The Church-Building Spirit Revived

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The beginning of the eleventh century was marked by great activity in repairing and building churches; and, but for the many uses to which these sacred edifices were applied by the poor people, they might not be worthy of our notice. We may reasonably suppose that during the past thirty or forty years there had been little disposition to engage in such works. But when the awful night was past, and when the first day of the year 1001 shone upon the world, the hopes of all nations revived. Men's minds had reached, with the close of the tenth century, the lowest point, but from that date a manifest rise was apparent: and their first attention was given to the holy buildings, by whose virtues, as they believed, judgment had been turned away, and the favor of heaven restored.
This superstitious feeling was no doubt what led to those great architectural efforts and results which characterize this period. Many of them are now standing, to attest the greatness of the plan and the solidity of the work. "The foundations were broad and deep, the walls of immense thickness, roofs steep and high, to keep off the rain and snow Tall pillars supported the elevated vault, instead of the flat roof of former days The great square tower, which typified resistance to worldly aggression, was exchanged for the tall and graceful spire, which pointed encouragingly to heaven."*
(* James White's Eighteen Christian Centuries.)
But we must not suppose that the uses and purposes of those enormous buildings were merely as places of public worship. The village church in mediaeval times was equal to a number of separate buildings in our own day. It was large enough to enable the greater part of the population to wander in its aisles. The cottages of the poor were then miserable hovels, without windows, into which they retired to sleep. But the vast, beautiful building consecrated by religion was the poor man's mansion, where he spent his leisure time, and where he felt as if it all belonged to himself. It was like the town-hall, the market-place, the newsroom, the school-room, and the meeting-place of friends, all in one. We, who live in the comfortable houses of the nineteenth century, can have no just idea of the uses and convenience of such buildings. But all tended, like everything else in those times, to increase the power of the clergy, and the servility of the people. Not only was the sanctuary hallowed, but the priests became glorified, in the eyes of the people, and far outshone even the dignity of kings.