Introduction on the concept of “sacredness” and explore the

Introduction The idea of sacred architecture often refers to the sense of beauty, the concept of light and its theological aspect. However, when discussing Christian buildings and sacredness, how do we respond to someone who finds its architectural beauty, its timeless enticement or the space it forms for worship, “sacred”. It is Interesting to discover that man can successfully design a sacred space perhaps non-religious or religious? Surely, the religious or non-Religious man must have understood what sacredness is. The paradox poses an interesting opportunity into understanding what combines this construct, what role does architecture play in conveying a sense of sacredness. We often speak of ‘sacred’ architecture without truly understanding what the attribute means. A German theologian named Rudolf Otto, studied a man’s experience of the holy one in his book Das Heilige (The Idea of the Holy, 1917). Otto speaks about religious experience being somewhat exceptional and more importantly different from other kinds of experience. He ventured out explaining that “If there be any single domain of human experience that presents us with something unmistakably specific and unique, peculiar to itself, assuredly it is that of the religious life.” How this concept is transformed into a space or place is captivating. Architecture as well as being material, is also by nature and belief rational. However, Paul Goldberger, an architectural critic believed structure must have logic or it cannot stand. He later on explains that the sacred does not demand logic but defies it. The genius of sacred architecture is the way its structure exists that brings us to a place that defies the very essence of structure. The main question: ‘How does architecture contribute to sacredness?’ with an interesting corollary to the past and what the modern equivalent is. The intention is to present the phenomenon of the sacred in all its complication, and reveal how architecture contributes to the experience of transcendence. How the presence of God can be evoked by a certain spatial arrangement and use of decoration. I will also be referring to paintings to show a correspondence between painters’ representation of Sacrality and ‘religious’ sacred buildings. The objective of the following pages will be reflecting on the concept of “sacredness” and explore the harmonious relationship between architecture and religion, space and sacredness and the relationship with people and the divine. Sacred spaces are powerful spaces, expressing something that cannot be material. Discussions about sacred architecture will only allow a discovery to the meaning of sacred spaces and if architecture truly contributes to the dwelling of the ‘sacred’ through light, art, form and space. Define Sacredness and Sacred SpaceOxford Dictionary defines sacred as: “Regarded as too valuable to be interfered with; sacrosanct; Consecrated to; esteemed especially dear or acceptable to a deity; Connected with God or a god; considered to be holy, dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration; very important and treated with respect….further definitions include: “Regarded with or entitled to respect or reverence similar to that which attaches to holy things”Sacredness is the attribute of holiness that we appropriate to God and by extension, things we use in our relationship with a ‘God’ or to represent God. “Sacredness is expressed through many qualities; a major one among them is the quality of light”. Luis Barragan was an architect whose work we refer to as ’emotional architecture’. He not only understood sacredness but he explored beautifully how spaces can be invested with spirituality, feeling, and atmosphere. He had a sophisticated attention and detail to light. His spaces didn’t necessarily have to be religious but he was able to communicate something extraordinary, awakening emotions that elevate you. In his Chapel for the Capuchinas Sacramentarias (1952-55), he embodies sacredness with colour and light. In such a simple interior space , instantly you are filled with a deep sense of spirituality, with ambient walls that radiate warmth, peace and serenity. The self-standing cross allows an oblique luminance creating a remarkable effect combined with a wedge that’s embedded in the space.  Barragan’s treatment of space complements the quiet life of the nuns who use the Chapel, the space is rather silent and respectful; this is a good example of sacredness. Barragan’s work has the capacity to communicate values that transcend their function, there is a connection that moves you beyond the functions of a building , colour that creates memory, emotion. Mario Botta believed the idea of the sacred is linked with a particular history or memory (Michael Lang, 2014) and memory is composed in the act of building itself, which he defines as a “sacred act”. Sacredness is ‘entitled to worship or a religious respect by the association with divinity or divine things’. The word “Sacred” comes from Latin, sacer, to make holy. Predomentally, “that which is set apart from the ordinary world” (Wuthnow, 1994) , set apart for a dedicated religious purpose;- S. Kelley Harrell states “Sacred space” is another way of saying “with intention”. In the Sacred and The Profane, Eliade explains “the sacred always manifests itself as a reality of a wholly different order from natural’ realities” (Eliade, 1959). His understandings were we become aware of the sacred in space when it reveals itself different from the existing world. Holy is often related to ‘numen’ meaning God. Referring to Otto’s theory on being presented with something unmistakably specific and unique, he also explains these types of experiences as numinous. Numinous is commonly used to describe the sacred to indicate its power therefore if dwelling in space, becomes a powerful ‘sacred’ space. In ‘Holistic and sacred spaces’ by Phillip Daffara (Youtube, 2014) he describes a  sacred space as a place of daydreaming, a space that encourages a person to dwell and to dwell means to remain for a time, to keep the attention directed; dwelling is to be mindful and as mortals we dwell on earth for a time. Sacred space is therefore an intimate space, it intensifies our feeling of connectedness to the wholeness of life. He believed how we think affects how we dwell,  in return it shapes our spaces. More importantly, sacred spaces serve to remind us of who we are and our purpose for dwelling. Sacred architecture serves as a representation of when heaven and earth meet, The Pantheon for example, capturing symbolic light streaming through its cylindrical space , with a dome that its central opening reaches to the sky, “the sky provides a connection to divine light” (Millet, 1997) therefore by creating this opening it presents a doorway from the natural world to the supernatural. Here , the opening to the sky is ‘with intention’ and ‘unmistakably specific’, the dome is ‘unique’ and to represent heaven , suddenly it becomes set apart from the rest of the world, suddenly you become aware of ‘a sense of dependency on something external to themselves’, (Simmins, 2008). Eliade uses the term ‘hierophany’ which means the manifestations of the sacred , he uses an example of a stone , there are moments  when one would worship a stone and claim it is sacred. Eliade explains that anything can become sacred from a tree to a stone , as when the sacred manifests itself , the stone is no longer a stone, a tree is no longer just a tree. To refer this theory to Christian sacred architecture , every sacred space implies a hierophany, which makes it ‘qualitatively different’ (Eliade, 1959), architecture uses signs such as ‘The cross’, more importantly light to allow these manifestations to be perceived as a revelation of Christ. Sacredness can be invested in people this way, when light for example behaves in a significant way it has the power to present a sense of presence or transcendence. However, Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas, who designed the church of San Paolo in Foligno, in his interview ‘The architect’s workshop, Conversation with Massimiliano Fuksas, april 2009’ , he begins the conversation by saying you can not make sacred architecture. What is interesting is he then says ‘architecture can be made that strives for spirituality’ as if to say ‘architecture tends to spirituality’ (Michael Lang, 2014). With fuksas understanding, architecture gravitates to spirituality when articulated with a direct intention , with reference to the quality of light , it therefore becomes just a philosophical idea rather than what you would normally describe as sacred space. Fuksas believed ‘there is no sacred architecture’ because architecture is not likely to create it , rather it leans to it. This idea anticipates on whether architecture can create the sacred or whether we communicate the quality of sacredness upon spaces or do they ever so communicate sacredness upon us, perhaps what is sacred is what we choose to santicity (Goldberger, 2010).

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