3.3. Churches and tetradic architecture

The difference in terms between a temple and a church is often an arbitrary one, since both locations are intended as places of worship. The temple is a more general term, including the classical buildings of the pagan beliefs, but also comprises the modern holy places of, for instance, Hinduism and Buddhism. The name church and chapel is often preserved for the building products of Christianity. A cathedral is a church edifice in which a bishop presides. The mosque is the general name for the Islamic places of worship and the synagogue is the house of God for the Jews. This particular nomenclature is not of our prime interest at present and the name ‘churches’ is only used here because the majority of our material is derived from the Christian history of Europe.

Churches have been a leading element in the architectural history. Their physical presence acted not only as a place of worship, but also as a statement of glorification. People were prepared to invest their best skills (and money) in the visualization of their belief. By doing so, they showed their intentions and ultimately their frame of mind in terms of division thinking. The task of unraveling the thoughts of the (cathedral) builders as they are preserved in the products of their hands is a challenging goal of the present investigation.

Günther BANDMANN (1951) distinguished, in his thorough investigation into the meaning of medieval architecture, a symbolic and a historic way to validate the buildings of the past. The former (symbolic) interpretation is based on literary and pictorial evidence and reaches into the richness of communicative possibilities. Descriptions and pictures of the position of the altar, the use of the atrium or the side aisles, and the prominence of the western facade, for instance, are well documented.

The latter (historical) valuation is related to tradition and customs, which are more or less stabilized in a certain area and epoch. Tradition points, according to Bandmann (1951, p. 118), to a conscious understanding of the historical aspects of building, while a custom (Brauchtum) is largely a subconscious activity geared towards the continuation of life. Both entities represent a point of view, although they seem to be, in Bandmann’s case, positioned in an oppositional frame of mind.

The modern, quadralectic approach to architectural history will be of a four-fold nature. The technicalities of the various methods are not the main concern at this point, but one crucial aspect has to be understood. The architectural achievements and their interpretation depend on the type of division thinking in which the communication-as-whole takes place.

The architecture of churches is a very large subject and a selection must be applied to cover the field. The main division will be made along the lines of the graphical expression of the ground plan. Any architect who starts the design of a building has to follow (at least) two distinct lines of thinking. The first approach is from the ‘outside’, using an endless, empty, imaginary space to be filled with some sort of volume, which becomes, in due course, a building. The second way of design comes from the ‘inside’, using the restrictions of the terrain or a given (symbolic) idea, as a base for the further development of a volume with a form. There is no hierarchy in these different ways of architectural design, the first one is as good as the second and a good architect will use both approaches simultaneously. Ideas like to become visible, just like visibility needs ideas to become meaningful.

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