For centuries, churches have been tranquil places for worship and community gathering. The furnishings, ornaments, and architecture of churches have become incredibly important to the churchgoing experience. While churches historically didn’t always look like they do now, today one could easily tell what one was looking at by just seeing the top of a steeple, or know where one was by seeing a row of church pews.
A Brief History of Pews.
Church pews were introduced in the 13th century, as removable stone benches. Today, pews are one of the most iconic staples of church furniture, and are made of some kind of wood, usually oak. It wasn’t until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century that permanent pews were commonly installed in churches. This reformation brought with it the rise of the sermon which made pews that much more important for church services, as these sermons could go on at length.
Today, many pews are more comfortable to accommodate all churchgoers, especially children and the elderly. Some are furnished with cushions and footrests, though others are still simple wooden benches. Denominations of Christianity which incorporate kneeling during worship often have kneelers attached to the pews for comfortable prayer.
Church Steeple History.
Church steeples, soaring high above most other buildings and residences in a town, are often the first thing a person notices when coming across a church. They have a long, muddled, and controversial history. Some claim they originate from earlier religious and pagan symbolism, while others cite their adaptation from military watchtowers. Whatever the case may be, steeples have become an integral part of most Christian churches, and act as a beacon for active or prospective worshippers. In the past especially, before big cities and skyscrapers, one always knew where the local churches were by locating the tip of the steeple.
Church Steeple Designs.
There are several church steeple designs and types, but most are composed of the same four basic parts: the tower, belfry, lantern, and spire. The tower is the lowest part and base of the steeple, often donning a clock. The belfry rests right above the tower, containing one or more church bells. Above the belfry is the lantern, or light, which illuminates the steeple at night. And finally at the very top is the spire, which is the long, pointed tip that some argue symbolizes pointing to God in Heaven. Several spires feature a cross at the very top, signifying the sacrifice of Jesus Christ recorded in the New Testament.
Aside from this basic steeple structure, architects can get much more creative. Several churches of the Gothic era, for instance, have extremely ornamented, abrasive steeples, while some modern churches have rounder steeples. There are lower, wider church steeple designs out there as well.
While worship and community are the most important parts of the Christian faith, it cannot be doubted that the design of churches and the furnishings within them have become integral to the Christian faith and culture.