Architectural crusades : a comparison and interpretation of French cathedrals and American mega churches as cultural catalysts and material culture Public Deposited

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  • The Gothic cathedrals of France arose in a particular social and political environment, and the material culture, the structures themselves and their contents, bear witness to those realities even today. In addition, the cathedrals themselves were catalysts for cultural change. They encouraged urban growth in a country that had previously been mostly rural, as craftsmen and parishioners moved closer to the construction sites to enable themselves to take part in the architectural and social evolution that was occurring as a result of the unprecedented building projects. The cathedral towns become county seats, and as such, the center for social and cultural activities. The cathedrals themselves were symbols of the partnership of Church and State, and the strength that partnership had garnered. The cathedrals changed the face of French society forever. The American mega churches today could be interpreted as a similar phenomenon in some regards. They have served as a catalyst for cultural changes, creating strong communities. Perhaps they represent a comparable partnership between Church and State, even if this is not the most politically correct interpretation at this point in history. The mega churches have cultivated their own cultures, sometimes seeming like small cities with all that they have to offer – coffee shops, bookstores, childcare, social programs and worship – all in one large, convenient location. The research represented in this paper has sought to examine the differences and similarities between the medieval churches and the modern day mega churches, and to make a logical and insightful comparison of the two phenomena and then to develop an appropriate interpretation of that comparison. Although many fairly evident differences exist between the two, the research revealed many similarities between the Gothic cathedrals of France and the American mega churches, both in their construction and in their cultural impacts. The resulting analysis revealed much, not only about French culture and history, but about the American culture today as well.
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