Background research in church symbolism

On deciding to photograph the interiors of churches, I wanted to look further into the background and meanings of the interiors in religious aspects. From the book ‘how to read a church; by Richard Taylor I looked into the images, symbols and meanings in churches/ cathedrals, he explains the significance of church layouts and the importance of details. I feel this brings a more religious aspect to my project and not only am I looking at the aesthetics of the architecture there is also meanings behind.

The word ‘church’ is referred to a body of Christian believes, now a day refers to the building that Christians worship in. A key element in the building is the spire, this points heavenwards making it more spiritual and godlike- this could be a good feature to look at the designs inside them and include in my project. There is also the carvings around the entrance which announces the holiness of the space inside another feature to photograph.

It’s said the images in older churches were meant for people who couldn’t read, imagery is seen as the story book of the illiterate. In traditional churches the year is colour coded; the colour of the fabric used on the alter and the vestments of the priest will change according to the season. Standard colours are green, purple, white and red (green=new life, purple=seasons of repentance, white=Christmas and Easter, red=colour of Pentecost). There is also symbolism with the sides of the buildings; east and south are the honoured sides. The church will typically face eastwards for worship, in the direction the sun rises (there are a number of biblical references to god in the east) the longitudinal axis of most churches is therefore west-east with the entrance of the west side and the alter on the east.

By tying these symbolic elements into the photography of the interiors it gives the photos more meaning behind them and I can take forward some of these element, for example where the church faces east wards when the sun rises through the windows the lighting should be more crisp. Next I want to research the meanings behind the architecture, finding an architecture to research and analysing their work before planning a test shoot.

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