Worship, Acoustics, and Architecture

by Ettore Cirillo and Francesco Martellotta
published 2006 • ISBN 0 906522 44 7 • vi+210pp • £32.50


As acousticians, the authors interest in churches' acoustics was inspired by the simple fact that very little research had been published on church acoustics, compared to the amount published on the acoustics of other public assembly places such as concert halls and theatres. Given the key role of churches in our culture, the case for properly investigating their acoustic condition was, for the authors, compelling. As the original work developed, it became clear that to properly explain the acoustical environment of different types of churches, an explanation of why certain kinds of churches were the shape they were, was also required. The resulting book, therefore, analyses how developments in worship demanded new physical surroundings - so that sound, whether spoken, sung, or played, could be properly heard; and analyses the other driver, developments in architectural technology, which made possible new shapes, which in turned opened up new musical possibilities.

Following chapters discussing the influence of architecture on music, and music on architecture; the relationships between liturgy, acoustics and architecture; developments in sacred music in the Christian liturgy since the Middle Ages; the authors then present an acoustical characterization of places of worship. This is followed by an analysis of 34 Italian churches in the terms of that characterization. Church 'types' covered are: Early Christian churches; Romanesque churches; Gothic churches; Renaissance churches; Baroque churches; Neoclassical churches; and Modern and Contemporary churches.

This important book reports a major systematic and large scale study aiming at characterising churches in terms of their acoustics by using up to date measuring techniques. The book will hopefully lead to further studies on the acoustics of worship buildings, in other countries and of other faiths.

This book will be of interest to:
Architects (especially church architects)
Acousticians (especially building acousticians)
Graduate students in architecture and acoustics
University departments of construction / built environment
General readers interested in church history, buildings and music


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The authors

Professor Ettore Cirillo and Dr Francesco Martellotta are both on the academic staff of the Politecnico di Bari, Dipartimento di Fisica Tecnica