Here is another excerpt from the text I had mentioned in my previous post. In this passage the author, writing almost sixty years ago, touches briefly on the needs of a church building, and describes the ways in which an architect must rise to meet those challenges.
Note his emphasis on beauty as a responsibility of the architect throughout the text.
. . .
Traditional symbolism – e.g. of the church building, of the altar – plays a part in the planning of a church, and the architect must have knowledge of it.
The correct construction and adornment of an altar and of a tabernacle are matters requiring no small rubrical knowledge necessary for the architect of a Catholic church.
The internal planning of a church is also affedted by the situation of the baptistery, the places for consecration crosses, the correct position of confessionals, of statues and of the Stations of the Cross, of the sacrarium, of holy water stoups, alms boxes, etc.
From all this it is evident that a church architect needs very special training over and above his formation as a competent architect. If he undertakes to plan Catholic churches, and oversee their erection, he needs a sound knowledge of liturgical principles and liturgical prescriptions. If his education has not comprised the study of the Sacred Liturgy, then he must be guided in his planning… He cannot afford to be ignorant of, or worse still, pay no attention to the Church’s law on church building and furnishing.
IX. THE CHURCH ARCHITECT
The task of the architect of a Catholic church is indeed a very special one, requiring a quite peculiar competence. “A church is a building having exactly defined requirements, to be exactly, economically, and beautifully supplied.” A church is the product of the useful, the symbolic, and the beautiful. Its functional requirements are paramount; but the physical comfort and aesthetic satisfaction of the worshippers require due attention. “Sacred architecture, although it may adopt new styles, cannot in any way be equated with profane building, but must always perform its own office, which regards the house of God and the place of prayer. In addition, in building churches care should be taken about the convenience of the faithful, so that they can take part in the divine offices with a better view and more intimately. Let new churches, too, be distinguished by the beautiful simplicity of their lines, eschewing sham ornamentation; but avoiding likewise anything that savours of a neglect of art or of due care” (1)
A church architect must then plan and oversee the erection of a building that will not be merely sound in its construction – using the best materials and techniques available – duly ventilated, heated lighted, acoustically satisfactory and all the rest, but also a building that will be perfectly adapted to its purpose as a church. It must in addition, be as beautiful as circumstances permit – beautiful in construction (in its lines and surfaces, its proportions, etc.) and in adornment (with the right use of colour, correct emphasis, and all those qualities that conspire to make a beautiful building.)
. . . One of the tasks of the church architect – when he is allowed to perform it – is to harmonize the arts employed in the construction and adornment of the edifice, integrating them all into one complete structural plan.
THE FREEDOM OF THE ARCHITECT
In preparing his plans for a Catholic church the architect is given a large measure of freedom, but not by any means complete freedom. …Modern technique and new materials have made certain forms of construction, which were hitherto impossible, quite feasible. The need for economy has also had its influence on architectural designs. There is plenty of scope for modern ideas and technique – the solving of old problems in new ways – provided the new is found to be superior to the old. But the freedom of the architect is not unlimited. He is bound by the prescription of liturgical law to preserve “the forms received from Christian tradition” and observe “the laws of sacred art.” (2)
. . . “The history of the development of the style of religious architecture is the most clear proof of the freedom allowed to the artist (or architect), provided that he creates a building that reveals itself at once as a real church by the dignity of its form and by its propriety.” (3)
(1) from The Instruction of the Holy Office on Sacred Art (1952)
(2) Code of Cannon Law 1164, 1296. The limitations thus imposed on the architect of a Catholic church are not a handicap or an unreasonable or injurious limitation of artistic freedom. They help to produce the true “atmosphere” of a church; the solemn, dignified, consecrated religious surroundings that direct one’s thoughts to the supernatural.
(3) from Abp. Celso & Abp. Constantini. Fede ed Arte (1946)