Thursday, May 13, 2010

Denis McNamara on Sacred Architecture

I am currently beginning to write a magazine review of Denis McNamara's excellent new work on churchbuilding, Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy, and I was pleased to see that the excellent Institute of Catholic Culture had recently had him give a lecture on the subject, which is now available online at their website, along with the accompanying slide show. Dr. McNamara's talk is in many respects a capsule version of his book, and will be of particular interest to our readers in that while he often refers to both Gothic and classical precedents, he provides a deeper and more probing theological rationale by which any and all styles, ancient and modern, might be judged as suitable for ecclesiastical use.

The lecture, like the book, is possibly the best comprehensive analysis of the theology of church architecture and aesthetics I have seen all together in one place in quite a while. It is definitely worth your listening time.

Something else significant which Dr. McNamara brings up (briefly here and at greater length in his book), is the issue of iconography in both the eastern and western context. Dr. McNamara challenges us to go beyond just plopping Mary and Joseph on either side of the crucifix and calling it "tradition," and instead seeking out a more ancient and truly liturgical precedent which turns the sanctuary into a representation of the heavenly liturgy, God among the saints and angels of the Book of Revelation.

Incidentally, if you are unfamiliar with the Institute's work, this lecture is a fine introduction. They have been sponsoring a continuing series of lectures by a variety of distinguished Catholic speakers, mostly in parishes in the Arlington diocese in Virginia. They keep a free sound library of previous talks on their website. Previous speakers have included our own Fr. Kocik speaking on issues of liturgical reform, and a range of talks on Church and secular history by some of the faculty of Christendom College, including a delightful and at times rather witty series on the Crusades by Brendan McGuire. Readers may also appreciate Fr. Fessio's piece on the relationship between Pope Benedict's program for the liturgy and for the Anglican ordinariates, which may be found here.

Photo source here.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: