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am 28. Februar 2006
Steven Schloeder has written a book in which he attempts to capture what he describes as the 'true spirit of the Second Vatican Council' in architectural design for churches. Schloeder identifies difficulties in theology and liturgy that have, in his opinion, translated also in problem architecturally. With regard to modernism, he states, 'Many prominent Catholic thinkrs have not discerningly separated the wheat from the chaff and have accepted certain secondary issues as primary ones.' Among these are issues of the Eucharist being a sacrificial meal vs. a communal one, or the difference between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of all being downplayed - these and others are issues that he discusses briefly in theological and historical terms, but quickly develops the way in which architecture shapes and is shaped by such ideas.
Schloeder's vision for the book is set out in the introduction: 'Our goal is to enliven the parish community - which is the true Church built of living stones in Christ - with a material church building designed to serve and further the primary vocation to become a community of love, which must mean a people of sacrifice and redemption.' This is a constant theme throughout the entire text, always present in the spirit of the photographs, drawings, and essays.
Even the structure of the book speaks of an underlying theological bent - three clusters of three chapters. The first three chapters explore issues of history, sociology, theology and liturgy with regard to the modern Catholic church building. The nature of the church is a primary consideration when considering what kind of design and structure its physical enclosure and manifestation should bear.
The second cluster of three chapters look at particular architectural aspects. One chapter examines the needs of the santuary itself, another chapter more broadly at other services and sacramental needs, and the final chapter the wider considerations of the church family and its place in the community. In this later aspect, the church building can grow from being the domus ecclesiae (house church, or home of the church) to being a civitas dei (a city of God).
The final three chapters look at artistic and aesthetic elements, particularly the icon; Schloeder strives to regain the iconographic aspect of the church in the community. The building itself can be a symbol and a work of art, and most certainly should be a sacramental space.
Schloeder is honest about this book not being an answer book - to many of the issues he explores, he has no concrete answers to offer, but rather serves to highlight particular issues for consideration. Indeed, in the creativity of modern architecture, there are often multiple solutions to the same problems.
This book has hundreds of photographs, examples of architecture modern, medieval and ancient, works of art, and outside symbols and examples. It is rather fun, for example, to see a picture of the British House of Commons chamber as an example of similar types of church architecture, then to know that the British HoC is modeled on the older structure in which the Members met in the choir stalls of a chapel.
The writing is crisp and flowing, and fits very well its topic and the surrounding images. This is a good book for all those interested in architecture, church design, liturgy, and the intersection of theology with material arts.
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am 5. November 1998
"Architecture in Communion" is a detailed, yet highly approachable, weaving of theology, liturgy, architectural history, and iconography. Schloeder's vision for a restoration of beauty and meaning in Catholic church design is both original and solidly rooted in the traditions of the faith.
His central premise is that Catholic church architecture is essentially "sacramental", that is to say, the material building is meant to be an icon or an image of the spiritual reality of the Church. Drawing upon sources from Scripture, the Church Fathers, architectural history, conciliar documents, canon law, and the Catechism, Schloeder shows us the symbolical language that has traditionally underpinned Catholic church design, and examines each part of the church (nave, sanctuary, altar, ambo, baptistery, etc.) with respect to its function, traditional form, symbolic meaning, and canonical status.
The book is very nicely illustrated with over 300 photos and illustrations.
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am 22. Mai 1999
ARCHITECTURE IN COMMUNION gave an excellent insight into the challenges and crises that Catholic church art has faced since the Second Vatican Council. Mr. Schloeder really understands the anguish that many traditional church artisans faced following the aftermath of the Council--when confusion seemed to leave traditional Catholic church arts at a crossroads.
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