A Very Brief Look at Church Furnishings in History


Church steeple pictures

For over two thousands years Christianity has been one of the most widely practiced religions in the world with nearly 2.2 billion practitioners around the world. The Christianity that we know of today is very different from any other form of Christianity practiced through history. While considering this, I offer three modern fixtures found in churches that have changed significantly over the millenniums.

Although churches are common enough structures in the modern world, the first Christians actually did not congregate in a church or any special structure at all. You see, Christianity was heavily persecuted in the Roman world as the very notion of a heavenly sovereign on earth would discount the supreme authority of the emperor. Christianity eventually gained popularity as it was practiced in the homes and courtyards of merchants and other church members during the early centuries. Public gathering areas we know of as churches wouldn’t develop until after Christianity was legalized and adopted as the national religion of Rome during the reign of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century CE. To this day, many churches and cathedrals form the shape of a cross or cruciform on their ground plans.

While many people who enter a place of worship expect to find church pews they may be surprised to know that pews were not commonplace until after Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Prior to the reformation, the congregation had a relatively vacant role in medieval church affairs: the mass was in Latin, only the ordained had bibles (which were written exclusively in Latin), and Eucharist or communion was only to be looked upon rather than eaten. With the congregation adopting a more active role in worship following the reformation, many churches have since made the inclusion of church pews common in many church designs.

Anyone who drives around the country can see the familiar sight of a church steeple from miles away. Surprisingly, church steeple history is short as this is an American tradition rarely seen outside of the country. European churches had a variety of architectural influences from gothic to basilica architecture, yet American churches took on the signature church steeple design as a pre-19th century identifier for the church, as churches were often only surpassed in size by barns. Many churches are more than willing to invest money in traditional steeple repair to keep the American church design pure. Steeple repair companies often spend time refurnishing church steeple crosses or designing steeple repair plans for a particular church. What developments await the church in the coming centuries?