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S acred A rchitecture

ISSN# 1535-9387

Issue 17 2010

Journal of the Institute for Sacred Architecture

The problem with a large part of modern liturgiology is that it tends to recognize only antiquity as a source, and therefore
normative, and to regard everything developed later, in the Middle Ages and through the Council of Trent, as decadent…we
cannot take as our norm the ancient in itself and as such, nor must we automatically write off later developments as alien to the
original form of liturgy. There can be a thoroughly living kind of development in which a seed at the origin of something ripens
and bears fruit. -- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy

art of the history of art and ar- summation of the world ... it is neither be seen as part of the great tradition,
chitecture is the revivification wise nor laudable to reduce everything along with the Romanesque, the Byz-
of elements found in the past. to antiquity by every possible de- antine, the Renaissance and Baroque.
Sometimes this is a matter of continu- vice.” The history of sacred architecture is the
ity, while at other times the elements While the advocacy of a return to history of revival but also of develop-
are referenced in order to associate the antiquity and the house church is to- ment.
new work with a building or a histori- day less strong, the archeologism to This is not to argue that it is some-
cal period. The twentieth-century Li- which Pope Pius referred is nonethe- how unnatural for us to have our fa-
turgical Movement sought a return to less emerging in new forms. Christians vorite music, paintings, or churches. It
the liturgy of antiquity and viewed de- look to the “good old days,” whether is also perfectly valid, even beneficial,
velopments dating from the medieval they were the 1950s or the 1250s. The to debate the relative merits of vari-
period or Counter-Reformation as un- further away the era, the easier it is to ous periods of architecture. However,
necessary accretions or decadences. By mask its imperfections and to reclaim it a catholic understanding of art and
the 1920s, the desire to strip the liturgy as some golden age when things were architecture can appreciate the high
of these accretions found its architec- better, purer. However, as Sacrosanctum Gothic cathedral as well as the humble
tural corollary in the stripping of saints Concilium states, “in the course of the mission church, the early Christian ba-
and altarpieces from high altars. The centuries, she [the Church] has brought silica and the Baroque chapel of the Ro-
theorists of the Liturgical Movement, into being a treasury of art which must sary attached to it. While it may seem
for instance, wanted to focus on the be very carefully preserved.” Art from natural to equate different architectural
sacrificial nature of the Mass, but to the the past is a window onto the faith and styles with the strengths or weaknesses
exclusion of other iconography. Their practice of a specific time, but it can of an age, it is in fact based on a histori-
model, which was adopted in both also speak to all ages. To reject peri- cist or modernist approach to history.
new and existing churches, comprised ods, other than our favorites, as either Seeking to build new architecture be-
an unencumbered stone altar with a primitive or decadent is to miss out on cause it hearkens back to a golden age,
bronze tabernacle on top, surmounted the rich tapestry of art and architecture whether antiquity, the Middle Ages, or
by a crucifix with a canopy or balda- that the Church has fostered. any other time is archeologism. Sacred
chin above. It had a classic simplicity One of the most fascinating architec- architecture must be based on prin-
inspired by antiquity that continues to tural precursors to the Liturgical Move- ciples and examples of the past, but it
resonate with Catholics today. Did ment was the nineteenth-century Goth- cannot recreate that supposed golden
this paring down of Gothic and classi- ic revival. The leading Catholic figure age. As Pope Benedict XVI said on the
cal churches in the name of an earlier of the revival, A. W. N. Pugin, believed occasion of the five hundredth anniver-
golden age lead to the later adoption of that the Gothic was the only true Chris- sary of the Vatican Museums in June
modernist architecture for our church- tian architecture. He was supported 2006:
es? The removal of tabernacles, side in this belief by the Ecclesiological So-
altars, altar rails, and pews which fol- ciety in the Anglican church. Though In every age Christians have
lowed in the 1950s and 1960s, resulted a talented architect, Pugin rejected the sought to give expression to faith’s
in the reinvention of church architec- first nine hundred years of architecture vision of the beauty and order of
ture as community hall. as prologue and the last four hundred God’s creation, the nobility of our
In his 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei years as decline. His was an attrac- vocation as men and women made
Pope Pius XII expressed concern about tive, though simplistic, theory which in His image and likeness, and the
what he called archeologism: “The lit- equated Gothic art and architecture promise of a cosmos redeemed and
urgy of the early ages is most certainly with the presumed purity, chivalry, and transfigured by the grace of Christ.
worthy of all veneration. But ancient piety of the Middle Ages. This roman- The artistic treasures which sur-
usage must not be esteemed more suit- tic conception, along with the dismissal round us are not simply impres-
able and proper, either in its own right of other periods of architecture as less sive monuments of a distant past.
or in its significance for later times and Christian, has curiously resurfaced in Rather, … they stand as a perennial
new situations, on the simple ground recent decades. witness to the Church’s unchang-
that it carries the savor and aroma of Should we aspire to recover a gold- ing faith in the Triune God who,
antiquity. The more recent liturgical en age of liturgy or architecture, or in the memorable phrase of St.
rites likewise deserve reverence and should we seek to create beautiful and Augustine, is Himself “Beauty ever
respect. They, too, owe their inspira- timeless works of sacred art and archi-
tion to the Holy Spirit, who assists the tecture? Both the early Christian house Duncan Stroik
Church in every age even to the con- church and the Gothic cathedral should November 2009

On the cover: Altar of Saint Peter, Cathedral and National Shrine of Saint Paul, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Photo by Doug Ohman.
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

E di t o r ia l
2 W Pulchrum Est Id Quod Visum Placet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Duncan Stroik

News & Letters

3 W Unity Temple undergoes restoration and repair W Basilica of the Immaculate Conception fiftieth anniversary W
W Saint Anthony High School dedicated new chapel W Appeal to the Holy Father by lay theologians and artists W
W World's oldest church discovered in Jordan W Saint Mel Cathedral in Ireland destroyed by fire W
W Renzo Piano designs new gatehouse at Ronchamp W Church replica constructed inside a Japanese hotel W
W Co-Cathedral in West Virginia named a Minor Basilica W 2010 Palladio Award Winners announced W
W Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Port-au-Prince destroyed in 7.0 magnitude earthquake W

A r t ic l e s
12 W Retro Tablum: The Origins and Role of the Altarpiece in the Liturgy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Daniel P. DeGreve
20 W Praise with Majesty and Reverence: Ecclesiastic Art and Feast Days. . . . . . . The Office of the Maronite Patriarchate
22 W Back to the Future: Ecclesiastical Art After Postmodernism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . J.E. Rutherford
27 W A Response to Ottakar Uhl's Church Building as Process. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Heidemarie Seblatnig
30 W An Offering of Beauty: Saint Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Evan McWilliams
36 W Everglade Oratory: A Visit to the Chapel at Ave Maria University. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Turner

D o c u m e n tat i o n
39 W Meeting With Artists. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . His Holiness Benedict XVI

43 W Stone and Glass: the Meaning of the Cathedral of Saint Paul by Dia Boyle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . reviewed by Thomas M. Dietz
44 W The Beauty of Holiness by Louis P. Nelson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . reviewed by Carrol W. Westfall
45 W Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy by Denis R. McNamara. ..reviewed by Riccrardo S. Vicenzino
47 W Contemporary Church Architecture by Edwin Heathcote and Laura Moffatt . . . . . . . . . reviewed by Thomas D. Stroka
48 W Picturing the Celestial City by Michael W. Cothren . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . reviewed by Virginia C. Raguin
49 W America's First Cathedral by Mary-Cabrini Durkin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . reviewed by Philip Nielsen

50 W From the Publishing Houses: a Selection of Recent Books . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . compiled by Sacred Architecture

w w w . s a c r e d a r c h i t e c t u r e . o r g

Journal of the Institute for Sacred Architecture

The Institute for Sacred Architecture is a non-profit organization made up of architects, clergy, educators and others interested in the discus-
sion of significant issues related to contemporary Catholic architecture. Sacred Architecture is published biannually for $9.95.
©2010 The Institute for Sacred Architecture.
Address manuscripts and
letters to the Editor: PRODUCTION
Duncan Stroik John Burgee, FAIA Thomas Stroka
P.O. Box 556 Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap. Philip Nielsen
Notre Dame, IN 46556 Rev. Cassian Folsom, OSB Jamie LaCourt
voice: (574) 232-1783 Dr. Ralph McInerny + Forest Walton
email: editor@sacredarchitecture.org Thomas Gordon Smith, AIA Helena Tomko

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 3

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S acred A rchitecture N ews

the building features a flat roof and The Basilica of the National Shrine of
exposed concrete walls. The worship the Immaculate Conception celebrated
space has two balconies that supply its fiftieth anniversary over the course of
additional seating for the congregation, four days in November 2009. Archbishop
which today numbers around five Donald Wuerl of Washington celebrated
hundred people. After continual water the Mass on November 19 with forty

