Red doors Church of Our Saviour Secaucus NJThis question never occurred to me, because the doors on the Episcopal and Anglican churches I have attended are painted brown.  However, now that I think about it …

Here is a fascinating compendium of answers from Episcopalians on the website of the Church of Our Saviour in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Much like the Anglican faith itself — there is general agreement but no ‘right’ answer:

– ‘… my architect friend here in Memphis [said] was that it was nothing more than a tradition, especially with Episcopal churches. He added that if you go to a strange city, you can readily identify the Episcopal Church as the one with the red doors.’ – Mark Emory Graham

– ‘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 ChurchRed doors Christ Church Episcopal Charlevoix MI Laurinburg, NC

– ‘I suspect that the red doors are much like academic gowns: since there is no authoritative source about what they symbolize, you can have fun finding your own meanings in them.’ – Louie Crew

– ‘Red is the color of the Passion. Red doors say that symbolically we enter the church the Passion, through death and resurrection in baptism (at an Orthodox baptism, the godparents present the candidate with red shoes as a symbol of walking the way of the cross) and by participating in the passion through the Eucharist.’ – Paul Woodrum

Red doors St Marks Lake City– ‘I too asked about the Red doors over the years. The only answer I ever got was that this is the color associated with the Holy Spirit.’ – Cipher Deavours 

– ‘My earliest Christian mentor … explained that the red door tradition originated during the Middle Ages in England when it was a sign of sanctuary. In those days, if one who was being pursued by the local populace, shire reeve (sheriff) or gentry could reach the church door he/she would be safe. Nobody would dare to do violence on hallowed ground and, in any case, the Church was not subject to civil law. The red door was fair warning to pursuers that they could proceed no further. One who claimed sanctuary in this way would then be able to present his/her case before the priest and ask that justice be served.’ – Ron McGee

– ‘Somewhere in the recesses of my understanding, all red doors initially indicated “sanctuary”. Out of ancient history, various places and cities were marked as safe havens,Red doors Church of the Ascension cartersville ga sanctuaries. People fleeing trouble and danger could find respite for a time, until they needed to get on with life. These places were marked with bright red color — the door, the opening through which one passed, etc. The Church might well have adopted this lore, as sanctuary amidst the world .. Seems plausible to me… ‘ – The Revd Joseph S Picard

Red doors St Pauls Episcopal Idaho– ‘Anybody read about Passover lately? You remember how the children of Israel were to mark “the lintel of the door” with blood, as a sign for the Angel of Death to pass over? Before modern chemistry and the variety of paint formulae, red paint was made with animal blood (really — I’m not making this up!). “Barn red,” that color so familiar, especially in New England barns, was made with a combination of buttermilk and animal blood — the blood for pigment/color, and the buttermilk as the binder/thickener. (You remember, of course, from art history, about renaisssance painters making their paints using egg yolk as a binder…). Anyhow, that’s how they made red paint: blood and buttermilk. It’s a pretty short step from there to red doors, if you are deeply steeped in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and know about marking the lintel of the door with blood to signify that you are among the saved…’ – The Revd Linda Strohmeier

Red doors Grace Episcopal Church gracesiloamorgThe most complete explanation came from the Revd Kenneth M Near, who says that whilst there is no single answer, the Passover and notion of sanctuary are prominent.  He explains (highlights mine):

And yes this history is long and goes back indeed to the Middle Ages (or perhaps even to the time of the Torah in the Hebrew Scriptures). However, with all of this rich imagery abounding, it still was the case in Great Britain and Canada in the 19th and early 20th century that only certain parishes painted their doors red. These were Anglo-Catholic parishes of the Oxford Movement (at least this was how it was reported to me by Urban Anglo-Catholic slum priests in Detroit and Toronto). In addition, a cross might appear on the parish steeple on these parishes. These were bold and controversial symbols at one time. Candles on the altar, liturgical vestments, Processional Crosses, Red Doors, Steeple Crosses, Weekly Eucharist, (not mention incense, bells, and lights that twinkle — ie votive candles) these were all considered radical. We take most of this in stride today.

Evangelical [Low Church] parishes at that time had there own external markings. Instead of a Cross atop a steeple and red doorsEvangelical parishes had a ‘Crowing Cock’ (a common symbol of the Passion of our Lord) atop the steeple and brown or gray coloured doors. These parishes thought of themselves as a place where one could find ‘The Word’ preached with authority without all the fuss … of those ‘other’ Anglican Christians.

The American Church experience has always been more eclectic. A few decades ago ‘High Church’ or ‘Anglo-Catholic’ parishes probably had red doors more commonly than ‘Liberal Protestant Parishes’ (these were far more common in the American experience than the Evangelical parishes of Britain and Canada). Today however this connection is lost. Presently, virtually every Episcopal Church parish has a cross on it and every parish uses candles. Today even Methodist and Baptist Churches in the United States have crosses on them and use candles. These signs and symbols are almost universally accepted.

 As Mr Near says, other Protestant denominations may also have red doors, such as Immanuel Lutheran (website link out of action) which says:

Red doors. These doors are symbolic of entering the Church and getting to our Heavenly Father through the blood of Christ

And that’s why many Episcopal and some other churches have red doors.  Hope you enjoyed the collection of red door photos!

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