The Seven Lamps of Architecture: Guiding Principles for Greatness

7 Lamps of Architecture

Adding Himalayan salt lamps to your home or office may help reduce the number of bacteria and viruses in the air. They also create a peaceful ambience and purify the air with negative ions.

John Ruskin was an English art critic who lived and died during Queen Victorias reign. This was his first work on Architecture published in 1849. It discusses seven guiding principles in the forming of good architecture.

1. Sacrifice

The word sacrifice may have a four-letter connotation but it’s one of the keys to achieving greatness. Sacrifice is giving up what you value most for the sake of another person or something greater than yourself. This involves tears and pain but the returns are bountiful.

The fundamental meaning of sacrificial rites, the act of establishing man and his world in a sacred order, has assumed an enormous variety of forms throughout history. What is common to all, however, is that the consecrated life of an offering is liberated through the process of sacrifice, regenerating its sacred potencies for the benefit of the sacrificer.

2. Truth

In one sense truth is correspondence of expression with inner conception. In this sense the psalmists pray, “Lead me in your truth and teach me.” A concept, idea, notion, theory or system is said to be true if it coheres with or makes rational sense within a whole body of beliefs.

Scripture presents truth as a chief quality of God – as the guaranty of constancy in His teachings (Deuteronomy 32:4); as a guarantee of faithfulness in covenant relations (Psalms 31:5; Isaiah 65:16); as an assurance of salvation (John 16:13). Jesus is the truth – He alone can save people and give them hope.

3. Power

The seven lamps of this title refer to the principles Ruskin identified in his exposition of architecture and building. These he later elaborated upon in his three volume Stones of Venice.

In the tabernacle under the old covenant the Jewish menorah burned with seven lamps. This represented God’s presence, and His light was shown to Israel and the world.

In Revelation the seven lampstands represent the churches. The golden color demonstrates that they are valuable to God and pure in His sight. They will shine brightly during Jacob’s trouble and the Day of the Lord.

4. Beauty

Achieving greatness requires the utmost in beauty. This can be seen in the seven lamps of architecture.

In this book Ruskin presents seven guiding principles in the forming of good Architecture, as lamps directing us on a course rather than straightjackets. These are sacrifice, truth, power, life, memory and obedience.

Taking them literally, they refer to the seven eyes of the stone and lampstand in Zechariah chapters three and four. They can also be taken as representing the churches of Christ, a light to enlighten the world. In both cases they are one Spirit seen in diversity on earth and in heaven before the throne.

5. Life

Ruskin was a thoughtful man who cared about nature, art and society and was sensitive to the connections between them as expressed in good architecture. He developed a theory of architecture as an exalting discipline that must dignify and ennoble the lives of those who live in it.

The book of Revelation depicts seven lamps burning on earth and in heaven before the throne. These seven lamps seem to have been linked by Ruskin to the corresponding seven on the menorah in the tabernacle under the old covenant and also to Zechariah’s spiritual vision of a menorah in heaven.

6. Memory

As architects and designers we are supposed to take inspiration from the buildings that have gone before us, absorbing their essence. This requires an appreciation of culture and memory.

The Seven Lamps of Architecture was Ruskin’s first work on the subject published under his own name. It established the philosophical groundwork of his later works on Architecture including the three volume Stones of Venice. It also provided the inspiration for the Gothic Revival and helped to shape the thinking of the architects behind the movement. It set out seven principles that imbue Architecture with greatness Sacrifice, Truth, Power, Beauty, Life and Memory.

7. Obedience

Obedience is compliance with someone else’s wishes or orders, or submission to rules. It is often a key character trait for those striving for greatness.

Jesus is the ultimate example of obedience. He did exactly what his Father asked of him, even when it cost him greatly. He understood that obedience was the only way to achieve success.

We may sacrifice friendships, relationships, financial rewards or respect when we obey God. But the sovereign, omnipotent God we serve is more than capable of dealing with any consequences of our obedience. He will always bless us.

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