Why Beautiful Architecture Matters Now, More Than Ever

Building a church that glorifies Christ and feeds the soul with beauty and order fulfills a deep human need keenly experienced by modern man.

An artistic rendering of the new Christ the King Chapel in Front Royal, Virginia.
An artistic rendering of the new Christ the King Chapel in Front Royal, Virginia. (photo: Mandy Hain / Christendom College)

One of the greatest glories of the Middle Ages was the advent of Gothic architecture. With high pointed arches and stained-glass windows that flooded cathedrals with ethereal light, this architectural style lifted the heart and mind upwards towards contemplation of God. Now, in an era that can truly be described as another Dark Ages, where truth is stifled and Christ is marginalized, a return to beautiful architecture that raises one’s eyes and soul to God is not just important, but also necessary.

Humans have a metaphysical need for beauty. A Church, when built properly, fulfills this deep craving in one’s soul, while also bearing testament to the reality of God. A Catholic Church is more than a mere meeting house or auditorium. When you enter one, you enter the realm of sacramental mystery and a dwelling place of our Lord.

Entering a Catholic Church is like entering a spiritual home, where one is surrounded by pictures of family and friends in the form of stained-glass windows of the saints. A Catholic Church is truly akin to a book, opening to provide visitors with moments for catechesis and evangelization.

At the Sacrifice of the Mass, when Jesus becomes wholly present in the Eucharist, the natural and the supernatural intersect, and Heaven touches earth. The art, architecture and liturgy ought to reflect to the senses this invisible reality. Building a church that glorifies Christ and feeds the soul with beauty and order fulfills a deep human need keenly experienced by modern man.

The night may be darkest before the dawn, but the dawn is coming. The world needs reminders that Christ is King, now more than ever. For this reason, we at Christendom College have decided to erect a magnificent Gothic-style chapel on our campus to serve as a physical monument to the kingship of Christ, and as a powerful means of fulfilling the post-modern craving for order, beauty and truth.

While our current chapel has served us well for the last 26 years, there is a clear physical need to expand. While the practical need for a new chapel is clear, embarking upon this construction campaign, the biggest in the college’s history, has a higher purpose then merely meeting our physical need.

In a time of chaos, we are building a chapel that will convey great order and beauty. In a time when Christ’s Kingship has been widely rejected, our chapel will serve as a physical testament to the reality that Jesus is Lord.

Since its founding, Christendom has been committed to celebrating reverent and beautiful liturgy. Features of the new chapel will enable us to enter into the grandeur of the Sacrifice of the Mass in new ways.

Our new chapel will feature beautiful art, craftmanship, images and liturgical elements, all ordered to inspiring reverence and prayerful contemplation. Once completed, 114 stained-glass pieces will be installed, some restored pieces and others custom made. Featuring beloved saints of the college community, as well as beautiful scenes from the lives of Our Lady and Our Lord, the many windows will fill the chapel with a heavenly light.

A rose window which will be placed above the entrance of the chapel will depict Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, accompanied by seven angels bearing symbols of the seven liberal arts. Collegiate by nature, the chapel will serve as the heart of our campus, nourishing the hearts and minds of our students as they pursue beauty and truth in their studies.

Through the generous donation of a benefactor, our chapel will feature a 2,800 pipe organ which will fill our chapel with breathtaking liturgical music. A large hanging thurible will be hung from the oculus as well — akin to the famous thurible, also known as the botafumiero, of St. James’ Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. With such magnificent elements in place, we look forward to being able to celebrate beautiful liturgy in our new chapel.

The chapel will also feature remarkable woodworking, marble work, paintings, mosaics, and a beautiful sanctuary and high altar. There will be four side chapels, and a chapel dedicated to Our Lady behind the sanctuary. With two spires, and a 116-foot-tall Gothic crossing tower, the chapel will be visible for miles in the Shenandoah Valley, inspiring onlookers and the many drivers who will be able to see the structure from Route 66, which runs across Virginia.

Thanks to the support of many benefactors, and the prayers of many in our community and beyond, the construction of the new chapel is making excellent progress. If progress continues as scheduled, the chapel will be dedicated in April 2022 — the college’s 45th anniversary.

Without a doubt, to be building something beautiful for God, especially something that speaks precisely about the kingship of Christ, is inherently countercultural, as modern society silences and demeans Christ. We are far from the days of true Christendom, where the Christian imagination was alive, and entire peoples were animated by Christ’s saving love.

Today we live in a post-Christian era, where our faith is dismissed as fantasy and foolishness. The world may see building this chapel as a frivolous endeavor, but no matter the cultural tides, Christ is truly King, and this chapel will serve as a physical declaration of our faith. We hope that the construction of this chapel will inspire others to do the same, rebuilding a new Christendom — the true Christendom — as a result, orienting the culture and the world once again towards the love of Christ.