‘Secrets of Sacred Architecture’ highlights three Wisconsin sites

April 12, 2022 Alyssa Beno Leave a Comment

LeVar Burton

The third anniversary of the tragic fire at Notre-Dame cathedral in April 2019 is a reminder of the strong emotional and historical connection that many people have with sacred buildings.

Secrets of Sacred Architecture, premiering 8 p.m. Monday, April 18 on PBS Wisconsin, is a new documentary that unlocks the elements of design that make these structures so fascinating.

Narrated by LeVar Burton, the film looks specifically at American sacred buildings, ranging from grand cathedrals and simple country churches, to synagogues and mosques. It includes three sites right here in Wisconsin: the Gates of Heaven Synagogue, Holy Hill Basilica (pictured above) and the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin.

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.

The artistry of church architecture includes many of the more surprising “secrets.” The film looks at the mystery of gargoyles, the psychology behind stained glass, and the hidden meaning built into Frank Lloyd Wright’s churches.

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