, our windows depict Jesus before the beginning of His public ministry, that is, before He was baptized.  From front to back, we see St. Elizabeth whom the newly pregnant Mary went to visit, St John the Bapist in his sacloth tunic, Mary mother of Jesus and St Joseph.

The North Transept can be seen as the confessional area of our church on the left and the South Transept is the small ante-room at the right.  The Narthex would be our miniature library just inside the main doors of the Church.

There are many symbolic meanings to the various parts of the church building, as it does pretty much everything else in the world.  The roof symbolizes charity, which covers a multitude of sins; the floor symbolizes the foundation of faih and the humility of the poor; the columns represents the Apostles, Bishops and Doctors (there are 12 of them in our church – 12 apostles); the vaulting represents the preachers who bear up the dead weight of man’s infirmity heavenwards; and the beams represent the champions of ecclesiastical right who defend it with the sword.  The nave symbolizes Noah’s Ark and the Barque of St. Peter, outside of which no one is saved. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

I’ll finish with a quote from St Thomas Aquinas on the need for buildings of worship.  He states in the Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae that just as the King needs a special house, so also we build one for God, not that He needs “a tabernacle or temple to be set up…but men who worship him are corporeal beings and for their sake, there was need for a speacial tabernacle or temple set up .. (so that) coming together with the thought that the place was set aside for the worship of God they might approach with greater reverence.


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