Theology in Stone: Church Architecture From Byzantium to Berkeley

Richard Kieckhefer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBook

102 Scopus citations


Four questions can be asked appropriately about any church. First, what are its spatial dynamics and how do they promote the dynamism of worship? Second, what (if anything) is the centering focus that clarifies what is most important to worship? Third, what aesthetic impact is the building meant to promote? Fourth, in what way does the building convey a sense of symbolic resonance, linking the immediate experience of the worshiper with the broader experience of this community and of the Church through history? These matters are all approached differently in different traditions of church-building. A "classic sacramental church" uses longitudinal space to promote the kinetic dynamism of processions, has an altar as its centering focus, is designed to create a sense of interplay between the immanence of God and the transcendence of ordinary experience, and is rich in symbolic resonance. A "classic evangelical" church uses some form of auditorium space to promote the verbal dynamism of proclamation and response, has a pulpit as its centering focus, is designed as a dignified space for edification, and is economical in its symbolic resonance. A "modern communal" church juxtaposes a gathering space and a worship space so people may be formed as a community before acting as a worshiping community, takes the congregation itself as the focus of attention, is designed to promote a sense of hospitality, and tends toward moderation in symbolic resonance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages384
ISBN (Electronic)9780199835676
ISBN (Print)0195154665, 9780195154665
StatePublished - Jul 14 2005


  • Aesthetic impact
  • Centering focus
  • Classic evangelical churches
  • Classic sacramental churches
  • Modern communal churches
  • Spatial dynamics
  • Symbolic resonance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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