When Church Became Theatre

When Church Became Theatre : The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-Century America

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For nearly eighteen centuries, two fundamental spatial plans dominated Christian architecture: the basilica and the central plan. In the 1880s, however, profound socio-economic and technological changes in the United States contributed to the rejection of these traditions and the development of a radically new worship building, the auditorium church. When Church Became Theatre focuses on this radical shift in evangelical Protestant architecture and links it to changes in worship style and religious mission. The auditorium style, featuring a prominent stage from which rows of pews radiated up a sloping floor, was derived directly from the theatre, an unusual source for religious architecture but one with a similar goal-to gather large groups within range of a speaker's voice. Theatrical elements were prominent; many featured proscenium arches, marquee lighting, theatre seats, and even opera boxes. Examining these churches and the discussions surrounding their development, Jeanne Halgren Kilde focuses on how these buildings helped congregations negotiate supernatural, social, and personal power. These worship spaces underscored performative and entertainment aspects of the service and in so doing transformed relationships between clergy and audiences. In auditorium churches, the congregants' personal and social power derived as much from consumerism as from piety, and clerical power lay in dramatic expertise rather than connections to social institutions. By erecting these buildings, argues Kilde, middle class religious audiences demonstrated the move toward a consumer-oriented model of religious participation that gave them unprecedented influence over the worship experience and church mission.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 324 pages
  • 157.5 x 231.1 x 30.5mm | 635.04g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • numerous halftones
  • 0195143418
  • 9780195143416
  • 2,003,911

Review quote

This wonderfully insightful book examines the radically new auditorium-style worship spaces that came to dominate evangelical Protestant church design during the last decades of the nineteenth century. * Journal of Presbyterian History * By the book's end, Kilde has enlightened us not only about architecture and interior design, but also about liturgical practice, music, theology, class, gender, power, technology, and the rise of consumer culture. It is hard to convey, in a short review, just how rich this book is ... Kilde has done so much so well. * Journal of Presbyterian History * ... an excellent contribution to cross-disciplinary cultural studies ... Kilde provides us with a meticulous, archivally based study with insights broadened by her successful integration of semiotic iconology and social history. * Journal of American History * When Church Became Theatre is a milestone that not only provides a history of the evolution of the relationships between Church architecture and worship but also deepens our understanding of the class-based creation of family values within American evengelicism and elucidates the emerging institutionalization and uniformity of instruction within new Sunday Schools. * Journal of American History *show more

About Jeanne Halgren Kilde

Jeanne Halgren Kilde holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. She is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Macalester College, and Co-director of Macalester's Lilly Project for Work, Ethics, and Vocation.show more

Table of contents

1. The Transformation of Protestant Architechture ; 2. Redefining Clerical and Audience Authority in the Architechture of Urban Revivals ; 3. Formalism and the Gothic Revival among Evangelical Protestants ; 4. Spiritual Armories on the New Suburban Landscape ; 5. Church becomes Theatre ; 6. Sacralizing the Evangelical Church as a Church Home ; 7. Building for the Children: Akron Plan Sunday Schools and Institutional Churches ; 8. Meanings in Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Architechtureshow more

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