Stained glass windows.

Secrets of Sacred Architecture


Premiering Monday, April 18 at 9 p.m.

For most of America’s history, sacred buildings represented our greatest feats of innovative engineering and artistic design. For a time, America’s tallest structure and its largest-capacity building were churches, and a Maryland church organ was the most complex machine. Unlock the elements of design that make these structures so fascinating and unveil the meaning in religious architecture.

Sacred buildings are the cornerstone of life for communities all across America, representing some of the greatest feats of innovative engineering and artistic design. Embedded in the architecture of these churches, synagogues, mosques and temples is a secret language of sorts that influences both the faithful inside and the broader culture outside. Examples include hidden messages in stained-glass windows; the surprising reason for tall steeples; the influence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on gothic architecture and the curious gargoyle on the Washington National Cathedral that looks remarkably similar to Darth Vader.

Secrets of Sacred Architecture includes buildings from all across the United States, from the striking modernist chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado to the gothic St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York—which was long the tallest structure in the city.

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