A common misconception about the Catholic church is that our churches are highly decorative and extravagant that seems to have no context in our faith. Some churches are lavish, and could be considered a waste when helping the poor could be a better payoff. Worship could happen at less cost in common places, but the extravagance is meant to set a tone. It is to describe the wonder and awe we have for God, to set a holy atmosphere and educate as a church. I will use examples in Texas, but elements can be found in different churches.
Now, churches do not have to be beautiful. I have gone to church at a school building, Mayde Creek Junior High, below, in Houston Texas. It was one of the worst architecturally appealing buildings in my opinion. The building has been recently renovated, so it looks better than before, but this example had the necessary areas for our church until we moved into our current church building, which has a modern style. My church here in Austin is not highly decorated or extremely beautiful. University Catholic Center, left, has the necessary areas for gathering, meetings, and offices. Otherwise, the main chapel is not made of stained glass, or is extremely attractive. It has smaller details, such as skylights that make the building attractive. In this ideal, the purpose is to serve as a church with a focus on community and use, rather than beauty. The tone is community oriented rather than just holiness.
Maybe you think churches should be highly ornamented, old-fashioned and decorative. The common style with this ideal is the Gothic. One church that is Gothic Revival is St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Austin, left. The pointed arches, vaults, and stained glass bring back old ideas. This church can be considered a scaled-down Chartres Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral in Paris on the left. The ideal of Gothic is to portray the glory of God through intricate detail, ribbed vaults, and pointed arches. Other beautiful styles include neo-classical, and Rosco. These styles are met to be luxurious. This makes you want to see what Heaven looks like, how the glory of God shines, and the light and airness of the intangible. It sets the tone for the church to be holy place.
There are many ways you can exemplify both beauty and use. The more modern and newer churches tend to focus on use and community, while the older churches tend to have more beauty and holiness I prefer as an architect the beautiful because it get the tone of the church being holy ground. I ironically tend to go to less attractive churches based on community on a regular basics because of the people there. What is your opinion of the beauty of the churches? I think they are beneficial to the tone, but not necessary to the use.