Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Architecture as Theology

I take the scholarship of Margaret Barker with a hefty grain of salt. But the freshness in passages like this is undeniable:
The Mosaic tabernacle, and all the temples later built in Jerusalem, represented the creation, divided by a veil into the visible and invisible worlds.  The holy of holies, with the golden chariot throne, was the invisible world of God and the angels.  It was the state of uncreated light.  The veil, woven from four colours to represent the four elements, thus represented matter screening the glory of God from the material world.  The holy of holies was beyond matter, and therefore beyond time, a hidden place, often called eternity.  The great hall of the temple represented the material world, and was the garden of Eden, paradise, with Adam, the human being, as the high priest.  Rituals in the holy of holies were rituals in eternity, and those who entered the holy of holies passed between heaven and earth.  The priests were angels; the high priest was the Lord.
I often point out to my students that the Bible begins (Babel) and ends (New Jerusalem) with architectural criticism.  Barker reminds us that the Bible is centered on architecture as well.  The Bible's extended architectural descriptions are not sidelines.  They are part of the revelation on Sinai, and are properly theological.  To study architecture is therefore to study theology - something that many (most?) architectural historians and theologians are conditioned to overlook.


Clare said...

Pls. excuse my dearth of credentials, scholarship notwithstanding -- the reader may have to take it with a hefty dose of pepper (incarnate arrabesque-celtic-triskelion curlique elemental earth-water-sky) poesie to the techne (revelation-receptacle templon-edifice) salt of the post's theological repast -- as a mere lay persons was recommended to browse here by TAC's RodDreher.

Are you familiar with first millenial literature on Byzantine iconography's use of the curtain, draperies across the top of the paired templon gables to the right and left of depictions of the Gospel mysteries, would indicate the traditional typology of Mosaic tabernacle is seen to be fulfulled (not primarily in man-made architecture but that 'not-made-by-human-hands') in the mother of Christ, the body --the receptacle-templon-tabernacle-- that first held the Body of Christ?

[footnotes]61. On the metaphor of weaving the body of Christ in Byzantine theological thought, see Constas "Weaving the Body of God" and idem Proclus of Constantinople and the Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity 325-58 Similar symbolism (curtain/flesh) is presented in the ninth-century homily of George of Nikomedia in PG100 col 1424 and the twelfth century homilies of Jame Kokkinobaphos, in Hutter, Die Homilien des Monches Jakobus un ihre Illustrationen Vat. Gr. 1162-Par. Gr. 1208, vol 2, app. ! p.26 (fol 109 in the Vat. MS)
in "The sensual icon" by Bissera V., see

On what do you base your assertion "that many (most?) architectural ... theologians are conditioned to overlook"?

The male-female theology of the body is a Roman Catholic metaphysical understanding of the iconography writ in each human person, the natural law preceding that of the Divine Law revealed by magisterial tradition and in the Bible (compiled in its canonical present form three centuries after the last words of the last supper -- with liturgical usage of the sacred texts and epistles retained apostolically). Ecclesial structures of the first millenia were built cogniscant of Mary-as-Tabernacle meme, before schism and reformation warped Christian comprehension of the one Church as the one body. Did you perhaps mean most contemporary architectural historians ... are taught to forget?

Clare said...

Hamilton Reed Armstrong's Fundamentals of Symbolism -- As understood from a traditional Roman Catholic perspective
is online here
and Part II -- from the Renaissance to Modern Times

Clare said...

Russian veil as iconostasis

Veil as mystery of faith in the unseen and doubting St Thomas in India

Veil as golden mosaic tile representation of cosmic curtain sacrality of unseen mysteries: Alberto Pérez-Gómez, Louise Pelletier "Architectural representation and the perspective hinge"