Today’s doors are on St. James Episcopal Church in Farmington, CT. They began building this church in 1873 and they continued adding onto it until 1958. Henry Mason, a parishioner when they were holding services in a chapel over a grocery store, designed and built the original church building (the portion shown on the right). He also built the original wooden altar, from wood harvested on his property. According to their website, “St. James Parish includes a church seating 225, extensive church school facilities, a library, clergy and business offices, a large parish hall and kitchen, and a memorial garden.”
I was sold when I saw the fieldstone walls. I know, it’s about the doors, but I love stone walls. The reason I selected this church for today is because I wanted to answer a question that I’ve received several times, including a few times last week – “why are the church doors red?”
I need to say that I don’t really know the answer. I searched for it and it seems that I’m in good company. There are tons of pages that attempt to answer this question, but most acknowledge that they can’t say for sure. Below are some of the answers mentioned most often. Feel free to accept one or more, or none. Maybe the red paint was on sale.
One humorous answer is that the doors were painted red once the mortgage was paid. A twist on that is that the doors remained painted red until the mortgage is paid. Neither is true, but it highlights the fact that red doors have been piquing peoples’ curiosity for many years.
A different, albeit short and sweet answer, is that red doors indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Another popular suggestion is that Protestant church doors are red because the doors of Wittenburg Cathedral in Germany, where Martin Luther posted his Theses, were red. That wouldn’t explain why so many doors to Roman Catholic churches are red.
One explanation is quoted often on the pages that appear in response to this search. So as not to break tradition, I’ve included it below:
“The red doors symbolize the blood of Christ, which is our entry into salvation. They also remind us of the blood of the martyrs, the seeds of the church.” – St. David’s Episcopal Church.
Second in popularity among the sources I reviewed is that the color red is taken from the Passover story, where the children of Israel were told to mark the lintel of their doors with blood and that the Angel of Death would pass over that house.
The answer that is most often suggested holds that red doors signify a place of safety. Red doors telegraph the holy ground that lies behind them and they offer protection from spiritual and physical evil. Supposedly, one could not pursue an enemy past red doors into a church and the people within the church enjoyed sanctuary. Legend tells us that red doors on secular buildings often signified the same thing.
As I mentioned, I received this question several times last week when I featured the Church of the Epiphany, with its brilliant red doors. Since that church served as a hospital for wounded soldiers of the Union Army during the Civil War, I have to say that the last answer seems appropriate.
This post is part of the fun series – Thursday Doors, hosted by Norm Frampton. You can join us. Visit Norm’s page and click on the Linky thing. if you don’t have a door, you can visit and click and see the other doors offered today.