Churchgoers are familiar with the sight of long, pointed towers that sit on tops of church buildings all over America. These structures are called church steeples and have very much been one of the mainstays of Christian architecture over the years. While some believe that their origins are borrowed deep within the architectural practices of older religions from where it was borrowed and adopted by the early Christians, church steeple history makes for an interesting study, especially at the current time when almost half the American population can be called religious in one way or another according to a recent survey.
Church furniture and architecture has always been a fascinating subject, containing elements of history and practices from times far into the past. In most parishes, the church is often the oldest building in the area. Almost 70% of Americans attend church at least occasionally, and one of their most familiar sights is the church steeple — a towering structure that houses the church bell and extends on top of the church, often ending in a pointed tip or spire. A quick look at church steeple history can show that these structures have been in use for many centuries, and some of their architectural characteristics can be observed in structured before the onset of Christianity.
Some Historical Pointers
In the times of the Israelites and Canaanites, tribes would often take home-baked loaves of bread and place them under large poles as a tribute to the power and fertility of God. These poles quickly became community worship centers, and it can be believed that this has a significant role in church steeple history. Some scholars also believe that they are an adopted remnant of Pagan architecture — a tribute to the sun god called an Obelisk that Christian groups of the time borrowed and made their own in architectural terms.
Over the years, the church steeple became not only a structural addition to church architecture, but a functional one too. By the 15th century, most church steeples also became the housing area for church bells, which were rung to signal important times of the day and special events and occasions. By having bells housed in church steeples, it could also be ensured that their sound carried through longer distances, thereby reaching more people in the area. Several myths also indicate that they also served the purpose of pointing heavenwards as a tribute to God and protecting churchgoers from all manners of evil spirits and their influences.
Overall, it can be said that church steeples are deeply rooted in Christian traditions and their presence still acts as a definite visual cue to tradition church architecture. In addition to other kinds of church construction elements and furniture choices, they are one of the most readily recognizable symbols and make churches stand out.