The houses of God

by
05 June 2015

A new book features some of the Christian architecture regarded as the best in the world, introduced by Heather Thornton McRae

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Vision: Las Lajas, in the extreme south-west region of Nariño, in Colombia, was a remote, uninhabited gorge carved by the Guáitara River until 1754, when Rosa Mueces, a deaf mute girl, taking refuge with her mother from a sudden storm, cried out on seeing an image of the Virgin. News of the apparition spread, and pilgrims from Colombia and neighbouring Ecuador began making the arduous journey. A simple wooden chapel was replaced with successively grander buildings, ending in this, designed by J. Gualberto Pérez, and built between 1916 and 1949, funded entirely by donations. The veracity of the vision was attested by Pope Pius XII in 1954

Vision: Las Lajas, in the extreme south-west region of Nariño, in Colombia, was a remote, uninhabited gorge carved by the Guáitara River until 1754,...

TWO thousand years of Christianity have inspired some of the most important works of art and architecture known to humankind. They span not just time, but also the world.

Almost all religious traditions need a place to worship, but Christianity also requires a space for contemplation. This defining aspect of the religion created a vibrant monastic tradition. Monasteries include churches, but their underlying principle is different, because they provide for every aspect of life, allowing monks to be apart from the world.

Christian spaces of worship and contemplation were often embellished with multiple art forms. In the earliest centuries, these tended to be part of the buildings themselves. Later, more portable forms of religious art appeared, including paintings and free-standing sculpture.

Nuanced differences between Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, Protestant, and other forms of Christianity shine in the simplest and humblest Christian architectural and artistic forms.

 

An edited extract from Making Sense of Christian Art and Architecture (Thames & Hudson, £9.95 (CT Bookshop, £8.95)

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