St. Marcian of Constantinople (5th c), when asked why he spent so much of his wealth on churches, replied: “If I had a daughter and was giving her in marriage to some nobleman, would I not expend much gold to adorn her as a worthy bride? Here, I am adorning the Church, the Bride of Christ.”
More than a decade ago, our community was blessed to purchase land and build our current structure, which was always intended to be an interim measure. Since that time, our average weekly attendance has more than doubled, and we use our fellowship hall as overflow seating during the Divine Liturgy.
The time is quickly drawing near for All Saints to build a larger, more traditional, and more permanent temple. Jeff Weber is the chair of the building committee, which meets regularly as we progress with plans to build the Lord’s house.
One person we have consulted along our journey to build is Orthodox building designer Andrew Gould. One parishioner asked him: “Would you mind telling us a little bit of your philosophy on why we need beautiful churches?” His answer follows:
The question of ‘why this sort of architecture?’ really brings me back to why I started becoming interested in Orthodoxy. I had previously been Anglican and I was interested in designing Anglican churches in gothic style; when I was in college, I studied gothic architecture quite intensively. But as I started to learn about Orthodoxy and Byzantine churches, I was really impressed by the degree to which architecture, iconography, music and liturgy are integrated in Orthodoxy, as one common vision. The way the liturgical movements connect to the different spaces of the building, and then the way the liturgical movements address the different icons, the way in which the icons are painted on the particular surfaces of the buildings in the proper order where they go, and then the way the hymnography refers to all of these saints and to liturgical actions. All of these things work together as an icon of the Kingdom of God in its entirety. Panel icons of saints are not the whole story. They represent the saints, the angels, Christ—but the Kingdom of God is a lot more than that.
If you read the end of the Book of Revelation it describes the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the City of New Jerusalem: it has foundations made of precious stones; it has columns and arches and beautiful pavements; it has domes—all of this is described. And it has ever been the practice of the Orthodox Church to understand church architecture as iconographic. That it, along with the icons and saints, makes for the full representation of the Kingdom of God, and then that must be filled with liturgy, music, incense, to represent we who make up the Kingdom of God along with the saints and angels worshipping God therein…
That’s why you need beautiful architecture. And that’s why the architecture needs to be honest, and solid and sincere. We don’t want to have a stage set, we don’t want to have a building that superficially looks like an Orthodox church, because that’s a stage set, that’s sort of what Baroque architecture is. That’s sort of trying to use plaster and ornament to give a theatrical impression of the Beatific Vision. But Orthodoxy’s not about that, Orthodoxy’s about building something absolutely solid, and permanent and honest that conveys the real ethos of the eternal Kingdom of God.