I recently returned from a vacation in Europe. While there we visited a number of churches, including St. Mary of the Friars (13th century) and St. Marc’s Basilica (7th century) in Venice and St. Peter’s Basilica (16th century) in Rome. In Barcelona, we also visited St. Mary of the Sea Cathedral (14th century), the Cathedral of Barcelona (14th century) and the Church of the Sacred Family (20th century).
All of these churches are awe inspiring and involved massive efforts over decades to build. But with the notable exception of the Church of the Sacred Family, all of these churches were built centuries ago. This caused me to wonder: have we lost the intensity of religious belief that is needed to build such inspiring temples of faith? If size of a church is a measure, wikipedia shows that ten of the world’s largest twenty-one churches were built after 1900, including five that were built after 1970. However, I would be surprised if any of these large churches have the kind of internal artistry that you see in the churches we saw on our trip.
Anyway, it’s an interesting question. The answer may be that while we have the religious intensity, we no longer have the artistic talent to match the masterpieces of past centuries. Our tour of the Sistene Chapel would certainly reinforce this thought.