Sacred places have characterized most known settled societies. They have been both religious, domestic, civil, and related to the natural world. The Renaissance looked back to both Greek and Roman models, but in Europe, the Gothic model retained its importance. A lively debate as to whether sacred spaces are needed, and if so how to build them, runs from the 15th century to the present. The importance of domestic sacred space has declined for most communities in the West apart from Jews and Eastern Orthodox Christians, and secularization has led to the deconsecration of many religious buildings. However, the late 20th century also saw many inspirational religious buildings that in many ways broke with tradition, and the importance of civil sacred places has increased as secularization has grown. Romanticism, the roots of which can be traced to the 16th century, finds the sacred above all in the natural world, and this has informed both New Age religious movements and developments like the establishment of national parks.
Sacred Place and Sacred Places
The Age of Revolutions
Conrad L. Donakowski
A variety of economic, ideological, aesthetic, and nationalist forces shape Christian worship in its varied manifestations today. Historical perspectives and areas of knowledge which are too often discussed in compartmentalized fashion are presented here as acting with and on each other and often serving each other’s purposes. Liturgical, musical, artistic, and architectural expressions are shown to be inextricably bound not only to theology, philosophy, and ecclesial hierarchy but also to political and socioeconomic structural change, technological innovation, and—not least—the culture and the human need for authentic spiritual experience. The Enlightenment “Age of Reason,” Romanticism, the nation-state, and the Industrial Revolution from the 17th through the 19th centuries affected religious practices that were the only mass medium that reached into every town, house, and heart. Connections are established with not only overtly religious events such as urban Evangelism, preservation of old architecture, the Oxford movement, and tradition versus innovation but also socialistic communal experiments and ethnic conflict among US immigrants.