Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crenelated Mormon Temples

Perhaps you are wondering what a crenelation is.  It is a parapet with short segments cut out.  They are used in castles and fortress walls.  So I could have also labeled this post "Battlements on LDS Temples" or "The Castellated Temple Style".  But crenelation is a fun word, so I'm going to use it.

A major feature of the temples Brigham Young built are the crenelations and other castle style architecture used.  The pioneers were trying to literally build the Kingdom of God and it showed in their architecture.  Even churches were made to resemble castles.  The defensive architecture was also used as a symbol of the protection faithfully living the gospel and attending the temple provided (temporally and spiritually).  It also reinforced the royal imagery of a church with the royal priesthood and as sons and daughters of God destined to be kings and queens.  It reminds us that the temple is the House of the Lord with Christ as the King of Kings, the Prince of Glory.  The castle look also visually unites the four pioneer temples despite their differences.

The St. George Temple was the first to look like a castle.  It is brilliant white and has buttresses and crenelations giving it a look of strength and nobility.


The Logan Temple was built next and it again features buttresses and crenelations or battlements.  The current dark stone seems to add to the fortress look of the temple (originally it was painted white).  The corner towers are also octagonal giving a turret look which makes the building look even stronger.

The Manti Temple continued to use castle features despite having towers with French revival influences.  Again buttresses and crenelations are found on the walls.  The middle towers also have pyramidal stones at the tops of the walls that make them look even more defensive.  Another feature is the large stone retaining wall which includes crenelations and adds to the fortified look.  The west end towers are octagonal giving a turret look, while the east towers are all square to make them visually appealing butting into a hill.  This also makes the east towers appear weightier and stronger and larger, which is fitting as they represent the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The Salt Lake Temple is of course covered with castle elements.  Its architecture is often called castellated gothic (I think the name isn't very fitting as the architecture isn't very gothic with no pointed arches or flying buttresses and relatively little glass).  The architecture is very well done and beautiful.  The temple really is a conglomeration of styles, but the crenelations, buttresses, and deeply set windows all give a feeling of strength and a castle look.  The use of normal arches and not pointed arches probably helps it look like a castle as well.  You might also notice that the buttresses extend above the crenelated parapet.  This is because at that level every other buttress is also a chimney.  You can see that half of them are open in this photo. The open ones are chimneys.

These four temples, the pioneer temples, are the only ones to use the castle style with crenelations.  Other temples have mimicked features of these temples including the Brigham City Utah Temple which is currently under construction.  That temple isn't using crenelations.  The San Diego Temple is often compared to a castle and it is beautiful and has a look of strength, but it is not crenelated.  The crenelated castle style is part of what makes the pioneer temples unique.  I would like to see it incorporated into a new temple, but if not, we still have four superb examples of the style.  I should also mention that using a crenelated castle style of church architecture is not unique to Mormonism - I saw many examples of it on my mission in England.


Brian said...

I find it interesting that Truman Angel based the Salt Lake Temple on European cathedrals, yet it still has a style unlike anything else. The crenelation is the one feature that makes it look even remotely like the other pioneer temples.

Though not as prevalent, Boston Massachusetts has crenelation at the top of the spire/base of the Steeple, and Houston has buttresses that rise above the walls giving it an almost crenelated look.

William Thompson said...

Oooh! Good Word. I think I'm going to have to ask for a refund on all those years of Architecture school - profs never taught me that one - my career has been a LIE!

Anonymous said...

On Salt Lake Temple Chimneys. Originally, the designed called for heaters in the basement. During construction, the designed changed till at dedication time, heat was provided by an offsite steam plant. Today the SL temple is still heated by offsite generated steam. There is one fireplace that I know of in the temple. It is in what is now called the "Old Sealing Office." on the ground floor. I have found that the gas flu passes on an angle in the wall to interset a chimney in the pilasters.

Scott said...

The chimneys are definitely not used today, but that is why some are open at the top of the temple. They are currently causing drafts in the temple.

Sister F said...

I've heard that the crenelations in some of the pioneer temples (at least Logan and St. George) formed small rooms that were used as bedrooms for visiting patrons and General Authorities... any info on that? How strange to sleep over in a temple!

Scott said...

Several temples have had small rooms for the temple president or prophet, etc. to stay the night in. This was particularly true in the late 1800s when persecution necessitated hiding places. These weren't caused by crenelations.
Crenelations are short parapets (walls that extend above a roof line) with notches cut in them. They are the up and down and up and down pattern at the top of castle walls.

SMR said...

I worked on the House keeping staff in the Salt Lake Temple for a long time. I was able to see A LOT when i was there. When the temple first opened it had coal burning stoves in many of the room most notably was the garden room because it originally had doors to the outside. A few of those chimneys are still in use today but for ventilation and not for heating or cooling. Also this temple has more than one bed room in it today that are still used on a regular basis.