Medieval Catholic Architecture Converts Protestant (Part 2)

catholic-medieval-architecture-converts-protestantArchitecture leads to heaven or hell

In our most recent article about Augustus Pugin, we saw how the famous architect converted from a strict brand of Calvinism to Roman Catholicism, due to his studies of medieval Catholic architecture when he was 19 years old.

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Pugin designed the famous Big Ben Tower in London, as well as 70 other major buildings and churches in England in the 19th century. Millions of tourists have seen and admired them.


The facade of the Parliament building and the Big-Ben Tower represent the union of the virtues of strength and delicacy. There is a good deal of delicacy there.

Its long repetitive lines communicate something of an aspect of vast horizons.
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However, it has not the élan of Cologne Cathedral, nor the superlative harmony of Notre Dame in Paris. Yet it has great dignity, elevation, nobility, and a serene aspect. Lordly and affable, it is also sacral and serious.

The British Parliament unites two contrary extremes. And every work of art accomplishes something supreme when it unites extreme and apparently contradictory opposites. Here is the idea of stable grandeur — grandeur firmly established under its own power, which starts to meditate.

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The Big-Ben is a marvel, a fitting part of the Parliament. It really fits well here. It is extremely coherent, extremely logical, extremely beautiful. Also, there is a sweetness, an English suavity that the Catholic genius brought out here through Pugin’s work; he was able to communicate a Catholic touch to it all.

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How different from the images of Protestant England! The Protestant England is not that of the Parliament or Big Ben. It is an England deformed by Protestantism, by the exaggerated pursuit of money. This was absent in the England from the time before the Protestant Revolution. Old England pursued conquests in the cultural order far more than those in the material order.