Interview between host Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM and author Allan Doig
A History of the Church through its Buildings (Oxford University Press, 2021) by Allan Doig takes the reader to meet people who lived through momentous religious changes in the very spaces where the story of the Church took shape. Buildings are about people, the people who conceived, designed, financed, and used them. Their stories become embedded in the very fabric itself, and as the fabric is changed through time in response to changing use, relationships, and beliefs, the architecture becomes the standing history of passing waves of humanity.
This process takes on special significance in churches, where the arrangement of the space places members of the community in relationship with one another for the performance of the church’s rites and ceremonies. Moreover, architectural forms and building materials can be used to establish relationships with other buildings in other places and other times. Coordinated systems of signs, symbols, and images proclaim beliefs and doctrine, and in a wider sense carry extended narratives of the people and their faith.
Looking at the history of the church through its buildings allows us to establish a tangible connection to the lives of the people involved in some of the key moments and movements that shaped that history, and perhaps even a degree of intimacy with them. Standing in the same place where the worshippers of the past preached and taught, or in a space they built as a memorial, touching the stone they placed, or marking their final resting-place, holding a keepsake they treasured or seeing a relic they venerated, probably comes as close to a shared experience with these people as it is possible to come. Perhaps for a fleeting moment at such times their faces may come more clearly into focus.
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