While steeples may vary in height, intricacy, and detail, most churches bear one—But why is this the case?
Steeples have a long history with churches and have been a vital aspect of church architecture since the conversion of Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. As far back as the year 312, when Constantine’s proclamation made Christianity the official religion of the Roman State, steeples have been an integral part of the church and Christian identity as a whole.
Aesthetics & Symbolism
While the primary purpose of the steeple was to visually enhance an otherwise short and stout building, the steeple served a number of functions, according to TheGospelCoalition.org. The steeple was used to accentuate the lines of the church which would direct the viewers’ eyes vertically up to the heavens. This provided an aesthetically pleasing and symbolic solution to elevating the building, as the spiritual significance of these structures can be pulled straight from the bible where the book of Psalms speaks of God as a tower.
The steeple was often built to be the highest point in a town or village. This was so that worshippers seeking the church could simply look at the sky and find a steeple that would lead them to the church. Outside of the practical purposes the steeple served, there are symbolic purposes at play as well. Ancient people believed that God became more accessible at higher locations, a sentiment that was reinforced within Christian traditions by stories like Moses receiving the 10 Commandments on Mount Horeb. The steeple, at such a great height, serves to remind worshippers that not only should God be held above all else, but God sits at the highest point.
In the greater context of church architecture, steeples and towers are essentially the same thing. However, in the olden days of the Church, these towers were usually separate from the main building and contained a small chapel that housed what we would now call a baptistry. It was within these towers that catechumens in the early Church would be baptized.
Overtime, the need to house church bells to call people to prayer arose, and these tall steeples were determined to be the ideal location. At such a height, usually higher than any other structure in town, the sound of the church bells could resonate and reach more people.
As steeples came to house the church’s bells and their overall importance to the church developed even further, steeples began to be used to distinguish cathedrals from lesser, smaller churches. This meant churches that had larger, more intricate steeples were more likely to hold significant importance to the surrounding community. Steeples do not have to be large and impressive, and as times have changed, the competition surrounding steeples has diminished. Nowadays, steeples are more of a personal preference and picking out the right steeple for your church is a matter of aiding in the development of your church’s identity.
If you are looking for an exquisite, high quality steeple for your church, American Steeple can help. We have completed a plethora of work all around the country and aim to leave you satisfied with the product and the experience as well. Contact us today to get a free estimate and discuss which steeple is best for your church.