The History and Meaning of Church Steeples: Your Essential Guide

How to Find Your Church Home

Religion is an all-American tapestry. Roughly 50% of Americans report belonging to a religious institution. Most religious Americans are Christians, attending services at thousands of churches.

Every church is different. Yet nearly all of them share church steeples in common.

What is the history of church steeples and crosses? Why do churches have steeples? What are some rumors about church steeples that are not true?

Answer these questions and you can gain a richer appreciation for religious architecture. Here is your quick guide.

The First Church Steeples

Church steeples began as marketing tools. Early Christian missionaries needed to bring followers into the church. But many people struggled with how foreign Christianity seemed to them.

The missionaries then adopted local traditions and added Christian qualities to them. Many societies had obelisks or pillars for different religious purposes. Christian missionaries adopted these objects and put them on top of their churches.

As time went on, the architecture of the church steeple changed. Church steeples from the 18th century reflect the sensibilities of King George I. This allowed churches to maintain connections to political leaders.

Modern-day organizations like American Steeples continue to make structures. Some structures follow traditional designs, while others reflect modern sensibilities. You can find a church steeple for sale in any style.

Practical Uses 

Many church steeples are very high. This has a practical effect because it allows people from far away to travel toward the church. The height also allowed people to look out for approaching threats.

During the Middle Ages, churches started using steeples to store their bells. This allowed the noises of the bells to travel long distances. This also freed up more space inside the body of the church.


You may notice gargoyles and other strange creatures on a steeple. These creatures have the purpose of protecting the faithful. They are supposed to scare away evil beings that hover around churches.

The height of the steeples also has a symbolic purpose. It points the way to heaven. The cross reminds the churchgoer of what they must adhere to in order to gain eternal life.


There is no one church steeple meaning. Each steeple has its own purpose, and there is no code that all steeples must follow. The lack of a clear purpose that all churches share leads to misconceptions.

Many people believe that architects designed steeples so the cross would be the tallest object in town. There is nothing to support this. Having a high cross may have a practical effect, but architects had other things on their minds.

Some people claim that Christians invented steeples to repel Viking invasions. Steeples were around before the Vikings invaded Christian territories.

The Essentials of Church Steeples

Church steeples are ubiquitous. But that wasn’t always the case.

Steeples have their roots in obelisks. Early Christians appropriated these structures so they could promote their religion.

As the years passed, they became useful tools to appease leaders. They became sites to store and ring bells so everyone in town could hear them.

On a symbolic level, they help deter evil spirits away from the church. Yet they were not built for the purpose of elevating the cross or fighting off Vikings.

Religion is complicated. But you can get a clear picture of it by following our coverage.

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