The Roofless Church
Built in 1960 by Architect Philip Johnson
New Harmony, Indiana 47631
Article by Kelsey Spurlock
This nondenominational, spiritual haven gives the public a beautiful and sacred place to practice their beliefs peacefully and privately.
When you first walk through the beautiful, wooden doors gating the South entrance of the Roofless Church a sense of peace and safety immediately sets in. The church consists of a towering twelve-foot red brick wall, giving its’ spiritual seekers an opportunity to reflect in an open, yet protective atmosphere.
A paved path leads you from the South entrance to the middle of the church; at which point the decision on which way to navigate is not an easy one. There seems to be a wide range of visually intriguing elements in every corner of this establishment: a lulling font, a shaded area with benches for meditating, massive bronze gates guarding the East entrance, and several individual sculptures and dedicatory pieces.
One of the more interesting portions of the church includes an large, open space located in the central portion of the North wall allowing visitors to look out into the adjacent Wabash River Valley. This opening plays as an alternative to a mural, framing nature itself for our viewing and admiration. The opening was built in accordance to the post and lintel system and includes a terrace-like platform that extends out from the church a few feet.
Another unique feature is the enormous dome constructed of laminated pine arches that is centered on the west wing of the church. The dome stretches from fifty feet in the open-air all the way down to six individual concrete pillars at ground level.
The dome houses the Jacques Lipchitz sculpture titled “The Descent of the Holy Spirit.” The sculpture’s positioning as the altarpiece becomes one of the focal points of the church. The shiny bronze piece sits atop a circular concrete base and is surrounded by foliage. The sculpture depicts a blind Virgin Mary with a transparent womb, which shows Jesus sitting and looking into the world.