When ​we think of architecture of the early churches, we think of the steeple, one of the most prominent icons used through out church history. Within the steeple was, of course, the bell that rang to bring the townspeople to worship or to a town meeting.

We will see the beautiful architectural designs through the ages.

---Down  Through  the  Ages---

Reformation Era



Reformation Era

Martin Luther encouraged the display of some religious imagery in churches, seeing the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a continuation of the "ancient, apostolic church".[1] 

He defended the use of "importance of images as tools for instruction and aids to devotion",[2] stating that "If it is not a sin but good to have the image of Christ in my heart, why should it be a sin to have it in my eyes?"[3]

His attitude towards images became more positive after his dispute with Andreas Karlstadt began in 1521. Luther had left Karlstadt in effective charge of his church in Wittenberg when he went into retreat in the Wartburg, but Karlstadt introduced a considerably more Radical Reformation than Luther approved, which included the removal of all religious images from churches. 

As with the later Calvinist programmes of complete destruction of images, this aroused more popular opposition than other aspects of the radical innovations, and Luther's support for images was in part an attempt to distinguish his positions from more radical ones, as well as an attempt to avoid stirring up opposition over an issue he did not see as central.

Luther also understood the value of crude polemical woodcuts in the propaganda battle, and commissioned some himself. He also appears to have worked personally with artists to develop didactic compositions that were used as book frontispieces, including for the Luther Bible which had an elaborate frontispiece in all early editions, prints, and relatively small versions in oils.

Law and Gospel (1529) by the Lutheran painter Lucas Cranach the Elder is the earliest painting of this type,[4] painted in different versions, and turned into a woodcut. Several share a similar composition, divided vertically into two by a tree, also found in many polemical prints; typically there is a good side and a bad side. 
Lutheran catechisms, an important means of disseminating Lutheran teachings among the congregations, were often illustrated with woodcuts, as were prayer books and other religious literature.[5]

The chancel of St. Matthew's German

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston.


In the beginning of Lutheranism's spread to German territories in the 1520s and 1530s, local ordinances set out a variety of treatments of existing imagery in churches. Where, as was sometimes the case, nothing was said, it is presumed that it was intended that many images could be retained. In the Lutheran churches of Nuremberg, for example, "side altars, sacrament houses and saints' shrines provided (and continue to provide) the visual backdrop for evangelical worship".[6]


Elsewhere, depending on the views of the ruler or council, all images were to be removed, as in Hesse in 1526, although Martin Luther objected to this decision, apparently ineffectively.[7] Some ordinances specified that only "images near and before which particular worship and idolatry and special honour with candles and lights have been practiced" should be removed but also emphasized that "we may not be iconoclasts", in the words of a Hamburg ordinance of 1529.[8]

In Brandenburg, an injunction was pronounced to retain 'altars...images and paintings' and in Württemberg, images that were neglected or damaged were restored or replaced.[9] The Augsburg Interim and Leipzig Interim settled the issue, both pronouncing that sacred art would be preserved in the Lutheran Churches, though they would not be the focal point of worship, thus making the Lutheran position a via media between what Lutheran theologians perceived as 'Roman Catholic idolatry' and 'Calvinist iconoclasm'.[10]

A few Lutheran altarpieces, including those of the Last Supper, were commissioned under the purview of Martin Luther. The Schneeberg Altarpiece was placed at the high altar of St. Wolfgang im Salzkammergut and as Lutheran sacred imagery, reflected "the devotional forms of fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century northern art".[3] The Schneeberg Altarpiece (1539), along with the Wittenberg Altarpiece (1547) and the Weimar Altarpiece (1555), were Christocentric in their iconography and "these altarpieces reinforced the key teachings of the new church and helped consolidate a sense of confessional identity."[11] In eastern Germany, Lutheran patrons erected some thirty new altarpieces.[12] Most pre-Reformation altarpieces were preserved within Lutheran churches as the "altar was still believed to be a particularly holy place, and should be adorned accordingly."[13]

Lutheran sacred art gained a new function in addition to exciting one's mind to thoughts of the Divine by also serving a didactic purpose.[3] Cranach's Law and Gospel, for example, "enshrines the specific authority of the word of the Bible by including biblical passages as prominent parts of the composition."[11] Lutheranism was responsible for "an explosion of creativity in the graphic arts" with works such as Passional Christi und Antichristi by Philipp Melanchthon, being described as "richly illustrated".[11][14]

The Lutheran Mass depicted in the Nikolaikirche in Berlin, Martin Schulz, 1615.


With respect to the Divine Service, "Lutheran worship became a complex ritual choreography set in a richly furnished church interior."[15] Ornate church interiors in Lutheran churches reflected Lutheran Eucharistic theology, which taught the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist as a sacramental union.[1]


Lutheran churches, as well as homes, displayed a prominent crucifix as it highlighted their high view of the Theology of the Cross.[1][16][17] It became a popular devotional image for Lutherans, who "prayed, meditated, and even wept before them."[17] Thus, for Lutherans, "the Reformation renewed rather than removed the religious image."[18]

During the Beeldenstorm or Iconoclastic Fury, bands often categorized as Calvinists violently removed sacred art from churches.[19][20][21] Lutherans generally opposed the iconoclasm, one saying: "You black Calvinist, you give permission to smash our pictures and hack our crosses; we are going to smash you and your Calvinist priests in return".[1]


As such, Calvinist iconoclasm, "provoked reactive riots by Lutheran mobs" in Germany.[22] Lutheran theologian and priest Johann Arndt was forced to flee Anhalt when it became Calvinist in the 1580s, due to his defense of Christian sacred art.[12] He wrote a treatise Ikonographia, in which he criticized the Reformed faith for consecrating the Eucharistic elements on wooden tables rather than on stone altars.[12]


As Calvinism, along with its associated aniconism spread, "Lutherans responded by reaffirming their commitment to the proper use of religious images."[23]










Mosaic depicting Christ the Almighty, ceiling within Ascension Church

the Lutheran Ascension Church at Augusta Victoria Foundation, Jerusalem




In the early 16th century, the Reformation brought a period of radical change to church design. On Christmas Day 1521, Andreas Karlstadt performed the first reformed communion service. In early January 1522, the Wittenberg city council authorized the removal of imagery from churches and affirmed the changes introduced by Karlstadt on Christmas.


