Thursday Doors – Red Doors?

St James Episcopal
The red doors, the cross in the wall and the cross on the roof are all common elements of church structures.

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.

63 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Red Doors?

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  1. Someone posted on my Facebook recently with an article about all of the theories on red church doors, mentioning many if not all of the ones you do! Funny that I have seen two stories on this in the last week or so. I’m with you – I like the idea of safety. Am I wrong though – does it seem to be mainly Catholic and Episcopalian churches that have the red doors for the most part? What about us Protestants – most of our classic New England churches tend to have white or non-red doors :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know that some Methodist churches I’ve gone to have red doors and lots of Congregational churches have red doors. It may have been the pain that was available at the time and then carried on by tradition. I didn’t look around much when I was in London a few years ago, but several things that I read say that Anglican churches in England prefer blue over red. I’ll have to check that out if I go back.

      Seeing something you haven’t seen before and then seeing it multiple times is/might be an example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, Deb. If you’re curious, I wrote about that a year ago – https://nofacilities.com/2015/01/15/charles-dickens-other-mystery/ Thanks for the comment and sorry for the shameless plug :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just love the architecture, doors, and windows of churches, especially older churches like this one. My preference for the meaning of the red door is with St. David’s Episcopal Church…”The red doors symbolize the blood of Christ, which is our entry into salvation.” Yes, I like that. The doors to our church are glass, but I’ll think of this now every time I enter :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Red doors guarding us from evil would definitely have been my first thought, because this is a cultural overlap from so long ago, people argue about who had it first, but all of the older religions use it still.
    Then, when in doubt, here in the states, anything red means blood, and at church, especially Protestant.
    Also, what better color can there be for a white paneled church built in a natural green setting?
    No matter, church doors are almost always gorgeous, and these are too :) (But that stone, I’m with ya…Ooh!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fieldstone walls always makes me slow down and linger for a longer look too. With so many theories floating around as to why the doors are red I guess we’ll never know for sure which one is correct.
    Great post Dan :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Norm. I know the fieldstone was gathered locally, so that was a “this is what we have” choice. For all I know, the paint was chosen for the same reason Norm. Imagine a time when a parishioner would step up and say “hey, we need a church, I can build one for us.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Until Norm’s door series started featuring so many red church doors, I’d never noticed before. I rather like the theory that the red door signifies safety within … like a stop sign for danger.

    Like you, I really like stone walls and stone buildings. This one is even more attractive with the cross inset into the stone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you want to conduct your own research, which churches have the cross cut into the wall is another topic of mixed theories. Apparently, there’s a lot of tradition around what churches should and should not look like and whether congregations wanted to follow or rebel against those traditions. Thanks for the comment.

      Like

  6. Or maybe it’s just that, in a world of brown, black, and white doors, red doors stand out. Whatever your industry, you won’t get business if you don’t stand out, and red tends to be very eye-catching. (Witness the number of ads that are black and white with a pop of red.) Good pics, Dan, as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Or, as I think you mentioned last week Paul, maybe the hardware store had a sale on red paint. These days, we have a lot of choices for clear/natural finishes that stand up against the weather. I’m not sure they had so many choices early on. Thanks, as always for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the stone, and shape of the building. It’s rather barn like on the wing. We both posted churches built in the same era this week. I love red doors too, as you know from previous posts. I like the idea of red doors providing a safe haven within, and evil passing by a red door!

    Great post and images today!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you, Dan, for your explanations and your research into the red doors, because I was one of the commenters who asked WHY RED? I’m not sure right now which explanation I like best. I’ll have to mull this over while I work out at the gym. Perhaps a light bulb will go off. :) Really again enjoyed your door series today. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good post. Loved it. In India, red is the color of love and purity. So everything that involves love and pure intent starts with color red. Brides wear red sarees, they apply red sindoor which signifies their love for their husband. Similarly, men apply red tilak when they are about to start something new.

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  10. Love the look of the front of this church! t got me thinking that so many churches nowadays have gone away from looking like a church – and do not have the outside reminders like these red door,s of a particular aspect of faith.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I was with you. I only started thinking about it as people asked when I had photos of red doors on churches. I guess I just assumed that there was an association but I’ve mostly just always liked the color against the (usually) white entrance.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting theories about the red doors on churches. I don’t remember any red doors on churches throughout Iowa growing up. Our church (protestant – Presbyterian) had boring brown doors and so did most of the churches in that part of the country….not sure why either…?? Love your posts Dan!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great post Dan – love the stone walls and the ideas behind the red doors – fascinating to think of red as being symbolic of sanctuary when so often these days we use it to signify danger? Whatever the reason the red doors always look splendid!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I really liked the stone masonry and the red outline on this very old church, Dan. The doors are beautiful because of the “total picture.” I appreciate very much the way you covered all the possible reasons for red doors, including safety. On medical buildings, the red staff is a symbol of the Hippocratic oath taken. Red Cross uses red to delineate, of course.
    I had thought about commented on my Episcopla church post who said churches with red doors meant solvency and mortgages paid off. I had heard of the red representating the “Blood of Christ.” I am happy to hear of the presence of the Holy Spirit reason now.
    It doesn’t matter to me the reason just the color red really sets the building off. Red doors, as in this choice, makes it a cut above in my mind. :)

    Liked by 1 person

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