Prayers in Stone

Prayers in Stone : Christian Science Architecture in the United States, 1894-1930

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The classical revival style of architecture made famous by the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago left its mark on one of the most sustained classical building movements in American architectural history: the Christian Science church building movement. By 1920, every major American city and many smaller towns contained an example of this architecture, financed by the followers of Mary Baker Eddy, the church's founder. These buildings represented a new, burgeoning American institution that appealed to business people and to young men and women working to succeed. Characterized by middle-class congregations that in the early part of the century were over 75 percent women, Christian Science suggested radical civic reform solutions based on an idealistic and pragmatic individualism. It attracted criticism from traditional churches and from the medical establishment due to its rapid growth and to its reinstatement of primitive Christianity's lost elements of physical healing and moral regeneration. "Prayers in Stone" spins out the close connections between Christian Science church architecture and its social context.
This architecture served as a focal point for debates over the possibilities for a new twentieth-century urban architecture that proponents believed would positively shape the behavior of citizens. Thus these buildings played a critical role in discussions concerning religious and secular architecture as major elements of religious and social reform. Drawing on a wide range of documentary evidence, including material from the archives of the Mother Church in Boston, Paul Ivey uses Christian Science architecture to explore the social implications of architectural styles and new building technologies, to illuminate class-based notions of civic reform and beautification, and to investigate the use of architecture to bring about religious and social change. In addition, the book explores complex gender issues, including early attempts to define a professional space for women as Christian Science practitioners. Lavishly illustrated, "Prayers in Stone" focuses on four major city arenas of Christian Science building-Boston, Chicago, New York, and the San Francisco Bay area to demonstrate the vital intersection of architecture and religion at the so-called margins of American society.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 186.4 x 264.2 x 21.1mm | 771.35g
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • Illustrated
  • Illustrated
  • 0252024451
  • 9780252024450

Review quote

"Helpfully links style to urban context, religious practice, and ideology and provides a clear and well-researched story of the rise and decline of an important American religion and its material expression." -- David Morgan, Journal of American History "Prolifically illustrated, this is by no means merely a picture book of a building type or a collection of examples of buildings linked by style or denomination; Prayers in Stone is social history as much as institutional history, cultural history as much as architectural history." -- Robert M. Craig, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians "Fills a valuable niche by relating the development of an influential denomination with wider architectural and social currents of the day. Anyone interested in the effect of architecture on its inhabitants will find this book of interest." - Diane O. Tebbetts, Arkansas Review "Interesting and useful for a broad audience. It demonstrates how a study of religious architecture can illuminate not only just architectural history, but social and cultural history, the material culture of gender, and group identity." -- Gretchen T. Buggeln, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography "Ivey takes seriously the idea that buildings signify. His commendable goal is to explicate the meanings embedded in one specific group of buildings, Christian Science churches, particularly those designed in the classical style during the early twentieth century... Offers a helpful analysis of the ways in which churches function within multiple-meaning systems, both religious and secular." -- Jeanne Halgren Kilde, Journal of American StudiesADVANCE PRAISE "This is a significant piece of original scholarship, an extremely interesting study that suggests many avenues of interpretation for those studying religious and civic architecture in other contexts. There is simply nothing else like it."-Peter W. Williams, author of Houses of God "Focusing on the rapid growth of a new religious movement and its very ambitious construction program, Prayers in Stone explores the complex relationships between church and church buildings. Besides documenting an important part of our urban legacy, this study underscores the value of inquiry in this too-often neglected realm of American culture."-Richard Longstreth, author of On the Edge of the World: Four Architects in San Francisco at the Turn of the Century "Prayers in Stone is a doubly useful book; not only does it shed light on an understudied building type, but it does so in a way that deepens our understanding of the World's Columbian Exposition, the City Beautiful movement, and other key aspects of turn-of-the-century American architecture."-Abigail A. Van Slyck, author of Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture, 1890- 1920
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