Rush: Chintzy Architecture Hinders Religion

The+Sistine+Chapel.+Courtesy+Flickr.
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Rush: Chintzy Architecture Hinders Religion

The Sistine Chapel. Courtesy Flickr.

The Sistine Chapel. Courtesy Flickr.

Brian Bukowski

The Sistine Chapel. Courtesy Flickr.

Brian Bukowski

Brian Bukowski

The Sistine Chapel. Courtesy Flickr.

By Nicholas Rush

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Imagine perusing through the stone-clad Sistine Chapel in Italy, peering up at the 65-foot vaulted ceilings bearing the seemingly endless kaleidoscopic mosaic of Michelangelo’s frescoes, timeless markings of devotion, grace and unfettered beauty. Imagine your feet trodding over the hallowed floors of colored stones and marble. The ornate candelabra, once gilt, lights up the giant, hand-woven tapestries of Raphael. The magnificent chapel is a true testament to God if there ever was one. One can only imagine the sense of awe and inspiration that anyone might feel upon entering such an unblemished relic of divine imagination. 

Even staunch atheists cannot help but gasp at the immense aesthetic beauty and precision of the chapel or marvel at the perseverance of the artists commissioned to the arduous task of creating it without the use of modern technology. There is no doubt that such a chapel could momentarily dissolve the plight of any human being as their eyes gaze upon some of the finest works and testaments in the history of mankind. The Sistine Chapel is mankind’s way of trying its best to make God in our image — to strive for that godly attribute: perfection. 

For all of the pain that organized religion has danced attendance upon, some of the greatest works of mankind were inspired by the concept of God’s perfection. If God isn’t perfect, then God simply wouldn’t be God, but rather something else. People tried to reflect the greatest conceivable image of perfection in works of art. The whole world knows about the Sistine Chapel, or at least has an idea of it, meaning that the artists accomplished their job. Through the flawless beauty of the chapel, they made men aware that humans are more than mere products of disengaged bestial evolution, that they are artists of this universe tasked with reflecting the aesthetic ideals of creation — those which we see in the mountains, oceans and great plains. 

Unfortunately, the churches of today are cookie-cutter testaments to the unholy and intermittent hum of a dodgy drinking fountain. These office style spaces are adorned with basketball courts, not basilicas. Vaulted ceilings have been replaced with cellulose and starch ceiling tiles — you know, the ones you see in your elementary school. It’s a case of function over form. While churches have multiplied, their volume doesn’t make up for their lack of architectural zeal. This is not to say that every church must look like the Sistine Chapel, but assembly line churches do not inspire or reflect the visible, tangible ideals of creation. 

One might argue that the architecture of churches has little to do with one’s faith in God. Yet the wonderfully adorned architectural feats of the churches of Europe, from Germany to Russia, are the real testaments of human beings’ zeal for God, while the strip mall churches of America are about cutting costs and staying under budget — the American way.

Every erected church should be unconstrained by the mighty effect of dollars — otherwise, don’t build it. As the saying goes, “you cannot serve both God and money.” The love that people attribute to God should be reflected in the monuments which purportedly house his essence and spirit. Any human who enters the Sistine Chapel would come out closer to God — and perfection — even without hearing a single word from the pulpit.

Worshiping in chintzy, run-down buildings is a disservice to the purpose of religion and ideal of God. Worshiping in chapels that were built not with only function in mind, but to a higher and loftier perfection, better serves as a testament to God and brings one in touch with humankind’s sacrifices. The seriousness to which religion should adhere is seriously hindered by low-budget church buildings. While it is understandable that religions want to bring in as many people as possible by erecting a high volume of churches, it really cheapens the whole process of worship when a church looks like the inside of a local DMV office.  

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@TheChrony