Three Glimpses into the History behind Church Architecture


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If you are among the 68% of Americans that attend church services, you are probably familiar with some of the archetypical architectural structures and specialized furniture churches contain. Have you ever wondered about the history of the church steeple, pews, altar, or stained glass? Read on for church-related historical facts that may surprise you.

Church Steeples History

The church steeple is truly an ancient architectural structure, probably originally deriving its tall, pointy shape from pagan phallic imagery. Ancient church steeples were originally built as tall as possible to point towards heaven and ward off evil spirits. During the Middle Ages, the church steeple also gained a function of housing a bell that would ring, creating a call to summon worshipers. Defying the functional aims of much architecture, the church steeple inspires awe in the eyes of beholders as it testifies to the dedication, faith and passion of its architect in a pure aesthetic sense.

Uses of Church Pews

An economical seating arrangement solution that has lasted through the centuries, the first church pews — removable stone benches — were introduced during the 1200s. The mobility of the pews allowed them to be used as church seating, but also as a means of income for Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian churches until the early twentieth century. Churches rented their pews for use by families or individuals as one of their primary mechanisms for amassing funds. Still used as seating even in modern churches and courtrooms, antique church pews also provide function and decoration in private homes as bench seating in dining areas or in place of benches in entryways.

Stained Glass Origins

Stained glass made its debut into places of worship during the Gothic Period. A vital patron of the arts, the Medieval Church — based on a philosophy of the mysticism of light — opted for a new design of larger windows with ornate colored glass now referred to as stained glass. The styles and procedures for creating stained glass shifted throughout the Renaissance when stained glass was used even in secular buildings. Beautiful examples of stained glass exist in many of the most famous cathedrals. Regarding the artwork during the daytime entreats the viewer with a magnificent, colorful display, while looking at stained glass during the night creates a slightly ominous or mysterious air.