The age of the megachurch.

What we build.
Oct. 10 2005 7:12 AM

An Anatomy of Megachurches

The new look for places of worship.

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"Megachurch"—like "McMansion" or "big-box store"—is a disdainful put-down. And like many put-downs it is not particularly accurate; very large churches have been around for a long time. Think Hagia Sophia, the Gothic cathedrals, or that Vatican megabasilica, St. Peter's, which accommodates 60,000 worshipers. (The largest church in the world is an overscaled replica of St. Peter's in Côte d'Ivoire, of all places.) What distinguishes the current crop of megachurches is not so much their size—none rivals St. Peter's—but their different sense of architectural style.

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Witold Rybczynski is Slate's architecture critic His latest book is The Biography of a Building: How Robert Sainsbury and Norman Foster Built a Great Museum. Visit his Web site. Follow him on Twitter.

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