The New Churches

February 16, 2007

A couple summers ago when I was staying at my brother’s cabin in West Virginia I went to mass at a glorious new church which was the first I had seen build since my birth in the cruciform style. I was aware that the ND School of Architecture had a classical emphasis, but I had no idea what was happening architecturally in the Catholic world outside the “golden bubble.”

A Google image search of architectural renderings gives us a hint at some new trends. By no means are we back to all cruciform churches, but at last, the fan church seems to be behind us. These churches are basically post modern, surprise, surprise. But they do hearken back to traditional elements utterly missing in the churches of my upbringing such a prominent crosses on the exteriors and on roof peaks. While inner cities have our best churches, outer suburbia will be much richer in the Catholic architectural language than those of the inner suburbs, in North America, anyway.


Saint Dominic, San Antonio, TX is not the best. It reminds me of some of the late 80’s to mid 90’s designs with the unadorned smallish circular window under the pediment. In these proportions the features are reminiscent of strip mall facades. While likely having fanned seating, the roof lines shows a return of the clerestory windows and an emphasis on the central axis, often confused in post conciliar creations with teepee shaped rooflines.

St. Mark, Huntersville, NC shows a revived feature increasingly common, the tower. Arches throughout the facades anchor the church in her history. This building really looks, well, like a church. The rectangular nave is prominent and properly orients the congregation straight on to the altar. (I find amphitheatre seating distracting, if not really annoying. I want to pray when I’m in the congregation, not watch people shushing, appeasing, disciplining or ignoring their children.

St. Cecilia’s, Wisconsin Dells, WI is my personal favorite. It is a combination of of styles which will remind the passerby of many and very different churches they may have seen. Can you guess what the Architect did here? I will reveal in the combox.

Lots of promise and signs of things to come.

See also: Ever Ancient, Ever New: Romanesque in Knoxville