In two previous posts (Here and Here) I described and explained the Catholic church building as symbols of the Heavenly Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden. These two concepts are usually employed together. The traditional hierarchic layout of Catholic churches has only recently (the past 40 years) been abandoned , replaced by a distinctly non-hierarchic approach. Modern Catholic churches, in varying degrees look more like lecture or demonstration halls with a lab table. Likewise, decorative elements echoing Paradise have been banned leaving us with sterile, stingy interiors that force the congregation to focus in on itself. Decoration is also currently viewed as inappropriate given the understanding of the Church as solely a social justice agency.
Rochester still has churches built with Temple and Garden symbolism, though. One is a relatively small church originally constructed, I think, for Belgian immigrants. Called “the little French church” it has undergone restorative work over the years but it still retains its gorgeous French baroque altars. One aspect of the original church, unfortunately lost due to deterioration, was the apse mural that formed a backdrop and illusionist heavenly environment for the altar and reredos.
(click on pictures to see clearer images)