Ugly churches, yes. But what about beautiful ones?

by Michael Sean Winters

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Yesterday at RealClearReligion, Nicholas Hahn put up a snarky slideshow of what he considers the ugliest churches in the world. I agree that many of the churches he included are indeed ugly and believe, firmly, that beauty is an essential characteristic of Being for the Christian, so the beauty of our churches is a matter of real concern.

I do not agree, by the way, with all of Hahn's selections. He includes San Francisco's Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, for example, a church I expected to be hideous from the pictures, but once I visited there, and especially when I worshipped there, I came to recognize its beauty. I am still not a fan of poured concrete, but poured concrete is used to stunning effect at St. Mary's Cathedral, as are the clear windows overlooking the city and the bay beyond.

Concern for a Christian aesthetic may at times require us to point out the ugly, but even more does it call us to highlight the beautiful. So I am asking readers to use the combox to nominate churches they think are especially beautiful. The churches can be in the U.S. or abroad, old or new. Of course, if one associates a particular church with the happy events of one's life, a baptism or a marriage, it becomes beautiful because it is seen through the eyes of faith. But I am asking for a bit of critical distance here: Beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder. There is a reason we still listen to Mozart and not to hundreds of other contemporaneous composers who lived when he did: His music is better. Artistic judgment is not merely subjective.

The only other stipulation is that any nomination be one that a person can find with a Google image search. Over the weekend, I will comb through the nominations and add some of my own for posting Monday.

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