The Experience of Sacredness in Architecture

written by Juhani Pallasmaa


- remarks on religious and existential sacredness


The experiential sacredness invoked by a work of art or architecture differs essentially from the religious concept of sacredness. The latter is associated with specific places, events, phenomena, and objects. (e.g. the Holy Land, Holy Grave, Holy Supper, Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, Holy Sacraments and so on), that have been denominated as sacred in the Holy Word, or otherwise sanctified by a religious doctrine. Thus religious sacredness implies an encounter with an object that has been specifically designated as sacred. The sacredness invoked by an artistic or architectural work is a personal and individual existential experience that obtains its impact and “aura” – to use Walter Benjamin´s notion - through the inherent nature of human experience without any explicit religious symbolization or connotation.