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Ugly As Sin: Why They Changed Our Churches from Sacred Places to Meeting Spaces and How We Can Change Them Back Again (Forthright Edition) Hardcover – 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With some books, the title says it all. In Ugly as Sin: Why They Changed Our Churches from Sacred Places to Meeting Spaces and How We Can Change Them Back Again, Michael S. Rose rails against the post-Vatican II aesthetic which has, in his opinion, created churches that are "ugly," "banal" and "uninspiring." Looking at the 80 photographs that are interspersed throughout, one has to admit he has a good point; when he notes that one modern tabernacle looks like a birdfeeder, for example, he's right on the money. Readers will never doubt that Rose's agenda is to return to the halcyon days of Catholic architecture, but even those who disagree will appreciate his entry-level explanations of key architectural concepts and straightforward writing style.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Architectural theology may be something you have never considered, but editor and writer Rose (Renovation Manipulation) has, and here he explains why it is important to Catholic worshipers. Rose gives evidence on how new-style Catholic churches based on the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (Liturgy Training Pubns., 1993) reflect liturgical reductionism. He begins with three natural laws used in evaluating local churches: verticality (reaching to the heavens), permanence (transcending space and time), and iconography (the building itself as art). Modern church architect Edward A. Sovik is cited for fashioning an architectural change that negated these three laws and created a nondenominational meeting space. The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) encouraged active participation in the Mass, which, Rose argues, has resulted in a modern nonchurch. Rose's previous book was a call to action for Catholic laity and clerics to restore the sacred, while this book is more encompassing, ranging from a history of Catholic church architecture to restoration and preservation. For students of architecture and larger Catholic religion collections. Leo Kriz, West Des Moines P.L.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Forthright Edition
  • Hardcover: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Sophia Inst Pr (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1928832369
  • ISBN-13: 978-1928832362
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,118,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 63 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Michael Rose must have been reading my mind when he wrote this book. Thank you Mr. Rose, for a book well written. There are countless people who share your opinion and hope that your book makes a difference. I am appalled by the look of many new Catholic Churches. One has to really question what those in charge were thinking and how they can expect worshipers to feel the sacred in such places. A few years ago I moved to a new area and soon set out to find the nearest Catholic Church in my new neighborhood. As I walked up the street I had been told it was on, I saw a beautiful stone Church with gothic style stained glass windows and a tree laden courtyard. I was about to enter when I noticed the sign "Episcopal". Where was the Catholic church? I turned and looked across the street. There it was - a super modern, super ugly, uninspired glass and stucco structure that looked more like a tourist information center (not a stained glass window in sight). Inside it was spartan, like a town meeting hall. To make matters worse there were "electric candles"! I have no idea how many parishoners worship in that place, I never went back there. In our current times we need places of worship that will give us a sense of tradition, holiness, sacredness, and permanence.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful By James E. Wilson on January 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Architect turned author Michael Rose does a masterful job of providing a well reasoned and documented history of what Vatican II actually desired and what has happened in Catholic Churches throughout the world. A lively and interesting writing style keep the reader focused and engaged. I suspect this book will mark the beginning of the trend to restore dignity and transendence to Catholic worship spaces .
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By J. Carmody on October 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ever walk into a new church and say "THIS is a CHURCH?"?
Ever walk into a "renovated" old church and feel like you had been robbed, but couldn't think why something "materialistic" caused such a response in you? You were so mad, you were almost ashamed, and that made you madder, and more ashamed, and you couldn't figure out why?
Michael Rose explains how all those little details being written out of so many churches add up to make it a Catholic church, and he explains why the building projects of some people end up looking distinctly non-Catholic, feeling non-Catholic, because they are non-Catholic. They are inspired by anti-Catholic architects and "liturgists", whose ideas are promoted by peole claiming to be "Catholics".
Do read it, don't let it make you too mad. If it does, form a restoration committee.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Trudigger on February 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an important book for a number of reasons:

1. It can be counted among that group of books that signaled that something has gone terribly wrong with the post-Vatican II renewal. In 2006 we (thankfully) are finally seeing true reform. The seminaries are being reformed, the priesthood is being cleaned up, our Catholic Universities are being called to return to their roots, we have a new catechism and the faithful are finally being taught the faith, and many of the new churches and shrines being built are eschewing the modernist trends of the last 50 years and returning to design that is timeless and a faithful representation of the Faith. Indeed, we are seeing more and more Churches being restored (as opposed to renovated)- a sign that the changes imposed during the 70's and 80's were theologically and aesthetically wrong. This book is important because it was possibly the first to tackle the issue head on and call a spade a spade . . . a sin a sin.

2. From this work, and others like it, a movement has emerged of Church architects to defend and advance the Tradition of architecture. An organization was launched called the Instituted for Sacred Architecture ([...]) and it publishes a journal and highlights best practice and critiques poorly designed new church buildings. Another website grew out of the book: [...] - which too is about traditional sacred architecture.

3. The word is getting out. The laity is no longer sitting back and doing what they are told by psudo-experts who toute themselves as authoritative interpreters of Vatican II and then dismantle the tabernacle, move the altar and form the pews in a circle around the "family meal". Thankfully, the lay person can now say STOP!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alcuin Reid on February 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A priest-friend once confided that if he were appointed as parish priest of a particular parish he would enter its church for the first time on a bulldozer to the cheers of the long suffering parishioners. The parish in question had built one of those modern churches with which we're all too familiar.

The title of this book says it all about prevailing trends in modern church architecture, rather directly but not without subtlety. For it is Rose's conviction that such buildings are not only aesthetically abhorrent, but that they are also theological distortions - sinful in the same way that sin is a privation of a due good.

Rose offers a typical tour of both a traditional and a modern church, which provide a sound catechesis on Catholic architecture, liturgy and faith. He identifies the origins of the modern departure from the traditional principles of Catholic architecture (which he identifies in his first chapter), and `names and shames' those largely responsible for the protestantisation of Catholic churches. A six-step plan for recovery is offered, and some encouraging examples of re-reordering are given. The book is thoroughly illustrated, though one cannot but shudder at photographs of jackhammers destroying a high altar.

This book has been a long time coming. Would that it were published twenty or thirty years ago. Now that it is available, there is no excuse for perpetuating the pretence that such buildings as have been inflicted upon the Catholic faithful in the past few decades are pleasing to either God or man. If you dare, give your parish priest or your bishop a copy.
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