Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Appropriate Scale and Decoration of Churches

[This quote seems as well placed an exhortation for our own day as it was for Pugin's day.]

by A.W.N. Pugin

Churches must be regulated in their scale and decorations (as was the case formerly) by the means and numbers of the people; it being always remembered that the house of God should be as good, as spacious, as ornamented, as circumstances will allow. Many a humble village church, of rubble walls and thatched roof, has doubtless formed as acceptable an offering to Almighty God (being the utmost the poor people could accomplish) as the most sumptuous fabric erected by their richer brethren. Everything is relative; a building may be admirable and edifying in one place, which would be disgraceful in another. As long as the Catholic principle exists, of dedicating the best to God, be that great or little, the intention is the same, and the result always entails a blessing. But this does not afford the slightest ground for a pretext, urged by some wealthy persons in these days of decayed faith, that it does not matter how or where God is worshipped, and that four walls are equally well adapted for the purpose with the most solemn piles. God expects, and it is beyond contradiction His due, that we should devote to His honour and service a large portion of the temporal benefits we enjoy. While, therefore, it would be both absurd and unjust to expect more than what the station and means of persons enable them to contribute towards the erection of churches, it is a horrible scandal, and a fearful condemnation, that many persons of wealth and influence do oppose the Catholic principle, of making the house of God the centre of earthly splendour; and instead of contributing to this great and holy work, try to excuse their conduct by urging the miserable arguments of Protestants on these matters. While for the gratification of their own personal vanity, or the indulgence of their luxury, no expense can be too profuse, it is lamentable to look around on the various buildings used for Catholic worship in this land, and to see how few among them are at all fitted, either, by their arrangement or decoration, for the sacred purposes for which they are intended. [pp. 11-12]


Pugin, A. Welby. The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England. "Republished from the Dublin Review." London: Charles Dolman, 1843.

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