Chasing Steeples The Importance Of Preserving Traditional Church Design

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When we think of a church, chances are we imagine a building with a steeple or spire rising up into the sky. Few though know where this skyward-looking design element comes from. While some associate the steeple with pagan history and related sexual connotations, Reverend Ken Collins explains on his website that church steeples started out as bell towers and were used to call people to worship before people had notions of time or time-telling devices. Over time the bell towers evolved into steeples. The structural element pointed towards the heavens and thus also directed people towards God. Church steeple crosses and other design features were then added.

The evolution is not over. Fiberglass steeples have been adopted as maintenance-free, lower cost options to traditional steeples. As traditional church steeple prices have increased, lower cost but sometimes problematic steeple types have been used in renovations and new church buildings. In 2011, USA Today reported that steeples are even being used to hide cell phone antennas.

Steeples originated in Western Europe and their use spread to the United States when the settlers from Europe crossed the Atlantic.The settlers wanted to recreate the grandeur of the great cathedrals and churches of Europe, which had steeples and a cruciform (cross-shaped) layout.

While changes in the use and material form of steeples, they remain an iconic symbol of Christianity and there is interest in saving and repairing these traditional landmarks. With more than 40% of Americans categorized as deeply religious by a Gallup poll and nearly 70% attending church at least occasionally, the preservation of Christian iconography remains important, especially in the South. Eight out of 10 of the most religious States are in the South, with Mississippi claiming top spot with almost 60% of residents identifying as very religious. Regardless of the rise or fall of church steeple prices, the church building design complete with steeple remains that most associated with Christianity.