If you ever look around at church, many items may make you wonder about their role in religious history, their use today and why many churches have these items: pews, stained glass, bells, pipe organs and the steeple you look up at on the way in.
* Pews.com: Have you ever been interested in church furnishings? This website by Imperial Woodworks Inc. offers a variety: altars, baptismal fonts, clergy/platform chairs, Communion tables, Communion rails, flower stands, hymn boards, lecterns, offering tables, tithe boxes, prayer altars, prayer desks, walk-in pulpits and, of course, pews with a variety of designs. It also offers theater seating if you can afford it.
The site lists 15 different traditional pew-end styles, eight colonial pew-end styles and four standard edge molds. There is also a listing for used pews.
* Stainedglass.org: This site by the Stained Glass Association looks at the history of the craft in religion, which can be traced to not too long after the death of Jesus, and in Egypt even earlier. The site says stained glass lost some of its allure in the late medieval age and the 19th century.
The site says the payment for stained glass in a church built in 1656 in America was 2 1/2 beavers for each pane.
* Www.verdin.com/bells/church-bell-history.php: The Verdin Bells & Clocks site says church bells first rang out in the fifth century in Campania, Italy, and spread throughout Europe during the next several centuries.
The site states that many of the first bells were square -- made from iron plates and riveted together. The first bells were relatively small compared with a 15-ton bell commissioned for Saint Francis de Sales in Cincinnati.
* Www.csa.com/discoveryguides/organs/review.php: There are many sites on pipe organs and their history. The instruments can be traced back before the time of Jesus.
"Ctesibius of Alexandria, Egypt, a musician and engineer who lived around 200 B.C., is generally credited with building the first pipe organ, the hydraulic. He employed an ingenious system using water pressure to regulate the pressure that may have been pumped by a windmill," the site says.
Church organs in Europe got their start in the Middle Ages.
If you are interested in buying an organ, two companies to check are A.E. Schleuter Co., at pipe-organ.com, and Parsons Pipe Organ Builders, at parsonsorgans.com. Their sites show a lot of instruments they have designed, built or renovated.
* Church steeples have hit the Internet. You can learn about their history and where to buy one.
American Steeples & Baptistries, at americansteeples.com, shows a whole range of fiberglass offerings. You can also opt for a custom steeple. A page at the site has 72 designs.
Lightning protection can be added to your purchase. You can also get a fabricated baptismal font. Schafer Manufacturing, at church-steeples.com, offers similar products.
Steeples became part of the massive European cathedrals built in the Middle Ages.
They are added to complement the architecture and help church-goers lift up their eyes heavenward, according to a February 2007 article in the archive at www.religiousproductnews.com.
Americans followed European Georgian architecture of the times leading up to the Revolutionary War, the site says. Since that time, steeples have taken on a variety of architectural styles.