Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ancient forms

The reviewer of Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs, describes how ancient forms became a part of American Protestant architecture:
Protestant appropriation of Roman Catholic forms occurred in an America rife with Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry. When Catholic Europeans began immigrating in large numbers in the 1840s, the charge was reiterated that they were superstitious, dangerous, and inassimilable. It is only against this background that one can appreciate the irony of not only the Episcopal Church but the Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and even Baptist churches adopting the forms and usages of an otherwise abominated popery. What motivated them to borrow so from their idolatrous neighbors?

The sheer number of those neighbors gave them a kind of irresistibility....In 1853, the General Convention of the Congregationalist Church formally approved the use of crosses for their churches by arguing that "There is no good reason why every little chapel of the Mother of Harlots should be allowed to use what appeals so forcibly and so favorably to the simplest understanding, and we be forbidden the manifest advantage which its use would often give us."....

Second, the Gothic Revival took hold..... gables, pointed arches, and vaulted roofs became all the rage....

In the Gothic style Protestants saw an ideal not only of piety but of refinement, and they were determined to make it their own.
The pictures are of the Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church. The first, of the interior, was taken about 1968. The second is more recent. The church building went up at great financial sacrifice during the Great Depression after the previous structure burned one cold Wisconsin Sabbath morning. Obviously the congregation knew what they wanted their new church to look like.

Source: Cross-Purposes - Books & Culture

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