How the Reformation Transformed Church Architecture

Centrality of the Altar

If you were alive in the sixteenth century, the first thing you would have noticed as you walked
into the church was the architecture. Now, in the twenty-first century, architecture is not as big of a deal as it was then. Our churches take all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some look traditional with steeples; others meet in shopping malls or movie theaters.

But in the sixteenth century, architecture actually said something. It had a message behind it. If you were to walk into a Roman church, (the Church of Rome) in the sixteenth century, what you would have seen would have looked very different than today.

The gospel is given to his people through the proclamation of his word.

Front and center would have been the altar on which the elements—the wine and the bread—were lifted up by the priest as a type of grace that then was to be infused into their recipients. In other words, the altar was the central focus in many ways and the priest himself was given a type of authority to absolve and forgive your sins.

Centrality of the Gospel

When the reformers returned to the Word of God, they realized not only was the gospel being taught wrongly or distorted but that if this gospel was true, then the church must look very different. If you look at a sixteenth-century painting of a Protestant church, you will see that the pulpit is front and center. Why? Because it’s there that the Word of God is preached.

Reformation Theology

Matthew Barrett

Offering readers a comprehensive summary of the major tenets of Reformation theology, this volume convincingly demonstrates the Reformation’s enduring importance for the church today.

Authority of Scripture

The Protestant reformists believed that Scripture is our final authority—not the priest or the pope, nor the tradition or the magisterium. It's the Word of God through which God himself speaks to his people. The gospel is given to his people through the proclamation of his Word.

So architecture changed entirely and it sent a message to the average church-goer that what you need so desperately is the Word of God because as Luther said about the Scriptures: "these are the swaddling cloths (or clothing) of Jesus Christ."

In other words, what Luther was getting at is in that in the Word of God, you will find the gospel. So, how could the gospel and the Word of God not be central in the church of the Protestant reformers?

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