Photo: www.slamcoll.com
infiltration and severe damage in a 2008 bishops from across the U.S. Archbishop
storm, the Unity Temple Restoration Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the
Foundation—a nonprofit organization U.S., read the original letter written for
established in 1973 to care for the historic the occasion of the dedication of the
structure—developed a plan to restore shrine in 1959 by Blessed Pope John
Sacred Heart Parish in Weymouth, MA the National Historic Landmark. The XXIII. At the solemn closing Mass, the
Foundation has raised nearly $500,000 main celebrant Monsignor Walter Rossi,
After a fire destroyed their church in for stabilizing the roof and is working rector of the basilica, wore the vestments
June 2005, Sacred Heart Parish in with Harboe Architects of Chicago to Francis Cardinal Spellman wore for the
Weymouth, MA, rebuilt the church implement a comprehensive restoration dedication in 1959.
using its original design by noted master plan that will cost $20–25 million.
ecclesial architect Patrick Keely (1816-
1896) as a guide. Completed in 1882, W
the original church served the local
Irish-Catholic population. Since then Salve Regina University in Newport,
the parish has grown to include an RI, is currently building a new campus
elementary and high school. Architects chapel entitled Our Lady of Mercy
from the Boston office of the S/L/A/M Chapel designed by architect Robert
Collaborative, developed the plans for A.M. Stern of New York. The current
rebuilding the church. The new church chapel is in the first-floor ballroom of
incorporates stained-glass windows, Ochre Court, a former mansion that
light fixtures, and Stations of the Cross also provides for administrative offices

Photo: Flickr, "~MVI~"

salvaged from closed churches in the for the university. Sunday Masses
Boston Archdiocese, along with the hosted by campus ministry have 30-50
newly created furnishings designed to students in attendance, while the total
complement the traditional architecture student population is 2,700. The new
of the church. His Eminence Sean building will house a chapel to hold
Cardinal O’Malley celebrated the Mass of 225 people, campus ministry offices, The Basilica of the National Shrine of the
Dedication of the new church. and an interfaith worship space. It is Immaculate Conception in D.C.
hoped that the new chapel building will
W strengthen the spiritual identity of the
school and encourage participation in W
The National Trust for Historic the faith community.
Preservation included Unity Temple in Saint Vincent de Paul Church, in
Oak Park, IL, on its 2009 list of America’s W downtown Portland, OR, is building
Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places. a new exterior canopy, belfry, and art
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and On November 9, 2009 the Vatican gallery facing the street to improve its
constructed between 1905 and 1908 for launched a website that offers a visibility in the neighborhood. The
the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, virtual tour of Saint John Lateran 14,000-square-foot concrete building, a
Basilica. Professor Paul Wilson, of former hotel, will also have improved
the Communications Department at lighting and a new baptismal font. The
Villanova University, proposed the idea parish church moved into the building
in 2007, and a team of Villanova staff and in the 1970s, when their former chapel
students carried out the project with a was demolished for construction of the
camera on a tall tripod. Positioned at U.S. Bancorp Tower. After the Jesuits
Photo: www.flickr.com "jeklee"

the papal altar, apse, nave, and several served at the parish for many years,
side chapels, the camera photographed the Holy Cross Fathers took over in the
the details of the interior at a very high 1980s and have developed a network of
quality. The project intends to foster student volunteers from the University
interest in the art and architecture of Portland to assist in their ministry
of sacred places in Rome and has to the poor. The parish is planning
Interior of Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity previously captured the interiors of the an $800,000 campaign to pay for the
Temple in Oak Park, IL Sistine Chapel and the Basilica of Saint project and to create a fund for future
Mary Major among others. improvements.

4 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

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a newer, smaller church. Finished in

1870, the Neogothic church stands over
the ruins of a sixteenth-century church
destroyed in the French Revolution.
Cost estimates put the price to renovate
the existing church at $4.4 million as
opposed to $1.9 million to demolish it
and build a new one. However, local
townspeople dispute the proposed cost
and claim that the decision was made
to fight unemployment. The church’s
pastor, Father Pierre Pouplard, who also
serves at four other nearby churches,

Photo: Ray O'Connor Photography

has accepted the budget calculations
of the town council and supports the
building of a new church. The Paris-
based Religious Heritage Observatory
estimates that of the approximately
90,000 church buildings in France only
about 20 percent are protected by the
Saint Anthony's High School drew inspriation from a twelfth-century Spanish chapel government for their architectural
for its new Our Lady of the Angels Chapel significance. The organization’s
president, Béatrice de Andia, said, “the
Saint Anthony’s High School in South the school. Church may be eternal, but not the
Huntington, NY, completed and W churches. In the past, these buildings
dedicated the new Our Lady of the were sacred, but today there is no sense
Angels Chapel in September 2008. of the sacred.”
Brother Gary Cregan, OSF, oversaw the Before his retirement in January,
project, as the school needed a larger concluding nearly twenty-five years as W
chapel to accommodate the growing the head of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-
student population. The chapel is South Bend, Bishop John D’Arcy made The United States Conference of
inspired by the twelfth-century Spanish suggestions in a seventeen page letter Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has pledged
Fuentiduena Chapel at The Cloisters, to merge or close twenty parishes in the support to the Church in Haiti as it
a branch of the Metropolitan Museum diocese as a result of the priest shortage. rebuilds its church buildings. Francis
of Art in New York City. Baldassano The letter also discusses the merging of Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago
Architects of Ronkonkoma, NY, carried parish schools. Thee decisions about and president of the USCCB, expressed
out the chapel design and Petrocelli school mergers will wait until a future condolences for the terrible tragedy that
Contracting was the general contractor school year. has taken 217,000 lives and left 1 million
for the $3 million project. The chapel Haitians homeless. Archbishop Timothy
interior features limestone from Iraq, W Dolan of New York, representing the
a marble floor, and an apse fresco USCCB and all American Catholics,
that depicts Mary holding the infant The town council in Gesté, France, attended the funeral of Archbishop
Jesus, surrounded by sixteen students voted to demolish the nineteenth- Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince,
in uniform and six Franciscan saints. century Church of Saint Peter and who died in the earthquake. In his letter,
Purchased from a church in Viterbo, replace the aging stone building with Cardinal George wrote, “In this hour
Italy, the sixteenth-century travertine of sorrow, I want you to know that the
altar panel portrays the pelican feeding Church in the U.S. stands with you.”
her young with blood from her breast.
Many other furnishings of the chapel
come from closed churches, including W
the bell forged in 1948 by the Meenley
Bell Company, the Stations of the Cross
from the Franciscan Brothers Novitiate His Holiness Benedict XVI appointed
in Wyandanch, NY and a one hundred Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican
year old stained glass window depicting Museums, as the new president of
Saint Anthony from Spain. Newly the Permanent Commission for the
Photo: Didier Rykner

commissioned items include the San Protection of Historical and Artistic

Damiano cross replica completed by Monuments of the Holy See in January.
Demetz Artisans in Tyrol, Austria and Originally established in 1923, the
the tabernacle which is modeled on commission is under the direction of the
the Porziuncola Chapel in Assisi. The The town council in Gesté, France voted to President of the Pontifical Commission
new high school chapel prominently is raze the Church of Saint Peter. for the Vatican City State, Giovanni
positioned in the central courtyard of Cardinal Lajolo.
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 5
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A group of lay theologians, musicians, increasingly spoiled the Holy church above the chapel. However,
artists, and architects from around Liturgy. Instead a renewal of many archeologists discredit the
the world, including art critic Carlo Gregorian chant and forms of accuracy of the chapel’s age. Currently,
Fabrizio Carli, architect Ciro Lomonte, music that embody the sacred it is unclear which church holds the title
and author Martin Mosebach, drafted liturgy in their “true aesthetical, of world’s oldest, though several places
a formal appeal to the Holy Father to verbal, and sensitive universality.” date to the third century after Christ.
restore Catholicity to the arts and to should be promoted.
restore beauty to churches, focusing on W
seven key issues: • A request for new definitions of
artistic and architectural canons,
• The need to articulate clearly similar to the “naodomia” defined
integrity, proportion, and splendid in the Eastern Church.
form as the three tenets of Catholic
aesthetics. These culminate in The letter laments the “rebellion of
their depiction of the truth of contemporary art” and our “era of
Christ in the realities of the liturgy. irrational, mundane and miseducative
barbarism.” References to Pope Paul

