Steps Up to Churches

Many churches have steps at the entrance, usually two or three. Wheelchair accessibility aside, would it be bad for a church to have a large set of steps at the entrance like a civic building?

Very visible stairs to ascend into a church seems to connote ascending before receiving grace. Rather than giving the kingdom of God the dignity of the buildings of State, perhaps it destroys Church’s witness against the rule of raw power: perhaps, by imitating an acropolis to which grace is not come, it overthrows the Church’s narrative of grace – but can such architectural statements be parodied?

On the other hand, it may pictorially represent sursum corda (‘lift up your hearts’) by lifting the eyes upward. It highlights the lofty majesty of the God enthroned in the heavens. It mirrors going ‘up to Jerusalem’, using the rhetoric of polis. It has the feel of city, of society, of more than pietistic ‘personal relationship’ myopia.

This difference-in-height matter occurred to me as I visited the Sainte-Chapelle inside the Palais de Justice complex, brought out especially by the fact that the king would not have needed at all to go to the level of the lower chapel, where the palace staff worshipped. Wikipedia says, ‘Just as the Emperor could pass privately from his palace into Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, so now Louis could pass directly from his palace into the Sainte-Chapelle.’

So, stairs or no stairs?

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4 responses to “Steps Up to Churches

  1. I think stairs. God meets us on mountain tops.

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  2. What’s interesting about that question is that the Incarnation itself is a Tabernacle-Mountain. To visit the Incarnation is to have a mountaintop encounter.

    It seems like the solution to your problem is to rework the idea that ascension to a mountaintop precedes grace. It makes more sense to say that we ascend to the mountaintop by grace.

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    • »What’s interesting about that question is that the Incarnation itself is a Tabernacle-Mountain. To visit the Incarnation is to have a mountaintop encounter.«

      Is this related to the Reformed-Lutheran Eucharist question?

      »It makes more sense to say that we ascend to the mountaintop by grace.«

      I like it.

      Like

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