According to the ideals of the Protestant Reformation, the spoken word, the sermon, should be central act in the church service. This implied that the pulpit became the focal point of the church interior and that churches should be designed to allow all to hear and see the minister.[28] 


The birth of Protestantism led to extensive changes in the way that Christianity was practiced (and hence the design of churches).

During the Reformation period, there was an emphasis on "full and active participation". The focus of Protestant churches was on the preaching of the Word, rather than a sacerdotal emphasis. Holy Communion tables became wood to emphasize that Christ's sacrifice was made once for all and were made more immediate to the congregation to emphasize man's direct access to God through Christ.


The first newly built protestant church was the court chapel of Neuburg Castle in 1543, followed by the court chapel of Hartenfels Castle in Torgau, consecrated by Martin Luther on 5 October 1544.

Images and statues were sometimes removed in disorderly attacks and unofficial mob actions (in the Netherlands called the Beeldenstorm).


Medieval churches were stripped of their decorations, such as the Grossmünster in Zürich in 1524, a stance enhanced by the Calvinist reformation, beginning with its main church, St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, in 1535.


At the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, which ended a period of armed conflict between Roman Catholic and Protestant forces within the Holy Roman Empire, the rulers of the German-speaking states and Charles V, the Habsburg Emperor, agreed to accept the principle Cuius regio, eius religio, meaning that the religion of the ruler was to dictate the religion of those ruled.

In the Netherlands the Reformed church in Willemstad, North Brabant was built in 1607 as the first Protestant church building in the Netherlands, a domed church with an octagonal shape, according to Calvinism's focus on the sermon.[29] The Westerkerk of Amsterdam was built between 1620 and 1631 in Renaissance style and remains the largest church in the Netherlands that was built for Protestants.








The Protestant wooden church in Hronsek (Slovakia) was built in 1726


By the beginning of the 17th century, in spite of the cuius regio principle, the majority of the peoples in the Habsburg Monarchy had become protestant, sparking the Counter-Reformation by the Habsburg emperors which resulted in the Thirty Years' War in 1618.


In the Peace of Westphalia treaties of 1648 which ended the war, the Habsburgs were obliged to tolerate three protestant churches in their province of Silesia, where the counter-reformation had not been completely successful, as in Austria, Bohemia and Hungary, and about half of the population still remained protestant.


However, the government ordered these three churches to be located outside the towns, not to be recognizable as churches, they had to be wooden structures, to look like barns or residential houses, and they were not allowed to have towers or bells. The construction had to be accomplished within a year. Accordingly, the protestants built their three Churches of Peace, huge enough to give space for more than 5,000 people each.


When Protestant troops under Swedish leadership again threatened to invade the Habsburg territories during the Great Northern War, the Habsburgs were forced to allow more protestant churches within their empire with the Treaty of Altranstädt (1707), however limiting these with similar requirements, the so-called Gnadenkirchen (Churches of Grace). They were mostly smaller wooden structures.

In Britain during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it became usual for Anglican churches to display the Royal Arms inside, either as a painting or as a relief, to symbolise the monarch's role as head of the church.[30]

During the 17th and 18th centuries protestant churches were built in the baroque style that originated in Italy, however consciously more simply decorated. Some could still become fairly grand, for instance the Katarina Church, Stockholm, St. Michael's Church, Hamburg or the Dresden Frauenkirche, built between 1726 and 1743 as a sign of the will of the citizen to remain Protestant after their ruler had converted to Catholicism.

Some churches were built with a new and genuinely Protestant alignment: the transept became the main church while the nave was omitted, for instance at the Ludwigskirche in Saarbrücken; this building scheme was also quite popular in Switzerland, with the largest being the churches of Wädenswil (1767) and Horgen (1782).
A new protestant interior design scheme was established in many German Lutheran churches during the 18th century, following the example of the court chapel of Wilhelmsburg Castle of 1590: The connection of altar with baptismal font, pulpit and organ in a vertical axis. The central painting above the altar was replaced with the pulpit.

Neo-Lutheranism in the early 19th century criticized this scheme as being too profane. The German Evangelical Church Conference therefore recommended the Gothic language of forms for church building in 1861. Gothic Revival architecture began its triumphal march. With regard to protestant churches it was not only an expression of historism, but also of a new theological program which put the Lord's supper above the sermon again.

Two decades later liberal Lutherans and Calvinists expressed their wish for a new genuinely protestant church architecture, conceived on the basis of liturgical requirements. The spaces for altar and worshippers should no longer be separated from each other. Accordingly, churches should not only give space for service, but also for social activities of the parish. 

Churches were to be seen as meeting houses for the celebrating faithful. The Ringkirche in Wiesbaden was the first church realized according to this program in 1892-94. The unity of the parish was expressed by an architecture that united the pulpit and the altar in its circle, following early Calvinist tradition.









Katowice, Poland                                                                         Presbyterian church,                                                 Original building of Roswell

                                                                                                          Washington, Georgia, 1826                                       Presbyterian Church,

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Roswell, Georgia, USA