Photo: John Armagh, Wikimedia Commons

• The need to correct the ignorance VI’s speech to artists that established
and misguidance of commissioned a pact between artists and the Church
artists, who fail to recognize their suggest the need to infuse faith into
task as fulfilling the requests of sacred art: “It is no longer only art,
their patrons. but spirituality.” The letter argues that
forty-five years after the new pact, the
• S o m e h a v e a t t e m p t e d t o artistic images in our churches are only
desacralize the House of God. nominally religious, and that some even
The Church should integrate distort the teaching of the Incarnation.
artistic and architectural courses Thus far, the letter has garnered over The Cathedral of Saint Mel in Longford
in seminary curricula in order 1,800 signatories. was destroyed by fire.
to encourage new priests to
take responsibilty for a coherent W An early morning fire on Christmas
presentation of the tradition of Day destroyed Saint Mel Cathedral in
Mother Church. The Liturgical Institute at the University Longford, Ireland. Passersby alerted
of Saint Mary of the Lake is hosting a one the fire department of flames in the
• Improve catechetical training for day workshop on Catholic Architecture cathedral 5 A.M., but it was too late to
artists, so that even nonbelievers April 30, 2010 in Mundelein, IL. The save the building. An investigation into
may be introduced to the liturgy workshop, presented by architectural the cause of the fire is underway by the
and Scripture. historian Dr. Denis McNamara, will Garda. Bishop Colm O’Reilly of the
explore the meaning of liturgical Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois,
• Reintroduce the idea of “templum” architecture and practical applications. who had just celebrated Midnight Mass
in the definition of sacred space: Priests, architects, artists, liturgy in the cathedral hours before, described
the consecrated church building is directors and members of building the building as “burned out from end to
distinct from the profane, and thus committees and lay Faithful are invited end.” He has already begun fundraising
its architectural design demands a to learn more about Catholic art and the efforts for a replacement cathedral. The
monumental entrance; an ordered pursuit of beauty for the House of God. stone neoclassical cathedral, dedicated
arrangement that is appropriate to Register at www.liturgicalinstitute.org. to fifth-century Saint Mel, was designed
the Body of Christ (for example, by architect Joseph Keane and built
the cruciform plan); a hierarchy of W between 1840 and 56, while the belfry
spaces that elevates the sanctuary and portico were added later.
from the nave to symbolize the Archeologists may have discovered the
spiritual journey of man to God; world’s oldest church in Rihab, Jordan. W
and the skillful use of light to raise The underground chapel dates to the
the hearts of the faithful. In this year 33 AD and served as both a home
context the historical tradition is and a place of worship. Located below
not an obstacle to creativity but the foundation of the Church of Saint
rather serves to “communicate Georgeous, the chapel is forty feet long
the shared objectivity” in which and twenty-three feet wide and includes
the church building teaches the an apse and stone seating for clergy. In
truths of the Faith. addition, coins and iron crosses were
discovered in a nearby tunnel leading
Photo: EPA

• Promote a sacred music that to a cistern. An inscription dedicated

has a closer connection to the to seventy refugees believed to have
liturgy, since music that does not worshipped here after the persecution Archeologists may have discovered the
refer to a good beyond itself has in Jerusalem appears in the floor of the world's oldest church in Jordan.
6 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010
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international economic institutions and The Indianapolis Museum of Art

practices and draws attention to how recently ended their free exhibit Sacred
the moral failures of greedy financiers Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World,
and investors contributed in the global which displayed seventy religious
economic crisis. The Synod of Bishops works of seventeenth-century Spain

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

for Africa concluded with fifty-seven and Latin America never before seen in
pastoral proposals for the Church in the United States. Highlights included
Africa. the legendary gold and emerald Crown
of the Andes that adorns the statue of
W the Virgin Mary in Popayán, Colombia;
In Dong Chiem, Vietnam, police a life-size wooden sculpture of Christ
The pilgrimage chapel of Notre Dame du injured at least a dozen Catholics who by Juan Sanchez Barba that is used in
Haut in Ronchamp, France. tried to prevent the destruction of a Holy Week processions in the Spanish
crucifix in their parish cemetery. The town of Navalcarnero; and Francisco
The Association Oeuvre Notre-Dame- Communist authorities, who claim Zurbarán’s Agnus Dei, a depiction of a
du-Haut in Ronchamp, France has the cemetery property belongs to the lamb bound for sacrifice. More than
commissioned architect Renzo Piano people and that the state manages it for 50,000 visitors attended the three-month-
to design a new gatehouse and a small the people, destroyed the crucifix with long exhibit.
convent and oratory for the Poor Clares explosives. The Hanoi Archdiocese
of Besançon at the site of the 1955 condemned the event as a sacrilege
pilgrimage chapel designed by Le against the Catholic faith.
Corbusier. The facility will be built
mostly underground and will not be W
visible from the existing chapel. The
project will cost €12 million and cater The Church of the Holy Trinity and
to the 80,000 visitors who visit the site four statues at the Shrine of Our Lady
every year. of Fatima in Portugal were vandalized
in the early hours of January 10, 2010.
Graffiti on the side of the church building
Photo: Renzo Piano Bldg Workshop

and statues of John Paul II, Paul VI, and

Pius XII included words such as “Islam,”

Photo:Indianapolis Museum of Fine Art

“moon,” “Muslim,” and “mosque.”
The shrine, which developed after the
miraculous visions of Lúcia Santos,
Jacinta Marto and Francisco Marto in
1917, attracts four million pilgrims every
The gatehouse and convent will be built year.
mostly underground.
W Saint Teresa Receiving a Collar and a Veil
On December 1, 2009, Pope Benedict ca.1680–Mexico City
XVI celebrated Mass ad orientem in the
The Holy Father had a busy 2009. He Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, W
canonized ten new saints, made a which was recently re-inaugurated after
pilgrimage to the Holy Land, published restoration work. It was the first time the
his third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate Holy Father publicly celebrated Mass in The new Saint Joseph Regional Medical
(Charity in Truth), took a weeklong the traditional posture at a freestanding Center near South Bend, Indiana is home
Apostolic Journey to Cameroon and altar that allows for either form of to a Spiritual Center that comprises a
Angola in Africa, and hosted an celebration. seventy-five-seat Catholic chapel under
African synod at the Vatican. Father the patronage of Our Lady of Fatima
Damien de Veuster, one of the newly as well as Jewish and Islamic prayer
proclaimed saints, was a nineteenth- rooms. The chapel features artwork
century Belgian missionary who salvaged from previous locations,
worked with leprosy patients on the including stained-glass windows dating
Hawaiian island of Molokai. The back to 1902 from the hospital’s original
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

pope’s eight-day pilgrimage to Jordan, South Bend location and Stations of

Israel, and Palestine included a visit to the Cross from their campus in nearby
a mosque, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Mishawaka. In addition to the historic
memorial in Jerusalem, and the blessing pieces, the chapel has a new wooden
of cornerstones for new Christian altar handmade by a Holy Cross priest.
churches and facilities in the region. The chapel is part of the 663,000 square
Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI’s first The interior of the Pauline Chapel in the foot hospital designed by Hellmuth,
social encyclical, calls for the reform of Apostolic Palace of the Vatican. Obata and Kassabaum Architects.
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 7
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murals executed in 1821 by local Salinian under construction. One example is the
Indians and a wooden retablo painted new 35,000 square-foot Church of All
in pastels of green, pink, and blue with Saints, which broke ground November 1,
a statue of Saint Michael the Archangel. 2009. Because of the limited capacity in
Earthquake insurance defrayed the cost the current church, priests offer thirteen
of restoration after the joint owners, the Sunday Masses during the crowded
Diocese of Monterey and the Franciscan winter months. The parish has already
Fathers of California, fought to get the raised $4 million of the $6.5 million
claim paid. Mission San Miguel was budget.
the sixteenth California mission and W
was returned to the Franciscan order in
1928 after changing hands through the The Vietnamese Dominican Sisters of
Mexican government, several private Mary Immaculate Province in Houston
businesses and the Diocese of Monterey. lost their preschool building to a
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
devastating fire on December 4, 2009.
No one was hurt in the blaze, but
W it burned the entire building to the
ground. The sisters are in the midst of
Bishop Thomas Olmsted dedicated the reconstructing their convent building,
new Church of the Immaculate which Hurricane Ike damaged in 2008.
Caravaggio's Painting of the Nativity Conception in Cottonwood, AZ, However, the need to rebuild their
convent enabled the sisters to address
Caravaggio’s painting of the Nativity, deficiencies in their prior facility, such
stolen forty years ago from the Oratory of as its small 40-seat chapel and sleeping
San Lorenzo in Palermo, was evidently quarters, as well as an inadequate
destroyed by the Mafia. The six-by- library for the sisters’ studies. The

