Office for Worship

Diocese of Cleveland

Sacred Space – Liturgical Environment

The United States Bishops in their document Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture, and Worship have said:

The tradition of decorating or not decorating the church for liturgical seasons and feasts heightens the awareness of the festive, solemn, or penitential nature of these seasons. Human minds and hearts are stimulated by the sounds, sights, and fragrances of liturgical seasons, which combine to create powerful, lasting impressions of the rich and abundant graces unique to each of the seasons. 4


Plans for seasonal decorations should include other areas besides the sanctuary. Decorations are intended to draw people to the true nature of the mystery being celebrated rather than being ends in themselves. 5

Some principles to keep in mind when decorating the church for the seasons:

  • The altar should remain clear and free-standing
  • Pathways in the narthex, nave, and sanctuary should remain clear
  • Decorations are maintained throughout the season (e.g. Christmas decorations are not introduced into the worship space in Advent)
  • Fabric art (processional banners and hangings) can be effective through color, texture, shape, symbolic form – the use of images rather than words is more in keeping with this medium.

4 Built of Living Stones (2000), 123.

5 Built of Living Stones (2000), 124.

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