Spiritual Path, Sacred Place: Myth, Ritual and Meaning in Architecture


This is a very good book that thoroughly relates to our Brief 3.

“This book is a comparative study of how sacred space if formed and entered, documented by architectural examples from many different religions, locations, and historical settings. Moreover, it intends to establish correspondences between the religious and cultural setting and the architecture, arguing that sacred architecture often symbolizes the spiritual path and its goal. […] The book argues that sacred architecture often provided a detailed “symbol posted” way to spiritual transformation”.

The writer Thomas Barrie points out that “the Way, the spiritual path, the sacred journey” describe not only a spiritual and psychological setting but a physical one as well. Thus he attempts to show that “sacred architecture often provided a detailed ‘symbol posted’ way to spiritual transformation,” and he tries to illustrate this with specific examples in chapter 6. The first chapter provides an introductory overview. The second is about “symbols, structures, and rituals,” and includes archetypes, the hero’s journey, and pilgrimage. The third chapter is on “elements and experience” in architectural theory. In chapter 4 he discusses “the Sacred Path and Place,” including meaning and place, the place of creation, axis mundi etc., the celestial city, sacred geometry, and ritual settings. The fifth chapter describes the sacred use that can be made. Six types of paths: the axial, split, radial, grid, circumambulating, and segmented. The selected sites in chapter 6 are the Temple of Amun-Re; the Temple of Apollo; Koto-in Xen Temple, Daitoku-ji Monastery; the Cathedral of Sainte-Madeleine; and the Brion-Vega Cemetery. The final chapter, Arrival, is a kind of archetypal description of the elements common to many forms of sacred architecture. He criticizes modern architecture for its failure to provide “a meaningful sense of place and an articulated path to attain it—paths and places that perhaps lead us to a better understanding of who we are”.