Photo: Quod Lock: Concrete Building Solutions

eight-foot masterpiece was stolen from new convent will include a 160-seat
the oratory in October 1969. A former chapel and 20 additional bedrooms at
Mafia hitman turned police informer an estimated cost of $3.5 million. The
stated in December 2009 that he was Dominican sisters trace their origin to
told the painting was destroyed by rats Father Bustamante, who founded the
and pigs while hidden in a barn and was first house for women in 1715 in North
subsequently burned. Contradictory Vietnam. The houses grew in number,
evidence given by other mafia members first as independent organizations of
has resulted in continued optimism Third Order Dominicans and then as
about the existence of the painting, one the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine
of Caravaggio’s last works before his of Siena. After the fall of Saigon in
death. The painting depicts the Nativity Immaculate Conception Parish 1975, the Communist authorities seized
with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence, in Cottonwood, AZ schools and formation houses, and
and was completed in 1609 by the artist some of the religious sisters were
during his exile in Sicily. designed by C.C.B.G. Architects, in the scattered. Established in 1978, the Mary
Diocese of Phoenix on December 8, 2009. Immaculate Province in Houston today
W One thousand parishioners attended the includes 100 members with a median
ceremony during an unusually cold day. age of 38.
The parish, formed in 1930, moved to its
current site in 2002 and held Masses in a W
temporary structure until the completion Spassky Monastery is becoming the
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

of their new church. Based on the model of spiritual rebirth in Russia, as

results of a survey of its parishioners, the Orthodox Church gains ground after
Immaculate Conception decided to seventy-five years of persecution by the
build a traditional cruciform church Communist government. The abbot,
to accommodate 1,500 people for $5.4 Father Kirill Epifanov, was appointed to
million. During the dedication homily, resurrect the eleventh-century religious
The Mission in San Miguel, CA Bishop Olmsted stated, “Those who center in Murom along the Oka River
generously live out their love for God east of Moscow. First he built a bakery
Mission San Miguel, CA, re-opened to will undoubtedly love their neighbor, to supply an income to the monks, and
parishioners last fall after six years and who is made in the image and likeness of then he slowly refurbished the grounds
$10 million in seismic retrofitting and God. Doesn’t the building of this church of the monastery. Today the town of
repair to address the severe damage help us carry out our vocation with Murom receives busloads of tourists to
caused by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake enthusiasm?" The Diocese of Phoenix visit the medieval town and its churches.
in December 2003. Founded by the is in the midst of a building boom with While in 1987 there were only three
Franciscans in 1797 and rebuilt in 1818, the dedication of three new churches in monasteries, two seminaries, and two
the mission church features lime-plaster 2009 and another six church currently thousand churches in all of Russia, today

8 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

N e w s

religious order committed to education graduate student teams. The dome is

and the Eucharist. The statue, carved the central dome of the basilica, and
by Marco Augustus Dueñas of Spain, stands 89 feet wide and 100 feet above
stands twenty feet tall and has a young the floor. The basilica’s iconography
girl depicted below the saint. The committee selected the winner of the

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

superior general of the order, Mother two-week competition from among
Mitsuyo Fukusawa, and the Spanish and the seven teams. The winning design
Japanese ambassadors to the Holy See depicts the Trinity in Glory framed by
were present at the statue’s unveiling. the four archangels on one half of the
There are currently 1,300 Handmaids dome and the Holy Family accompanied
of the Sacred Heart in over twenty by saints on the other. Monsignor
Spassky Monastery in Muron, Russia countries around the world. Walter Rossi, rector of the basilica,
awarded the freshmen a cash prize of
there are four hundred seventy-eight W $1,000. The basilica is free to change the
monasteries, twenty-five seminaries proposal or commission a new one, but
and thirteen thousand churches. Sixty Sainte Marie de la Tourette Dominican the competition marks a significant step
percent of Russians identify themselves priory near Lyon, France, celebrated its toward completing the decoration of the
as Orthodox, but less than one percent fiftieth anniversary. The monastery, church’s largest dome.
attend a church at least once a month. designed by Le Corbusier, is a
registered historic monument and is W
In December 2009, the Cathedral of
A three-quarter-scale reproduction of Sulmona, Italy, dedicated to San Panfilo,
All Saints Church, Brockhampton, installed a series of new paintings by
in Herefordshire, England, has been Rodolfo Papa of Rome. Bishop Angelo
built on the twenty-first and twenty- Spina commissioned the painter and
second floors of a high-rise in Osaka, academic to depict the Resurrection,
Japan. Intended as a place for couples the theological and cardinal virtues,
to marry, a photo studio, restaurant, and the Church of today as part of the

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

and hotel suites are located on the city’s celebration of the eight-hundredth
same floors. The Japanese developers, anniversary of native son Pope Saint
European Connections Ltd., contacted Celestine V’s birth. Papa intends to
All Saints Church for permission to produce paintings that are part of the
build a replica and used laser-scanning continuous tradition of sacred art, in
technology to measure the English order to introduce fresh inspiration
country church. Built by local craftsman to the faithful who visit the eleventh-
in 1902, the original limestone church Sainte Marie de la Tourette Monastery century cathedral church.
in Herefordshire is one of the few Chapel, designed by Le Corbusier
remaining thatched roof churches in W
England. undergoing a five-year restoration
project to improve security and the The Monastery of the Holy Spirit in
roofing system. The buildings contain Conyers, GA, near Atlanta has developed
one hundred sleeping rooms, study a long-range plan to encourage more
and recreation halls, a library, refectory, visitors to their property. Home to forty
and chapel. Arranged around a central Trappist monks, the community is in
courtyard, the reinforced concrete need of greater financial stability to pay
structures utilize vertical brise-soleils medical costs for some of the elderly
and multiple horizontal windows. La brothers. Monks departed from the
Photo: www.sutkutusu.com

Tourette continues to attract students of Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky and

architecture who can arrange overnight established a temporary monastery in
accommodations in the unoccupied cells. a barn in 1944 on the current property.
Over time, they have built a cloister and
W dormitories, a chapter room, refectory, a
retreat house, and a Gothic church. The
Replica of All Saints Church from A team of two Catholic University of new plan for the site, designed by Jones
Brockhampton, Hereforshire inside hotel America architecture students won Pierce Architects of Atlanta, includes
the competition to design the mosaic a new abbey store, welcome center,
W for the Trinity Dome in the Basilica of and a small café. The plan also calls
On January 20, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI the National Shrine of the Immaculate for the renovation of the historic barn
blessed a statue of Saint Rafaela María Conception. Philip Goolkasian of into a museum to exhibit the history of
Porras y Ayllón (1850-1925) at the Fresno, CA, and Corey August of monasticism. Of the $6.5 million needed
Vatican. The Spaniard founded the Kensington, MD, won first prize in a for the project, $3.5 million has already
Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, a school-wide competition that included been pledged.

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 9

N e w s

His Holiness Benedict XVI named the $1.3 million to repair the exterior granite, Catholic schools have closed since the
Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in while diocesan estimates for necessary year 2000 due to dropping enrollment
Charleston, WV, a minor basilica. It is the repairs were closer to $10 million. and revenue, with elementary schools
sixty-third minor basilica in the U.S. and Before demolition commenced, efforts located in major cities being hardest hit.
was a welcome gesture to the Diocese of to salvage church furnishings resulted in
Wheeling-Charleston. The parish began the removal and storage of statues, pews,
in 1866 and used a two-story brick house and other important elements. Founded W
purchased by Bishop Richard Whelan, in 1872, the historically Lithuanian
the founding bishop of the diocese, as parish had twelve hundred registered
a church and school until 1869 when parishioners as recently as 2004.
it moved into its first church. In 1885
the parish started collecting funds for a W
new church and on July 28, 1895, Bishop
Patrick J. Donahue laid the cornerstone The winners of the 2010 Palladio

Photo: Ave Maria University

of the current edifice designed by H.B. Awards for traditional design were
Lowe of Lexington. The dedication of recently announced. John G. Waite
the new church occurred on Christmas Associates, Architects of Albany, NY
Day, 1897. Many prominent Protestants won the Restoration and Renovation
Award for their work at the Basilica
of the Assumption in Baltimore. Atkin
Olshin Schade Architects of Philadelphia The Martha J. Burke Chapel at Ave Maria.
won the Sympathetic Addition Award
for the addition to Saint Paul Episcopal The Martha J. Burke Adoration Chapel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Church in Indianapolis. at Ave Maria University was officially

opened, blessed and dedicated at a brief
ceremony following noon mass on July
15, 2009.

The Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in
Charleston, WV Founded in 2009 by artist Carl
Fougerousse, the Sacred Arts Academy
of Charleston contributed to the $30,000 intends to teach aspiring artists both
project. Sacred Heart has undergone technical skills and the deeper purpose
three significant renovations during its of Catholic art. This summer's workshop
more than century-long history. An will be based in Florence, Italy from
extensive interior renovation took place June 10th through July 3rd. The
in 1950-51 and then in 1974—the year intensive sessions include drawing and
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

it was designated a co-cathedral—the painting, classes in anatomy, art history,

sanctuary was refurbished. The most philosophy and theology, and visits to the
recent work, which involved new museums and churches of Florence and
landscaping and an addition to the Rome. Visit www.sacredartsacademy.
church, concluded in 2004. Also in org for more information.
2004, the co-cathedral hosted a meeting
between Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, The work completed on the Basilica of W
then-president of the Pontifical Council the Assumption in Baltimore garnered
for Interreligious Dialogue, and Jewish a Palladio award for John G. Waite
and Muslim leaders, at which an Associates The tower of Saint John the Baptist
“Abrahamic” tapestry was dedicated. Cathedral in Charleston, SC, is to be
dedicated May 2, 2010 by Bishop Robert
W W E. Guglielmone. Built according to the
On December 1, 2009 a judge in designs of Patrick Keely, first in 1854 and
Schuylkill County, PA, dismissed a Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic again between 1890 and 1907, after the
lawsuit filed by parishioners to halt the Education proposes to increase the Civil War and an earthquake destroyed
demolition of America’s first Lithuanian number of Latino students in U.S. the original brownstone church. A lack
Catholic church. The Diocese of Catholic schools to one million by 2020. of funds prevented the completion of the
Allentown closed Saint George Catholic The number of Hispanics enrolled tower during the second construction
Church in Shenandoah, PA, in May in Catholic schools has remained campaign. Glenn Keyes Architects and
2006 after it determined the 1891 Gothic unchanged for the past fifteen years Hightower Construction of Charleston
structure was a safety hazard. WJP despite the increase in Hispanic are completing work on the tower this
Engineers of Pottsville, PA, who have population. Currently, only 3 percent April. The bells were cast by Christoph
performed work on the church for over of Latinos attend Catholic schools for Paccard Bell Foundries in France and
a decade, estimated that it would cost elementary education. One in five blessed in November 2009.

10 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

N e w s

at the Brompton Oratory who corrected

descriptions of the Holy Liturgy. The
Royal College of Music even performed
and recorded some of the music from

Photo: Carolyn Cole, LA Times

medieval manuscripts on display to
bring the notes to life.

A new poll by the IONA Institute for

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Religion and Society showed that two
thirds of people in Ireland attend church Port-Au-Prince Cathedral in ruins after
at least monthly, a 10 percent increase the January 12, 2010 earthquake
from the year before the economic crisis.
About one half of Irish people attend The 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti
church weekly, up from 42 percent the destroyed the Cathedral of Our Lady of
The new Schulze Wing of Sitzmann Hall year before. Among young people aged the Assumption in Port-Au-Prince. Built
doubled the space of the Saint Thomas 18–24, 31 percent attend church weekly. between 1883 and 1914, the cathedral
Center for Catholic Studies was the tallest building in the city and
W served as a beacon for ships arriving
The University of Saint Thomas, MN, at the harbor. The destroyed building
dedicated its expanded Center for replaced the older 1772 cathedral,
Catholic Studies building, Sitzmann also dedicated to Our Lady of the
Hall, on November 30, 2009. The $3.9 Assumption. Haitian architect René
million addition to the 1927 Georgian Ménard initially designed the new
Revival edifice provides a larger chapel, cathedral in 1882 for Archbishop
classrooms, offices, and an outdoor Alexis Jean-Marie Guilloux of Port-

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

garden with a Marian shrine. The new au-Prince, who began raising funds
chapel dedicated to Albertus Magnus, from private donors and the State. The
a thirteenth-century Dominican friar cornerstone was laid in 1884, and when
and teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the fundraising for the $600,000 project
holds fifty people. Established in 1993 dried up, the archbishop travelled door to
and led by its founding director Dr. door to collect greater financial support.
Don Briel, the Saint Thomas Center for Meaux Cathedral and Episcopal Palace In 1904, the new Archbishop Conan
Catholic Studies is the largest of the asked for a loan from the government to
seventy Catholic Studies programs in cover construction expenses and hired
the United States, with three hundred Meaux Cathedral, east of Paris, France, the Belgian construction firm Perraud
undergraduates pursuing a major is undergoing extensive restoration, et Dumas and Haitian architects Léon
or minor in Catholic Studies, and including the reconstruction of some Mathon and Louis Roy to finish the
eighty students enrolled in a Master exterior walls and structural arches. project. The cathedral was completed
of Arts program. The University of Completed in the sixteenth century to a with a concrete structure and a white
Saint Thomas was founded in 1885 by height of one hundred sixty-eight feet, stucco surface. The interior was 276 feet
Archbishop John Ireland and continues construction of the cathedral started in long and 85 feet tall, and the stained-
to be an archidiocesan university. the twelfth century. King Charles IV glass windows depicted the patron saints
Enrollment this academic year is 10,851 generously funded the construction of churches throughout the archdiocese.
students. project in the early fourteenth century. The four bells weighing a total of 15,000
W pounds were installed in 1910, and the
W cathedral was solemnly consecrated on
The Victoria and Albert Museum in December 20, 1914. In 1966, Archbishop
London reopened their medieval and François Wolff Ligondé oversaw the
Renaissance galleries on December 2, complete restoration of the church with
2009, with particular attention to the architect Louis Pélissier. The stained
explanation of the Christian faith to glass was reconstituted and the furniture
visitors. Each room has a narrative and was replaced. The sanctuary steps and
date frame, with areas titled “Signs and the base of the walls were resurfaced
Symbols” and “Personal Devotion” in granite, and an audio system and
among other names. One exhibit new lighting were also installed. After
Photo: American Red Cross

recreates a religious procession by the recent earthquake, the funeral of

arranging floating vestments behind a Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot and Vicar
processional cross, banner, and crosier. General Monsignor Charles Benoit, who
The curators did five years of preparation were two of the over 217,000 victims of
for the new galleries and consulted the earthquake, was held on January 23,
scholars worldwide, including a priest 2010, on the site of the cathedral.
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 11
A r t i c l e s

R etro T ablum
The Origins and Role of the Altarpiece in the Liturgy
Daniel P. DeGreve

If the event is of a devotional kind all the tion would have

onlookers direct their eyes with various likely preclud-
expressions of devotion towards the ed the possibil-
event, as when the Host is displayed at ity of situating any
the Sacrifice of the Mass.1 large-scale works

of art that would
An altarpiece is a framed artistic have eclipsed the
representation of a sacred subject bishop’s cathe-
or combination of subjects typically dra or faldstool.
situated behind and above an altar. However, the tri-
Though its invention came about in the umphal arch and
Middle Ages, the altarpiece is rooted hemi-dome of the
in the ancient Church tradition of apse typically fea-
employing sacred imagery to enhance tured extensive
the liturgy with visual aids (adiaphora) for decorative pro-
the instruction of the faithful; a tradition grams depicting
definitively upheld by the Second Christ as the h ac-
Council of Nicaea in the eighth century companied by a
and by Trent some seven hundred years retinue of holy
later. Yet, unlike the altar crucifix or figures including
candlesticks, which are appointments the titular saint
prescribed by the Church’s liturgical of the church, the
rubrics, the provision of an altarpiece Apostles, and the
has never been canonically obligatory.2 Evangelists, as ex-
Rather, the altarpiece came into existence emplified by the
as a result of particular customs of oldest parts of
liturgical and devotional practice; its the apse mosaic
formal development was shaped by in Santa Puden-
vernacular traditions in Christian sacred ziana in Rome. Yet,
art. Hence, as a highlighted survey of sacred symbols and
its emergence ought to illustrate, the figures also came

Photo: www.wga.hu
altarpiece is an artistic device derived to be incorporated
from earlier conventions of sacred into the ciborium,
imagery employed to visually reinforce the monumental
the Catholic understanding of and fixed canopy that
devotion to the Eucharist and the sheltered the altar,
communion of saints. and in the ante- The fifteenth century high altar retable in the pilgrimage church
pendium, the orna- of Saint Wolfgang in Austria by Michael Pacher contains
Early Forms of Sacred Imagery at mental appendage representations from the life of Christ and the church's titular,
the Altar affixed to the verti- Saint Wolfgang, with the Coronation of the Virgin at the center.
The Imperial church-building cal supports of the
program ushered in by Constantine altar. Antependia were designed to saints.3 Episodic narratives from the
employed fixed freestanding altars and extend across the entire altar front, from life of Christ or the titular saint were
sacred imagery, which can be traced the underside of the table top (mensa) then often disposed symmetrically on
from the palimpsest of patristic arti- to the altar step (predella), and were either side of the principal subject. The
facts and decoration, as well as from sometimes applied to the back and side lavish and analogous sacred imagery
contemporary textual accounts, such faces of the altar as well. Comprised of early medieval Gospel covers with
as the Liber Pontificalis. The organiza- of precious metals, ivory, wood, or rich that of antependia is striking, and, as
tion of sacred imagery around the altar brocades, and usually bejeweled, the a note of observation, it would seem
was greatly affected by the position of principal subject of early medieval an- that these largely parallel decorative
the altar relative to the presbyterium, tependia was Christ in Majesty, often formats were intended to stress the li-
the part of the church reserved for the flanked by angels, the Evangelists, and turgical relationship between Christ’s
bishop and his clergy. Since altars in the Apostles. In the ninth and tenth presence in the Word and the Eucharist.
early Western churches often stood in centuries, the repertory grew to include
front of the presbyterium, this posi- the Virgin and Child, as well as titular Engaged Altars, Reliquaries, and

