"synagogue", or "meeting house" is vividly present. Success in this intention
inevitably depends on radical adaptability in which the configuration of the
furnishings, and even such things as platforms, can be changed to suit various
occasions. And a full supply of furnishings, equipment, artifacts and symbolic
devices appropriate to various religious denominations must be provided so
that there is a minimum sense of the provisional and ad hoc.
Although historical architecture often suggests the opposite, theologians
of almost every faith agree that "ecclesiastical" or other "religious" styles
of architecture are neither necessary nor advantageous. A "secular" style of
architecture is appropriate; but it must be noted that "secular" in this usage
is not the opposite of "sacred", nor does it mean commonplace or run-of-the-
mill; it simply means nonecclesiastical.
The Bases of Religious Architecture. To say that naval chapels
must not be ecclesiastical or sectarian in style and detail does not mean that
these buildings cannot be expressive of religion; indeed, they must be.
Designers must attempt conscientiously to provide buildings that are faithful
and vivid reflections of those elemental properties of religion that are
common to all faiths. There are three of these fundamental properties of
religion, all of which are expressible in architecture without recourse to
sectarian forms, symbolism, or images.
(1) In the first place, religion is a commitment to the faith
that human life and the universe have their being under an ineffable.
fascinating, and awesome Mystery we call God and call Holy. This is
the common intuition of all religions. The Mystery is infinite, eternal.
transcendant, yet immanent. Humans experience in an immense variety of ways
that the beauty of the natural world is evidence of the Magnificent Mystery;
these experiences are felt rather than cognitive, intuitive rather than
rational, and they bring people to awe and wonder.
The only adequate means available to people of symbolizing the Holy is
through their own works of beauty. The reason is that beauty is also a
mystery; it also awakes in people a sense of wonder. Beauty, like the holy,
cannot ultimately be defined, analyzed or synthesized. Like the holy it is
both remote and immediate; it is perceived by intuition rather than by
cognition. And beauty, as a lesser mystery invites the awareness of the
Greater Mystery. This is the reason that in every religion the artist and the
priest have been hand in hand.
It is of the greatest importance, therefore, that the architecture of
religious facilities be beautiful.
Religion, in the second place, is the devotion to truth,