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Church of Santa Constanza, Rome, 4th century
slide 5 of 10

What is symbolic about the Christian temple?

"The Fathers of the Church say that the sacred building represents first and foremost the Christ as Divinity manifested on earth; at the same time it represents the universe built up of substances visible and invisible, and finally, man and his various 'parts.' According to some of the Fathers the holy of holies is an image of the Spirit, the nave is an image of reason, and the symbol of the altar summarizes both; according to others the holy of holies, that is to say the choir or the apse, represents the soul, while the nave is analogous to the body and the altar to the heart."

"It is important not to lose sight of the fact that in the eyes of every artist or artisan taking part in the building of a church, the theory was visibly being made manifest by the building as a whole, reflecting as it did the cosmos or the Divine plan. Mastery therefore consisted in a conscious participation in the plan of the 'Great Architect of the Universe.' It is this plan that is revealed in the synthesis of all the proportions of the temple; it coordinates the aspirations of all who take part in the work of the cosmos."
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