12 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

Gradines meaning behind the (altar) table, or as of painted devotional images of the
The engaged altar emerged from the a reredos, a term with a similar Latin Madonna and Child extends at least as
introduction of the private Mass. The etymology, but used primarily by An- far back as the early Middle Ages with
separate oratories that had been estab- glophones to connote the fixed, screen- the importation or replication of ‘mi-
lished in proximity to Western church- like type into which the altar itself was raculous’ images from the East, such
es for the celebration of private Masses engaged .7 Retables, like reliquaries, as the Salutus Populi Romani in Rome,
by individual canons or monks began were usually set in place on a gradine and was reinforced by the influx of
to be subsumed into the bodies of those behind the altar, whereas reredoses artists from Constantinople during the
churches at least as early as the sixth with integral gradines were often free- Iconoclasm Controversy of the eighth
century, and led to the gradual prolif- standing or attached to a wall. Though and ninth centuries. Like icons, early
eration of chapels and side altars.4 Side a base, body, and frame typically com- Italian altarpieces were painted using
altars were the first to be set against the prised the fundamental structure of tempera (egg yolk), which rendered
walls of the church, a gesture in defer- a retable or reredos, the form, media, vibrant hues upon their brilliant gold
ence to the principal or high altar, which and content of altarpieces varied cul- leaf backgrounds. The immense dou-
generally remained freestanding well turally according to local traditions of ble-sided Maesta painted by Duccio di
into the Middle Ages. Without a cibo- religious devotion and artistic conven- Buoninsegna in the early fourteenth
rium above or a richly decorated apse tion. Dating the precise origination of century for the freestanding high altar
beyond, the wall to which the side altar the altarpiece is somewhat elusive due of the Cathedral of Siena was dedicated
was engaged became the spatial and to the fragmentary evidence that sur- to the Virgin and inaugurated with an
visual terminus, so that its decoration vives, but remaining examples indicate august procession through the city, at-
would seem a natural consequence. a natural progression from decorated testing to its civic role as a visual sign
The trend of building engaged side gradines beginning around the twelfth of Mary’s protection. Multi-paneled
altars for private Masses was notably century. The customary employment tavole of the fourteenth and fifteenth
promoted in the early ninth-century of veils at the back and sides of votive century often portrayed the Madonna
plan of the Abbey of Saint Gall and and high altars alike persisted into the and Child or narrative events, such as
was accompanied by an ever-growing sixteenth century in some locales, like the Annunciation or Adoration of the
use of reliquaries during the liturgy. Italy, and may explain why surfaces Magi, in the central panel with titular
Majesty images, made of precious mate- separate from building walls were spe- or patron saints depicted in flanking
rials and outwardly depicting the holy cifically devised for altar decoration, as panels that were united by an archi-
figures whose relics they contained, may the progressive dematerialization tectonic frame. However, the so-called
were popular throughout the West, par- of wall mass that characterized Gothic Sacra conversazione (sacred conversa-
ticularly north of the Alps. One of the architecture in northern Europe.8 One tion) format became the predominant
oldest and best surviving examples of of the most famous and earliest surviv- representational model for late medi-
a majesty image is the golden likeness ing altarpieces, the Pala d’Oro, was con- eval Italian altarpieces, integrating an
of Saint Fides in Conques-en-Rouergue structed in the twelfth century from an interactive company of saints, proph-
(France). Majesty images usually were earlier antependium of Byzantine prov- ets, and even donors with a portrayal
placed behind and above an altar dedi- enance depicting episodes from the of the Madonna and Child. The anach-
cated to the portrayed saint in a niche Life of Christ and that of Saint Mark, ronistic placement of these secondary
or on a low ledge known as a gradine, and was placed behind the high altar of figures in episodic depictions from the
but never directly on the altar during the Venetian ducal chapel, San Marco. Life of the Virgin also comprised Sacre
the Mass, and were removed after its Some of the earliest experimenta- conversazione images, leaving the story-
conclusion. 5 However, by the elev- tion with painted altarpieces occurred telling function of sacred art to mural
enth century, it was not uncommon in the prosperous Italian cities of Siena, cycles and ceiling frescoes.9
for a reliquary or holy image to remain Florence, and Venice at the cusp of the In the German and Baltic lands, a
exposed on a gradine outside of liturgi- fourteenth century. The employment of highly original type of altarpiece ap-
cal celebrations for popular devotion.6 monumental painted crucifixes at high peared in the fourteenth century, in
The fixed-in-place reliquary that de- altars, whether behind them or in front which side panels were attached to
veloped out of this custom assumed an of them as part of rood screens, already the central panel with hinges. Hinged
increasingly architectonic form richly had become widespread by the thir- panels themselves had been employed
decorated with multiple figures and teenth century, and seems to have pre- for centuries in the small ivory dip-
episodic narratives, epitomized by the ceded the appearance of the first tavole tychs and triptychs carved for private
Shrine of the Three Kings begun by the d’altare. These representations some- devotion. According to some art his-
twelfth-century goldsmith, Nicholas of times incorporated flanking images torians, the winged altarpiece, or
Verdun, for Cologne Cathedral. of the Virgin and Apostles in addition polyptych, was invented as a device
to Christ’s corpus, such as the one by for detaching images, particularly
Emergence of the Altarpiece Cimabue in Santa Croce in Florence. carved ones, from acts of intimate ven-
The altarpiece is a broad catego- Yet, the devotional icon with its atten- eration such as touching or kissing.10
ry that includes both fixed and por- dant Byzantine artistic conventions However, hinged wings would also
table works of art, as well as painted and techniques bore an even greater have afforded the capability of conceal-
or sculpted works. In the English- impact on the nascent development of ing the full extent of carved or painted
speaking world, an altarpiece may be the altarpiece on the Italian peninsula imagery during Lent or even most of
referred to as a retable, a generic term from both formal and representation- the year while providing opportunities
derived from the Latin retro tablum, al standpoints. The Italian tradition for solemn revelation during the East-

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 13

A r t i c l e s

ertide or the titular feast day of the par-

ticular church or altar.11 Although in
some cases the altarpiece retained the
function of a reliquary, such as Tilman
Riemanschneider’s Altar of the Holy
Blood in Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber
(Germany), the polyptych shifted focus
from a single holy figure to a narra-
tive of Salvation history attended by
a multitude of holy figures, often in
the symbolic numbers of twelve or
twenty-four. Thus, the comprehensive
program of a polyptych served to edify
the faithful in the sacramental and in-
stitutional mysteries of the Church,
with the portrayal of Marian episodes
such as the Assumption or Coronation
frequently placed in the central panel
to reinforce the Virgin’s role as the Ark

Photo: Picasa, "Schneider Precursors to the Renaissance

of the New Covenant. Sometimes a cano-
pied Crucifixion group crowned the
entire retable. The wings, which were
either carved or painted, generally por-
trayed episodes from the life of Christ,
Mary, or a titular saint. If the exterior
panels of the operable wings were
carved, they were frequently finished
in a monochrome wood finish that
contrasted dramatically with the bril-
liant polychrome of the interior panels,
which rendered a dazzling effect on
worshippers when they were opened.
Yet, by the late fifteenth century, poly-
chromy had yielded in favor of com-
plete monochromy, which may have
reflected a growing restraint in the
Church aimed at tempering the over-
statement of this effect.12
Painted polyptychs in the Low
Countries were designed with hinged
wings that could be opened for solemn
occasions like their sculpted counter-
parts east of the Rhine. The ascen-
dancy of a wealthy merchant class in
this part of Europe meant that a great
number of these altarpieces were
commissioned for family chantry
and guild votive chapels. Sacra con-
versazione depictions of Mary as the

The Maesta by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Photo: Picasa, "Schneider Precursors to the Renaissance

features the adoration of the enthroned

Madonna and Child on the front, and
episodes from the Life of Christ and the
Life of the Virgin on the back. However,
it would seem reasonable that the retable
could be reversed so that the “back”
normally would have faced out towards
the celebrant and people except on special
Marian feasts like the Assumption
in commemoration of the cathedral’s

14 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

Photo: www.skyscrapercity.com

Photo: Flickr "mitchpf"

When opened, the altarpiece of Saint Mary’s Church in Krakow, Poland by fifteenth-century German sculptor Veit Stoss reveals
the vertical arrangement of the Dormition, Assumption, and Coronation of the Virgin with her Six Joys on the interior panels of the
wings. When closed during Lent, the exterior panels show twelve scenes from the Life of Christ and the Virgin.
hortus conclusus (enclosed garden) day Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Ghent John the Evangelist with the chromat-
with saints and donors and episodes (Belgium) is considered by many art ic figures of the patron and his wife.
such as the Annunciation, Visitation, historians to be the greatest accom- When opened, the polyptych reveals in
or Lamentation featured prominently plishment of the early Netherlandish a majestic orchestration of vivid colors,
in the Netherlandish repertoire, but so School, and a singular encapsulation meticulous details, and gallant figures
did the Parousia and Last Judgment.13 of the Church Triumphant. When the fulfillment of the promise foretold
Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s immense closed, its outer wings depict the An- to the Virgin by the Archangel on the
fifteenth-century painted polyptych of nunciation with prophets and sibyls, exterior panels. Here, the Deesis pre-
The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb made above, and, below, grisaille portray- sides over the unified earthly and ce-
for a chantry chapel in the present- als of Saint John the Baptist and Saint lestial worship of the triune Godhead,
Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The Ghent Altarpiece: The promise of the Annunciation, at left, is fulfilled in the wedding feast of the Lamb, at right.

