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  • Writer's pictureSteve Baker PhD AIA

How to Build a Catholic Church from the Ground Up

The Catholic church stands as the most recognizable religious structure in much of the world. This is for numerous reasons. 

First, the large Catholic population on a global scale makes them extremely common around the globe. So, almost everyone has seen one. However, it’s something else that tends to set them apart the most. 

While many denominations have taken more modern approaches to the design of their churches, the Catholic church has maintained the elegant traditional architectural style that it has been known for the last several hundred years.

The towering pillars, stonework, stained glass windows, and general solemn atmosphere that inspires worship are all staples of any Catholic church to this very day, and they are what makes the Catholic church appear grand and instantly recognizable even in the most cluttered landscapes. 

However, you might not be aware of how a Catholic church is constructed and the extensive work that goes into achieving those instantly recognizable results. 

Today, we’re going to walk you through the entire process of how to build a Catholic church.

Let’s jump into it!

1: Taking an Idea and Making it a Blueprint

First and foremost, even something with as many historical examples as a Catholic church still requires a design phase. This is done differently than it was in the last century and long before. 

Now, advanced architectural experts, such as Baker Architects, utilize the latest in laser scanning technology to handle much of this process in a far more streamlined and accurate manner. However, crafting a blueprint remains essential in building a Catholic church.

The process starts by scanning the area you have set aside to build the church, and this allows a team of church architects and designers to craft 3D and 2D models representing your chosen design. 

This allows you to see the church you’re trying to build in the actual place it will be built in in a 3D, interactive, space. 

The lidar scanning technology that we use is also extremely accurate, and measurements are precise up to 1mm. This is more accurate than even the most talented architects of the past

You’ll be able to look over designs, determine any changes you might want made, and work with the 3D render until you find the design that perfectly matches your vision. 

As for Catholic church designs, they are traditionally built in the shape of a cross or rectangle. In recent years, some Catholic churches have started to use circular designs to demonstrate unity around the globe. 

Ultimately, the design is yours to choose.

2: Preparing the Land and Setting the Foundation

Every structure needs a flat piece of land and a solid foundation to build upon. A Catholic church is no different. 

This phase is just like any other construction process at this point. The land is flattened if need be, and a concrete foundation is laid. If a basement is desired for storage, various church activities, or anything like that, the basement will be made during this phase, too. 

This doesn’t take long, but it’s the basis for the rest of the project.

3: Raising the Framing

Whether you’re going with stonework, or you’re going to use wood or more modern materials, the church needs framing. This is done by a carpentry team, but it starts to frame out the design of the church and outlines each part while providing solid structural support for the rest of the process.

How to build a Catholic church - Catholic church architecture.

During this phase, you’ll start to see the outlines of the nave, the central place of worship, and all other interior parts of the church. However, they won’t be fleshed out yet and recognizable. 

It’s also important to realize that, in cross designs, the cross is traditionally built facing Jerusalem

4: Structural Finishing, Wiring, and Plumbing

Once the framing goes up, the bulk of the remaining tasks revolve around finishing the exterior and interior walls, installing windows, doorways, and other key structural features, and of course, installing all the necessary plumbing and wiring to allow the church to operate in a modern fashion

5: Trim and Details

Now, the church is starting to look like a traditional Catholic church. Of course, it’s not furnished yet, and it’s not ready for use, but it now has the majority of the trademark appearance people around the world have recognized for centuries. 

The last structural step is to add the details and trim including windowsills, molding, facades, confessionals, and similar features. You can work with the church interior designers if you need additional help.

By the time this phase is completed, the only thing missing is the assortment of furniture and worshipping aids.

6: Making the Church a Place of Worship

At this point, you have a functional structure that resembles a church, but it’s still not ready. Next comes the difficult job of sourcing and arranging pews, arranging the altar and other worship apparatuses, installing curtains and shades, and decorating the church according to traditional standards.

How to build a Catholic church - Catholic church interior design.

Offices will be furnished for priests and other church officials to conduct the more business-oriented aspects of a church’s operations.

The final touches will be made before the church is opened to the congregation and starts its first service.

This is the last step in our guide to building a church.

Giving Glory to the Holy Trinity and Providing Communal Worship to the Faithful

Throughout this guide, we've explained how to build a Catholic church from scratch, but we haven’t talked about one of the most important details. A church is not just a structure where people meet.

It’s a place of worship, and its purpose is to educate the faithful and spread the word of God to the masses. It’s an important structure that must be built with a level of care and dedication not often seen in architecture. 

Each part of a Catholic church must be built to bring glory to God and instill the holy atmosphere necessary for a place of worship. The Trinity is a recurring theme in all artworks, and the seven themes of Catholic teachings are prevalent. 

To truly capture this, you need an architectural team that understands the importance of such concepts and gives them the utmost respect. They must be the focus of the project to ensure the finished church is a proper place of worship. 

Baker Architects is an architectural service company that can provide everything you need to build a Catholic church the right way.

Contact us today and give glory to God in the right fashion!

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