If you’re designing a new church building or redesigning an old one, of course you’ll wonder what kind of faithful features you’ll want to include in the design. One major factor to consider is what features are classically aligned with the sect of the church in question. Is it going to be Catholic? Protestant? Lutheran? For example, the great Catholic churches with their stonework and intricate spires are typically built with a cruciform ground plan in mind. Progressive and ‘young-n-hip’ sects might forego antique church pews in their set up. But what about that great American church feature, the humble church steeple?
If you read our previous post on a mini-history of the steeple, you’ll get a good idea of what kind of churches traditionally include a steeple. In classic New England Americana for example, the simple white Protestant church with a prominent steeple in a common sight. In that post, we also talk about the upkeep church steeples often need to weather the decades. In the past, wealthier churches may have invested in copper sheeting to protect their steeple from wear.
To be fair, steeples today can be made from anything, not just the fragile wooden materials of colonial days. And copper is much more affordable in modern times, if you did want to go that route for wooden steeple protection. But are steeples worth your time in your church design?
Many mega-churches and contemporary builds shirk steeples altogether, along with the classic church silhouettes. In fact, many of these buildings are only recognizable as churches thanks to their use of crucifixes somewhere on the building’s face!
So consider these questions:
- What features are classic to the church’s denomination?
- Do you have the means to create a sturdy steeple or provide upkeep or a delicate church steeple design?
- What are building codes going to allow in the area?
- What is the overall esthetic of the church (e.g. modern vs colonial)?
Like most architectural features, a church steeple is simply that — a feature. What matters most in a church isn’t the appearance outside, but the worship inside, right? So don’t worry too much if a traditional feature like steeples, clock faces, or a belfry don’t make it into the final design.