The Architecture of Sacred Space: Saint Mary’s Catholic Church

A reflection on sacred architecture by Ben Luther of LutherGroup Architecture

Sacred architecture is the created environment where one comes to pray and worship God. Sacred architecture provides the context for sacred art and music. The height of the ceiling, the bell tower, and the point of the arch, all direct one’s mind upward towards the spiritual. The seating in the church and the position of the altar orient one forward. The center aisle of the church, referred to as the nave, comes from the concept of a naval ship traveling on a journey. Much like sacred art which requires an artist, images and carvings are used in sacred architecture to remind one of the divine artist. Sacred architecture also takes on the essence of its subject matter and lends itself to more permanent and timeless materials such as stone. The orientation of the church building considers the rising of the sun. And much the same way that the sun illuminates a stained-glass window, the Catholic faith teaches that God’s grace and truth will illuminate our lives.