Master of Arts (MA)


Michael P. Graves

Primary Subject Area

Mass Communications; Religion, General


Church, Architecture, Visual Rhetoric, Visual Communication, Sonja K. Foss, Ronald C. Arnett, Narrative, Historicality, Metaphor, Transparency, Symbol


Understanding the way in which church architecture functions rhetorically to communicate identity formation, monumentality, and meaning was the focus of this study.

Ronald C. Arnett's interpersonal praxis is used as a starting point to understand how the architectural rhetoric of reformation happens. It includes the integration of three concepts: faith narrative, or worldview; historicality, the presence of history in a place; and metaphor, or symbol. I argue that it is through an understanding of an integration of these terms as applied to visual communication that architectural communication can be understood.

Sonja Foss's schema for the evaluation of visual imagery was used to further understanding of the symbolic element of this architecture, but also contributed in some ways to discerning the historicality and faith narrative.

The building analyzed was a church designed by the architectural firm Metz, Thornton, and Smith under the guidance of Connecticut Valley Christ Community Church. The narrative context of the building was explored, followed by identification and evaluation of the architectural elements of the building, then Foss's schema was applied and the functions of the building were judged and conclusions drawn.