For years, most Christian places of worship have been identified and symbolised by the cross. For the Catholic faith, apart from the cross, some churches either have a Madonna next to the church. However, like technology, trends have changed. Some of the new churches being constructed draw their inspiration and architectural designs from scriptures and traditions to embed them within their physical structures.
One of the churches that drew its physical appearance from the Bible and church traditions is All Saints Cathedral, Kampala. When you look at the entrance of the new structure, it is shaped like a mitre.
According to the Rev Hillary Jaffu, the Initiation and All Saints Cathedral building project manager (ACP), the mitre is the bishop’s headdress worn during celebrations. The bishop also wears the mitre when he is presiding over a function.
“As believers, if something is not cited in the Bible, it is prone to change. It is only the scripture that cannot be changed,” Rev Jaffu observes.
Bell and prayer tower
The bell and prayer tower is the highest point still under construction at the new All Saints Cathedral. When complete, Jaffu says the tower will have a cross on top to symbolise salvation of mankind.
“The purpose of the bell and prayer tower is specifically for prayers. It has 12 levels and they represent the 12 tribes of Israel in Genesis 48. However, the mitre is traditional because it is not cited in the Bible,” the Rev Jaffu adds.
Genesis 48 and Deuteronomy have the 12 tribes listed. These include Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph, and Benjamin, according to their order of birth.
“We have put these tribes in the new structure to make sure that there is a reflection of Biblical accounts on how God worked out salvation for his people. The nation of Israel was born there and from Jacob, we have Egypt through the mighty acts of God as cited in Exodus 14 and moving out of Egypt to possess the land of Canaan,” the Rev Jaffu notes.
The other feature on the cathedral whose shape is derived from the Bible according to Matthew 28:19 are the three levels leading to the main altar where tables are positioned. The Rev explains, the three levels are symbolic of the holy trinity.
St Mark Church of Uganda, Ssekiwunga at Kitende, about three kilometres off Entebbe Road, is a beehive of activity at the new site. What caught one’s attention is the structure also under construction.
The only two driveways leading to the church are between palm trees. Alex Kamukama, the head of planning at the church, says the palm trees represent the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
“When Jesus was going to Jerusalem, on the day of his triumphant entry, people waved palm leaves for His coming. We planted palm trees along the paths that lead to the church so that we do not have to wander looking for palm trees to wave at Jesus when He finally returns as we usher him into the house of God,” Kamukama says.
He adds that at each construction phase, from the foundation to roofing level, it takes place within 52 working days. Fifty-two is the number of days it took Nehemiah to build the wall of Jerusalem, as cited in Nehemiah 6:15. The timing of operations, including church designs such as the long rectangular windows and where the church is being built on a gentle slope, are all derived from the Bible.
“In Ezekiel 41:8 when he (Ezekiel) was dreaming, he said I saw that the temple was built on a terrace which provided a foundation for the side rooms,” Kamukama explains.
Months that make a year
The six narrow windows start from the base on either side of the church, which Kamukama says is the perfect number in the Bible, representative of Jesus’ disciples and months that make a year.
“Even if Ezekiel wrote in the Old Testament, we are building the church from the New and Old Testaments. In the New Testament, we talk about the cross. It lies in the middle of six windows on the north side of the church,” Kamukama says.
The temple was facing both east and west. “And while building churches, we neglect this yet there is a reason the Bible talks about the east and west,” Kamukama quotes Ezekiel 47:1.
In 1 Kings when King Solomon started building the Temple, he said; “To the entrance, put one pillar to the north and the other to the south.” He called the one to the North, Boaz, and the one to the south, Jerkin.
“But because we are in the era of trinity, instead of having one pillar, we put three and these stand for The Father, The Son and The Spirit,” Kamukama interprets.
As you enter the church, there are staircases at the main entrance moving to the upper room where Jesus had the last supper with his Disciples.
“We had to build stairs for purposes of getting to the upper room because we are waiting for the second coming of Jesus. If He (Jesus) came today and asked us to take him to the upper room, we will not fidget looking for where to take him because it is already in the church,” Kamukama says.
Kamukama says before the construction started at Ssekiwunga, the planning committee visited more than 20 churches from where they drew some inspiration.
However, none of them had the character they wanted. These include St Andrew’s Church of Uganda, Bukoto from where they picked the idea of galleries.
The way of the cross
Remegious Kasozi, the administrator at St Gyaviira Catholic Parish at Bunamwaya, also shares that the new church that is also still under construction has 14 pillars inside the church. Kasozi, says they represent the way of the cross.
“We are building a church that is unique. All the pillars will have all Ugandan martyrs and their pictures put on the face of every pillar,” Kasozi shares.