« Deus homo factus est ut homo fieret Deus. » The famous word of St. Irenaeus (+ 200) not only gives a summary of Christian doctrine but also an in-nuce formula of an anthropology which can hardly be drafted out more ambitiously. From the birth of God in the human Jesus, anthropology is an integral part of Christian theology and any Western philosophical anthropology lives to a large extent on Christian sources.
Christianity also made eminent architectural contributions. One immediately thinks of cathedrals, churches and chapels that constitute the centers of virtually any Western city or village.
However, we here want to focus on another type of building, both, deeply inspired by Christian faith and revealing a lot of Christian anthropological thinking: Christian Monasteries. Beneath their religious character, monasteries fulfill plenty other functions. Above all, they are dwellings of persons living there but they also offer production facilities, are economic centers, places of schooling and education, sometimes – in the past – also places of political power and juridical judgement.
There is a remarkable continuity in the principle architectural features of Christian monasteries. A modern Benedictine monastery is still made up of the same elements already described in the Plan of Saint Gall from the 9th century and all Charterhouses look similar, be they situated in Mediterranean or in rough mountain climate. In the same time, the large variety of Christian monastic life gives rise to differences in monastic architecture. A Cistercian Abbey looks different than a Franciscan’s residence.
I will argue that these differences within monastic architecture are due to specific spiritual traditions revealing and developing different potentials of the Christian conception of human being – while the intriguing affinity of monastic architecture from different regions and epochs testifies for some persevering principles of the common underlying concept of human being.
Harvard Citation Guide: Düchs, G. (2016) Deus homo factus est ut homo fieret Deus, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 19 May 2016, Available at: http://isparchitecture.com. [Accessed: 01 June 2016]