Personal Space: Gustav Schörghofer (SJ) on Spiritual Space

Like somebody whose vocation it is to love all human beings as well as God, he describes yet another quality that is typical of spiritual space. "On the one hand, spiritual space is not equivalent to material space – it has not necessarily got to do with architecture but with people and atmosphere. Space with a beautiful atmosphere is a fertile ground for human beings to co-exist harmoniously; it inspires the realisation of dreams, remains open for those who are different, and welcomes strangers. I would find it difficult to perceive a space as being spiritual whose occupants are aggressive."

But there is a spiritual quality also to the environments opening up between physical walls: Gustav Schörghofer refers to the spaces enclosed by churches, industrial buildings or museums, and appreciates that these spaces are indeed capable of giving people new heart.
"Such a building welcomes you, gives dignity rather than exposing us in our insignificance and demonstrating the might of the world around us – as Nazi architecture has shown, for instance – and emphasises the majesty that rests inside every one of us."

Dignity also matters for the way we deal with spaces, for the respect we show for the determinants of spaces and their contents.

Asked about church environments, he diagnoses a "plant psychosis". A lover of cut flowers and simple, reduced aestheticism, he scoffs at the ubiquitous preference for decorating abandoned side altars, the high altar and other zones with perennial plants, adding that worse even, "plastic flowers are close to apotheosis".


Lilli Hollein