neuf brisach

Gabriel Loser, Model for the Abbey Church of Saint Gall, Switzerland, 1751-1752, Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen

churches and chapels

During the early years of the seventeenth century the renewed strength of the Roman Catholic Church led to the construction of many new ecclesiastical buildings. This followed the upheavals of the previous century, when the Church, challenged by the rise of Protestantism in northern Europe, had set out to reform its doctrines and practices in order to strengthen its position. The Catholic Church emerged from the Counter Reformation with renewed optimism, and in need of a new architectural image.

Baroque churches were larger in scale than their predecessors, and their interiors more richly decorated with sculpture and paintings. Like devotional handbooks that encouraged people to participate actively in the mystical experiences of saints, baroque church interiors were designed to elicit an immediate, emotional response. The dramatic lighting effects, dynamic architectural forms, and lavish decoration of baroque churches were aimed at awing, inspiring, and converting the visitors.

Throughout Europe religious architecture was governed by the varying liturgical and architectural traditions of each region and nation. While magnificent decorative ensembles became the dominant feature of the ecclesiastical architecture of Catholic Europe, the churches built in the Protestant north, where devotional paintings and sculpture were equated with idolatry, were far more restrained.

next section civic architecture





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