Courtesy BTHL

This post is part of a monthly series that explores the historical applications of building materials and systems through resources from the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL), an online collection of AEC catalogs, brochures, trade publications, and more. The BTHL is a project of the Association for Preservation Technology, an international building preservation organization. Read more about the archive here.

The power of a sacred space often reveals itself through the structure's architectural form and iconography. For example, the sweeping Gothic arches and stained glass introduced in 12th century Europe have long been associated with Christian structures and have been reinterpreted again and again since.

The BTHL chronicles the applications of these architectural and decorative forms in 20th century religious structures and their construction from contemporary materials, such as laminated wood and opalescent colored glass. These details, along with interior components such as altars and congregation seating, exemplify the evolution of the religious architecture.

Duresco: the XXth Century Mural Decoration, Silicate Paint Co., London, 1907
The first chapter of this trade publication on decorative painting, entitled "Church Decoration," lists appropriate materials and conditions for mural applications. According to the text, the use of decorative painting rather than wallpaper can “complete an architectural whole.”

Revised International Art Glass Catalog: Church, High-Point Glass & Decorative Co., High Point, N.C., 1924
This stained glass catalog offers both abstract forms and classic depictions of Biblical figures made in opalescent lead glass.

E.H. Stafford Mfg. Co. Church Furniture: Manufacturers and Designers of Ecclesiastical Furniture, Chicago, c. 1925
Stafford offers various furniture and design elements for churches including pews, altars, pulpits, lecterns, and multiple seating options.

Creations in Ecclesiastical Art: Daprato Altars, Daprato Statuary Co., Chicago, c. 1925
This catalog, which features more than 400 pages of altar samples and designs, declares “the noblest and the most wonderful of the artistic creations of man … are directly associated with God and religion.” The Daprato Co. of Chicago was a leading manufacturer of religious interior furnishings.

Synagogue Art of Today, Schon Manufacturing Co., Inc., New York, c. 1960
The Schon Co. sold various design elements for Torah storage and adornment as well as for synagogue decoration.

Church Construction with Rilco Laminated Wood, Weyerhauser Co., St. Paul, Minn., 1961
Rilco advertises economical glue-laminated wood structural systems for church construction. The catalog also includes various examples of completed work using the product.