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A look at the unique designs and interesting facets of Baton Rouge’s houses of worship


In some communities, the steeple of a church might be the tallest structure around. While office buildings and Tiger Stadium may stand higher in Baton Rouge, our places of worship are no less arresting for their graceful towers, unique interior designs and fascinating religious items.

In 2016, 225 ran a photography series on how locals worship. We focused then on the faces in prayer inside diverse spiritual centers, from
St. Joseph’s Cathedral to the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge. Putting together that series reminded us of the architectural beauty of those places as well.

Turn the page as we highlight the first two in a new series of visual profiles on places of worship in Baton Rouge.


TAM BAO

Buddhist temple and meditation center

The main facility is the Meditation Hall, where practitioners and visitors alike come to meditate and pray. All photos of Tam Bao by Taylor Moran.

On left: The decor inside the hall is simple, with a Buddha statue at the back of the room sitting in a meditation posture. Offerings to the Buddha, such as oranges and flowers, surround the statue.

On right: The windows of the hall are etched with an image of the lotus, one of the most important symbols of Buddhism. Because the striking flower grows in muddy water, Buddhists see it as a metaphor for the long path to purity and enlightenment.


Within the Appreciation Tower are cremation urns belonging to Buddhists, as well as other members of the community who requested their ashes be kept there. “People who pass away, we still remember them,” says Abbot Thay Dao Quang. “We accept everyone who wants to put an urn inside. At nighttime, we turn on the lights, and the tower looks like a crystal.”

On left: An inscription on the bell outside the meditation hall reads in part: “May the sound of this bell penetrate deeply into the cosmos. In even the darkest places may living beings hear it clearly so that understanding comes to the hearts …”

On right: The massive “Happy Buddha” statue dominates one of the gardens, where Thay says many people like to spend a quiet moment before they go to work. The Happy Buddha, he says, has developed a high level of acceptance and tolerance, “so he can smile all the time.” Thay originally asked the sculptor in Vietnam to depict the Buddha holding a football. But the sculptor didn’t understand the American sport, so they agreed on a globe instead.


The Appreciation Tower stands among 32 live oaks on the tranquil grounds of the meditation center, which isn’t far from busy Florida Boulevard. Within the tower are cremation urns belonging to Buddhists, as well as other members of the community who requested their ashes be kept there. “People who pass away, we still remember them,” says Abbot Thay Dao Quang. “We accept everyone who wants to put an urn inside. At nighttime, we turn on the lights, and the tower looks like a crystal.”

BORADMOOR BAPTIST CHURCH

Congregants say it looks like the space shuttle taking off, and for travelers on Goodwood Boulevard, the church’s exterior is enough to make them stop and stare. The uniquely shaped structure was designed by architect Harold Thompson and completed in 1971. All photos of Broadmoor Baptist Church by Collin Richie.

On left: Embedded in the glass are numerous symbols of stars and crosses, evoking Jesus’ birth under a star and his suffering and death on the cross.

On right: The stained glass, created by artist Roy Calligan Jr., was meticulously arranged on the grounds outside before being assembled and installed. Similar to the upward movement of the roof, the hues of the stained glass take on a similar theme. “Most of the colors at the bottom are earth tones, and then they move up to blues and purples of the sky at the top, so it’s a transition,” Ezell says. “You’re lifting the eyes from the earthly and being drawn up through worship.”


The nontraditional design extends inside, with two towering crosses flanked by stained-glass windows on either end of the sanctuary. Senior pastor Leonard R. Ezell says the curved roof, similar to an A-frame shape, is meant to evoke a sweeping, upward feeling.

THE SERIES CONTINUES

We’re looking for unique architecture and religious artifacts at local places of worship to include in future editions of this series. Email suggestions to [email protected] Find Tam Bao at batonrougebuddha.org and Broadmoor Baptist at broadmoorbaptist.com.


This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.