Church furniture | Church steeple plans | Courtroom benches

What You Never Knew About Your Church Steeple

August 4, 2015


Portable baptismal pool

High above your place of worship is probably a tower, maybe with a bell. Perhaps your congregation uses it often to convey messages, or maybe it’s a symbolic decoration. Do you really know anything about this iconic piece of religious architecture? Originally, most churches didn’t even have pews, and members of the congregation stood and mingled. Nowadays, religious architecture is rich with history and symbolism, and even the most basic, utilitarian church with at least retain its steeple.


Steeples rose to new heights and influence with the construction of grand European cathedrals, far back in the Middle Ages. There’s one basic function of the steeple: Its tall, straight lines distinguish the church and draw one’s eyes to Heaven. Originally, communication via the design of a building was critically important to a congregation who couldn’t read. Just like stained glass tells the stories of the Bible, church steeple plans are designed to convey the basic function of the church: look toward Heaven.

Design: Color

Most small American church steeples are white. Tis trait is actually a remnant of history; settlers didn’t have much access to metal, so the church steeple was crafted with wood, like the rest of the church. Anything made of wood had to be whitewashed, and viola. The classic white steeple.

These wooden steeples were also easy to maintain, important when one had to focus on survival in colonial America. This is still convenient today for small, poor churches or churches who use their funds for other projects.

Design: Materials

As stated above, wood is the mainstay for low-maintenance church steeple plans. Most of these wooden steeples and roofs are also capped with copper, which needs no maintenance, turns a pleasing green when weathered, and will last between 70 and 100 years.

Slate shingles are also used if one can’t initially afford copper. Unfortunately, slate is heave and breaks if walked on. Luckily modernity has produced a lighter, sturdier metal alloy that looks much like slate while avoiding these drawbacks.

The Bell

A good number of steeples have a belfry from which messages are tolled. Bells are put in the steeples so they can be heard for as long a distance as possible. Some church steeple plans don’t include bells, and some that do are merely decorative.

But the bell is a historic piece of wordless communication. It tolls for funerals, weddings, births, and sometimes for the departure of soldiers and sailors. Today the metal bell is often replaces with speakers which can recreate the same sounds.

As a Beacon

Sometimes you’ll notice normal windows above or below the slatted shutters of the belfry. Usually this is decorative, but sometimes this part of the steeple is lit to make it easy for weary night travelers to find. Modern steeple windows don’t tend to have this feature, since like the bell it’s difficult to maintain.

The Highest of Heights

The very very tip of the steeple doesn’t have to be a cross, though of course that’s popular. Steeples can also be topped with weather vanes or other decorative designs. This piece of architecture serves the dual purpose of giving the final impression of the outer church and acting as a lightning rod.

Church steeples prices, like anything, vary according to the intricacy of the design and the materials used. Church steeple planners will be happy to make sure a steeple matches the style of the rest of your church.

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