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Are we done with ugly churches?

Those modern ugly churches:

It is impossible not to notice that many Catholic churches built in the last 50 years lack the beauty and majesty of the churches in the years and centuries of the past.  Many lay the blame on Vatican II, which seemed to want to throw tradition out the window.  We are not here to debate the good and bad of the Second Vatican Council, but certainly no one can deny that many of the changes relating to church architecture were not inspirational.  Suddenly churches were built somewhat resembling bomb shelters, and the interiors were devoid of many of the things that made the church a Catholic church.

Inside, the Eucharist was placed out of sight, or at least not in a prominent place.  Stained glass windows and statues were minimalized.  Altar rails quickly disappeared.  Statues?  Not too many and often not prominent.  Often times, it was the Diocesan building committees that wanted this…not the individual pastors or their congregations.  Want to put the tabernacle front and center?  You were lucky it was (literally, in some cases) in a closet somewhere.

Side Altar is Chartres Cathedra
Side Altar in Chartres Cathedral

For example, when we look at the magnificent Chartres Cathedral in France, built between 1134 and 1260, during the  “Dark Ages” (they weren’t really all that dark if you look at church architecture….some of the most beautiful churches were built during this time.)

Cathedrals and churches were meant to be inspiring….and many of them still are today.  We doubt the same will be said about some of these modern buildings 100 years from now .

To the left is just one of the many side altars in Chartres Cathedral.


One of the colors used in the windows is unique…..dubbed “Chartres Blue”. In future centuries, will these new churches be equally inspiring?  We doubt it.

Of course, some of the construction revolves on making the buildings less expensive to build and more efficient so far as heating and cooling costs are concerned.  And while it is true that the Eucharist is the same no matter what the church looks like, we do like to enter a place that evokes a certain feeling that this is no ordinary space.

Is the pendulum starting to swing back?

Like any idea that is taken to excess, we are starting to see a renewed interest in Catholic churches that look like…..Catholic churches.

We list several of these churches on our site, most recently Saint Mary’s Church in Fennimore, Wisconsin as shown on the left.

The restoration work was done by Conrad Schmitt Studios.  We have no relationship with them, but they appear to do outstanding restoration work for churches.

Another beautiful church…not a restoration, but a brand new construction, is Saint Francis Xavier Church in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Another source we note is that of FyndersKeepers.  They offer a large range of used and restored altars, altar rails, stations of the cross, candle holders….just about everything you can think of.

Again, we do not have a business relationship with them, but they appear to have an excellent reputation.

Have any suggestions for newly remodeled churches?

Please leave a comment….we would love to know about it.