Art and Architecture

In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that, which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colors, shapes, and sounds, which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.

-John Paul II, Letter to Artists, 1999

Full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy by all the faithful is essential for being church. The environment for liturgy is much more than a backdrop; it should support and enhance the liturgy, invite believers, gather them as one, exhort them, renew their spirits and nourish them for their journey. It must be a space, a place capable of bearing the weight of the mystery, both the human and the inexhaustible mystery of the Incarnation.

Sacred Spaces: Art and Architecture for the Church (recorded on October 28, 2016)

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond Office of Worship & the Diocesan Liturgical Commission welcomed Brother William Woeger, FSC, as he presented “Sacred Spaces: Art and Architecture for the Church.” We were able to record the workshop to make it available to all in our Diocese.
Brother William is the Director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Omaha and is an internationally-recognized authority on church architecture. He is currently the lead consultant on the redesign of Crystal Cathedral, which will soon become Christ Cathedral for the Catholic Diocese of Orange, California.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can artificial plants and flowers be used in the decoration of a church space?

BOLS states that the use of living flowers and plants, rather than artificial greens and arrangements, serves as a reminder of the gift of life God has given to the human community. (BOLS 129)

May we put the Christmas crib in front of the altar during the Christmas season?

No, the altar should remain free-standing, not walled in by massive floral displays or the Christmas crib. (BOLS 124) The place of eucharistic action should be the focus.

Must a church have Stations of the Cross? Must they be placed in the nave of the church?

Interestingly, only the crosses themselves (14 or 15) are necessary in a church. Images of the passion are desirable but not required. The stations should be arranged in such a way that the devotion can be seen as a true journey. They may be arranged around the walls of the nave, around the gathering space or even the exterior of the church. While expedient, the clustering of the stations in one space is therefore not recommended. (BOLS 133-134)

May we have banners with words?

Well, yes, you may but should you? How much better to use banners and textiles which are beautiful in shape and design and movement, but are not signboards filled with words — there are many ways to say “alleluia” — without using letters!


Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture, and Worship (BOLS)
USCCB guidelines on liturgical art and architecture, based on a theological reflection on the nature of liturgy and the place of celebration.
BOLS: Purchase BOLS from USCCB

Scroll to Top