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 15

A r t i c l e s

manifest in the tiered disposition of

the enthroned Father, crowned by the
Triregnum and resembling Christ, the
radiant dove of the Holy Spirit, and
the pierced Paschal Lamb. In the out-
ermost panels at the top, a nude Adam
and Eve gaze towards the Lamb upon
the altar, signifying the Eucharistic
sacrifice as the source of the heavenly
banquet through which all mortals, be-
ginning with the parents of mankind,
might share in Christ’s triumph over
The development of the Spanish
retable is fascinating for its radical
departure from the two-dimensional
mural tradition that had previously
prevailed in the Iberian Peninsula in
favor of a highly sculptural, archi-
tectonic paradigm. Whereas the first
Spanish retables tended to be modest
in size, later ones grew to be as tall
as the church interior itself and were
frequently engaged to the apse wall.
The quintessential Spanish retable,
standardized by the mid-fourteenth
century, consisted of three symmetri-
cally disposed parts based on contem-
porary Italian models: the banco, or
base; the body; and the narrow frame
around the body called the guadapolvos,
which doubled as a dust guard. Within
the retable body, a series of paintings
were arrayed in vertical panes called
posts or calles. The central post, which
was wider and taller than the others,
depicted the saint to whom the altar-

Photo: Sacred Destinartions

piece was dedicated and served as the
principal focus. Sometimes the central
post was sculpted, but more often, it
was painted like the flanking subordi-
nate posts that depicted episodes from
the Life of Christ or that of the titular
saint. The topmost post, located above The great retablo in the apse, or Capilla Mayor, of the Cathedral of Toledo, Spain
the effigy of the saint, was usually re- exemplifies the enormous scale of many Spanish altarpieces.
served for a representation of Christ
crucified. A small retable may have as and the whole retable often culminat- fourteenth-century Neville Screen at the
few as one narrative post, while larger ed in an intricately carved lantern-like high altar of Durham Cathedral that en-
versions may have three or more posts canopy over the principal post, thereby closed the former Shrine of Saint Cuth-
on either side. The banco was occupied helping to unify the complex organiza- bert and supported painted images of
typically by the Eucharistic image of tion into one monumental, glittering the Virgin, Saint Cuthbert, and Saint
the entombed Christ and scenes from entity.14 Oswald, as well as a multitude of cano-
the Passion, by images of saints, or by In England, the pre-Reformation pied statues.
additional episodes from the life of the reredos could range in scale from a
titular saint. Large retables often fea- modest retable in a small church or Artistic Innovation and Counter-
tured a sotabanco, which was a narrow side chapel to a massive partition in Reformation
strip below the banco that was decorat- the lengthy chancel of a cathedral or As the preceding survey illustrates,
ed with roundels portraying the proph- abbey. The grander versions of the the liturgical role of the altarpiece was
ets. The guardapolvos was made up reredos sometimes doubled as screens not necessarily referential to the Sac-
of slightly tilted, decoratively painted separating the chancel from the ret- rifice of the Mass in a direct or overt
strips of wood that framed the body of ro-choir where relic shrines, chantry way with a presentation of the Cruci-
the retable. Each painting in a post was chapels, and tombs were often located. fixion or the Last Supper as we might
outlined by a molding of gilded tracery This was the case with the celebrated expect. Oftentimes, these subjects were

16 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

more likely to be found in hospital guishing, for instance, saints depicted sonal approaches regarding color and
chapels or refectories than in church for veneration and emulation from light to appeal to the senses and the
altarpieces. Though minimal informa- any other figures who might have mind. Later on, Gianlorenzo Bernini
tion exists on the topic, even subjects cause to be represented.19 Despite the pioneered the incorporation of daylight
pertaining to the titular dedication of prescriptive attitude of the Counter- into elaborate concetti, or ensembles
a church, chapel, or altar do not seem Reformation, artists responded to the of multiple media, that surpass the
to have been mandated.15 Rather, the challenge of elucidating the Faith and normal confines of the altarpiece. His
complexities of dedication arising from inspiring the devotion of the faithful design for the gilded Cathedra Petri
the location of the altarpiece and its by utilizing the full gamut of artifice and Holy Spirit Sunburst in the apse of
commissioning donors were subsumed to not only convey, but to amplify the Saint Peter’s Basilica is a didactic tes-
into the burgeoning Sacra conversazi- sacramental mystery of the Mass. The timony to the authority of the Roman
one model. Another type of altarpiece dramatic incorporation of light became Pontiff and the legitimacy of the Catho-
that first appeared in Italy during the a fundamental part of altarpiece con- lic Church. In contrast to its grandiose
fifteenth century was the freestanding vention from the late sixteenth century scale, Bernini portrayed the spiritual
sculptural group. The most famous onwards. In the realm of painting, ecstasy of Saint Theresa of Avila in del-
example is Michelangelo’s Pieta, which artists as diametrically opposed in icately-carved marble and exuberant
was carved around 1500 for an altar in their methods as El Greco and Cara- gilded rays with a hidden light source
the former church of Santa Petronilla vaggio made use of their intensely per- at the altar of an intimate chapel in the
in Rome. Statues placed on winged
gradines or within retable niches, so
as not to visually overpower the altar,
became increasingly common during
the sixteenth century.16 In general, the
century witnessed a trend towards
the increasing prescription of altar-
piece format and content, which was
rooted in the harmonics and geomet-
ric clarity established by Masaccio and
Brunelleschi for the church building
and its component parts as exempli-
fied by Santo Spirito in Florence.17 The
fornix motif was used to frame both
painted and bas-relief retables with
Titian’s Assumption at the high altar in
the Franciscan church of Santa Maria
Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice serving as
an excellent example of this type. The
uniformity of the side altar retables in
Palladio’s two great Venetian churches,
San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Reden-
tore, demonstrate the fulfillment of the
Brunelleschian ideal.
Altarpieces generally came under
fierce attack by Protestants out of their
misunderstanding of Catholic tradi-
tion. While the Council of Trent called
for the return to clearer forms of artis-
tic expression, it did not set forth any
particular regulations for altarpieces.
Nevertheless, Carlo Borromeo, the
saintly archbishop of Milan, did issue
a comprehensive set of guidelines to
the clergy of his archdiocese regard-
ing the design of churches and their
Photo: Flickr, "Eddie 1974"

liturgical appointments; his insistence

upon the reservation of the Sacra-
ment in permanent tabernacles on the
high altars of parish churches subor-
dinated the visual prominence of al-
tarpieces. 18 Post-Tridentine patrons
and theorists following in Borromeo’s The Assumption by Titian is the crowned by statues of the Risen Christ, Saint Francis of
footsteps stressed the dignifying and Assisi, and Saint Anthony of Padua.
didactic roles of altarpieces by distin-

