in the reconstruction of cathedrals destroyed by the Protestants (e.g., Orleans in 1601; Valence in 1604). And this was not simply a financial involvement: multiple forces compelled both the state and the local town councils to intervene with the ecclesiastic authorities and take control of construction, so that the appointment of architects became the prerogative of the royal administration. This intrusion of the civil into the realm of the Catholic bishops went hand in hand with the use of royal power over the Protestants. Thus, the Edict of Nantes of 1598 dictated the sites and the numbers of Protestant churches to be established, while the Revocation of that edict in 1685 proceeded to order their destruction. State control over church construction became less forceful at the end of Louis XVI's reign, but the Napoleonic Concordat of 1801 and subsequent texts accorded the civil authorities considerable control over both the authorization of construction and the architectural definition of Catholic and Protestant churches as well as synagogues. A similar phenomenon of state control occurred in Great Britain. The Act of 1711 instituted a tax to finance fifty new churches to be built in the cities of London and Westminster and in suburban towns. The Act for Fifty New Churches' was echoed a century later by the Church Building Act of 1818. But in the latter case it was not the number of churches that was stipulated, but the grant to be made - a million pounds. Experience had taught it was not wise to become involved in financial over-expenditure.
Can one go a step further and use the characteristics of the various forms of architectural design and decoration observed in places of worship to ascertain something of the nature of religious sentiment at the time of construction? Some authors do not hesitate to do so. Thus, the 'coldness' of churches constructed after the 1818 Church Building Act is said to demonstrate the degree to which religious feeling had been replaced by the prescriptions ofsocial convention. Contemporaries themselves sometimes tried to make similar links. In seventeenth-century France, enemies of the Jesuits did not hesitate to connect the Italian influences on Jesuit architecture - modest though they were - with what they judged to be the order's lack of moral rigour. Clearly, such links should only be made with great caution, for we are far from possessing the keys to the interpretation of architectural forms. And yet neither should we accept common place generalizations. Such is the assertion that the French of the ancien regime were always wary of the spontaneity of the Baroque and the Rococo - whether in Borromini's Roman churches or in the great abbey of Ottobeuren by Johann Mikael Fischer (1748-53). The historian of art can go further than this and suggest to the historian of religion that the gradual shift from a polychromatic interior decor to a white achromatism (and similarly,
Was this article helpful?