If you’ve ever seen a picture of a church steeple, you know how majestic churches can often be, a favorite for postcards, pictures, and cinematic shots. A picture of a church steeple calls to mind grandeur, elegance, and the call to prayer or spirituality. But where did the tradition of building steeples on churches begin? How did the early church even form? Appearances inside are just as important as outside. Keeping your church furniture up to date and well-furnished is important not only for aesthetics, but also for the attitude and comfort of the congregation. A well cared for church will attract more members and raise the church’s prestige, versus a more run-down, badly cared for church.
How the Church Evolved
Churches have a long and complex history, beginning with private worship when Christianity was still illegal in its first few centuries. Because of this, a person’s “church” was usually their own home. When churches did begin to arise, the buildings themselves underwent some changes. For example, for more than 1,000 years, churches didn’t have pews. Church was a more social event and members were able to mingle and chat with other members, walking around freely. In the 13th century, the most rudimentary pews emerged, in the form of stone benches that could set against church walls and taken away when necessary. From the 17th century to the mid 19th century, churches arranged their members by rank, which was designated by how close pews were to the altar. The highest social classes were the closest and the poorest towards the back of the church. Until at least the mid twentieth century, many church denominations used pews as a source of income, by renting them out to families or single people.
Today, pews are often more comfortable than they were in earlier times. Some come with cushioned seating, footrests, and padded kneelers for convenience and comfort. However, more traditional denominations maintain the simple wood style–classic and hard on the knees.
The modern church steeples evolved from clock towers, which originated from military watchtowers, which dated back to 600 AD. They became especially popular in North America when new immigrants sought to reconstruct the grandeur of the fantastic cathedrals and churches in Europe in their new land. Since building on that kind of scale was much more difficult in the New World, settlers built steeples that reached up to the heavens and to God.
Keeping Churches Beautiful
With people in and out of churches at least weekly (and even daily, in some parts of the world), church furniture is bound to get a little shabby and need updating. Although the outside of a church is important, so too is maintaining the inside. Every now and then, a church should get new cushions, invest in new linens or vestments, and in some major cases, consider completely rehauling pews and kneelers, and replacing them with new ones. This keeps the church in excellent condition and keeps the congregation feeling comforted and rejuvenated by their visits to their place of worship.
So next time you look at a picture of a church steeple, remember all the history of the church, as well as the importance of keeping it well furnished inside.