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 17

A r t i c l e s

Photo: Marius Monton

Photo: Wikimedia

Concetto by Lorenzo Bernini at Sant' Andrea al Quirinale High Sunburst at the Karlskirche, Vienna by Johann Fischer von
Altar in Rome. Erlach.
of the Earliest Christian Altars,” The Altarpiece in Renaissance Italy,
small Roman church of Santa Maria the confidence of the Martyr. Thus, in 20-21.
in Vittoria. And in Sant’Andrea al its liturgical and devotional roles, the 4 O’Connell, Father J.B. Church Building and
Furnishing, the Church’s Way: A Study in Liturgical Law. (London:
Quirinale, Bernini integrated architec- altarpiece can be both a window and Burnes & Oates, 1955), 164.
ture, sculpture, and painting in a two- a mirror, simultaneously permitting 5 Decker, Bernhard. “The German Winged Altarpiece
tiered concetto that seems to literally a glimpse of heavenly realities while before the Reformation” in The Altarpiece in the Renaissance, 91.
6 O’Connell, 181-182.
peel back the veil of mundane reality reflecting the countenance of Christ 7 Berg-Sobre, Judith. Behind the Altar Table: The
for a glimpse of the eternal. A framed in His saints and martyrs who united Development of the Painted Retable in Spain, 1350-1500 (Columbia,
painting of the martyrdom of Saint their sacrifices to His. MO: University Missouri Press, 1989), 3-11.
8 Berg-Sobre, 3.
Andrew hanging above the high altar 9 Kemp, 7.
tabernacle is lit by means of a vaulted W 10 Ibid.
11 Humphrey & Kemp, 142.
oculus, from which a cascade of gilded 12 Decker, 101.
angels join in the celebration of both the 13 Lane, Barbara G. The Altar and the Altarpiece:
sacred liturgy and the particular sacri- Daniel P. DeGreve is an architect in Sacramental Themes in Early Netherlandish Painting. (New York:
Icon, 1984), 142.
fice through which Andrew imitated Columbus, Ohio holding a Master of 14 Berg-Sobre, 3-11.
the superlative one of Christ. Then, in Architectural Design & Urbanism degree 15 Kemp, 17.
the pediment over the entrance to the from the University of Notre Dame (2009) 16
Burkhardt & Humphrey, 36-37.
Kemp, 5.
apse, Bernini placed the stone effigy of and a Bachelor of Architecture from the 18 Wright, A.D. “The Altarpiece in Catholic Europe: Post-
the Saint being lifted into the Glory of University of Cincinnati (2002). Email: Tridentine Transformations,” in the Altarpiece in the Renaissance, 251.
19 Wright, 245-250.
Heaven, represented by the coffered ddegreve@alumni.nd.edu
dome and lantern that surmount the
elliptical nave. Engaging the intellect 1 Kemp, Martin. “The Altarpiece in the Renaissance:
and the heart, the concetto enjoins the A Taxonomic Approach,” in Humphrey, Peter & Kemp, Martin

worshipper to enter into the rapturous the Altarpiece in the Renaissance (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1991), 11.
mystery of the Mass by offering oneself 2 Ibid.
wholly to the Eucharistic Lord with 3 Burkhardt, Jacob & Humphrey, Peter. “The Decoration

18 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

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left: new tabernacle stand & angels

All items shown were designed or sourced

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for Holy Trinity Catholic Church
in Gainesville, Virginia, 2008

Architect: O’Brien & Keane

Photos: Rassi Borneo of TimeLine Media

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Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 19
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A r t i c l e s

P raise with M ajesty and R everence

Ecclesiastic Art and Feast Days
The Maronite Patriarchate

Architecture of the Maronite Church

The holy building is a sign that leads
us to the Master of the creation, the
Holy One, who came and dwelt among
us to lead us to the Kingdom, the true
promised land in heaven. The church
of stone was considered the sign of the
heavenly altar and the true temple in
the presence of God. This holy build-
ing reflects the relationship that exists
between the two worlds: the earthly
and the heavenly. One reason being

Photo: Flickr, "jonnn9999"

that the Church thinks it is necessary
to give a margin of liberty for creativ-
ity and innovation in the architecture
and building of the church, while pre-
serving the essential elements of the
Church tradition and heritage.
When the space became holy Saint John Church in Beirut, one of the oldest Catholic churches in Lebanon.
through the Lord’s incarnation, death,
and resurrection 1 the whole world to the Father. On the altar, the Church approved by the Synod of Bishops
became “a Holy House of God” where gives the truest expression of the appa- headed by the Patriarch.4
we worship Him in “truth and spirit” rition of God and of His presence in her  
(John 4:23). In addition, the Church, midst; for this reason, the altar must be Icons
mystical Body of Christ, will choose a oriented toward the east in the internal The holy icon has a great value
place where she gathers her members architecture of the church,3 to be in ac- because it reminds the believers of the
to worship and praise God. Where cordance with the theological meaning marvels of God and of what he has ac-
the community of believers meets, and with the common Eastern tradi- complished through his saints, and
there the Church will be. This place tion. because it “actualizes” the different
will take its name after the community moments of the economy of redemp-
that meets in it. Therefore, the church  The Liturgical Vestments tion. The icon makes present and rep-
ought to be the new temple built with The liturgical vestment is an im- resents at the same time the absolute
stones in the image of the community portant element of the liturgical cel- newness of “what no eye has seen and
of believers that built it: a house of ebration. For this reason, the holy Pa- ear has heard, things beyond the mind
God expressing the faith of the people, triarchal Synod recommends that the of man” (1 Cor 2:9). It does this through
with a sacred architecture and a special vestments to be used should be neat, special ways and forms inspired by the
building art that has been inspired by beautiful, and of a noble simplicity special cultural heritage and through
the spirituality of the Maronite Church without any excess, inspired by the au- methods compatible with the holy
and her ancient tradition and her Syro- thentic liturgical vestment of the Syro- images, reflecting the faith of the faith-
Antiochene liturgy.2 Antiochene rite, and compatible with ful in the heavenly truths.5
The altar is the explicit expression of the ritual function of the liturgical cel- The Holy Synod therefore recom-
the worship bound to the new sacrifice ebration. mends that this ancient heritage be
on Golgotha. Through it we thank God Moreover, the Synod orders that the brought back to our Church, eliminat-
for the gifts we have received. The Last liturgical vestment be unified in such a ing from our Maronite tradition all
Supper of the Lord is renewed in im- way that it will be the same used in all the influences that are foreign to it. It
plementation of his command: “Do this rituals and liturgical celebrations. The also orders that action must be taken
in memory of me, until I come again.” bishop has his proper vestment, the to make the faithful aware of the im-
The altar is a perfect representation of priest celebrant has his, the assistant portance of the veneration of the holy
the tomb of the Lord and of the glory priest has his own liturgical vestment, icons, exhibiting them, in an orderly
of his resurrection; it is the source of the deacon, subdeacon, the reader, and fashion that accords with Maronite
each sacramental grace and the icon cantor should each wear the liturgical Church spirituality, in a special place in
of the heavenly altar where the angels vestment proper to him. Consequently, the church, and in a manner that befits
celebrate the eternal liturgy of the the synod enjoins everyone to observe the liturgical celebrations in which they
“Sanctus,” and where the Church on the directives issued by the patriar- should appear.6
earth offers the sacrifice with the Son chal commission for liturgical matters

20 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

Sacred Art commission will endeavor to preserve

Sacred art is considered the most the heritage of Maronite sacred art and
sublime endeavor of the human mind. develop it through painting icons and
It aims at expressing the infinite divine creating workshops for this purpose
beauty, at praising God, and directing that are tied to the eparchies and mon-
the faithful to praise and thank Him. asteries.9
Holy art occupied an important place
in the Maronite Church, particularly W
in past centuries. From the beginning The above selection is an excerpt from one
the Maronite Church was familiar with of seven articles on the Maronite liturgy
religious art. The miniature designs available on the website of the Maronite Pa-
on the Maronite Gospels and frescoes triarch of Antioch and All the East: www.
on the walls of the churches and in the bkerkelb.org. Based in Bkerke, Lebanon,
caves of the Maronite hermits are clear the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East is
proof of the concern of the Maronite the head of the Maronite Catholic Church.
Church with artistic matters and with
Photo: Flickr, "Lightreaver"

its theological and anthropological di- 1 Directive for the Implementation of Liturgical Principles of the Code
of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Publications of the Episcopal
mensions. Commission for the Media, Jal ed-Deeb, Lebanon, 1996, no. 100.
Therefore, the holy Patriarchal 2 Op. cit. 102.

Synod recommends that the Commis- 3 Lebanese Synod “1736”, 1986, 1-8; Directive for the
Implementation of Liturgical Principles of the Code of Canons of the
sion of the Sacred Art, which is sub- Eastern Churches, Publications of the Episcopal Commission for
committee of the Patriarchal Commis- the Media, Jal ed-Deeb, Lebanon, 1996, No. 102-107; Douaihy:
Manarat al-Aqdaas (Lighthouse of the Sacraments), Vol. 1, Beirut,
The chapel interior at Dimane, Lebanon. sion for Liturgical Affairs, be rendered 1895, pp. 93-175.
more effective on the eparchial level, 4 Op. cit. 285-325.
Sacred Vessels and Furnishings along with other subcommissions of 5 Examples of iconographic workshops are the workshop of the
Eparchy of Cyprus, the workshop of the College of Ecclesiastical
From the beginnings our mother the liturgical commission. The com- Art in Kaslik and the workshop of the Antonine Sisters; Directive
Church showed concern for and mission of sacred art is in charge of for the Implementation of Liturgical Principles of the Code of Canons

watched over sacred vessels and the insuring that the projects of building of the Eastern Churches, Publications of the Episcopal Commission
for the Media, Jal ed-Deeb, Lebanon, 1996, no. 108.
holy furnishings. She asked always new churches, cathedrals, or basilicas, 6 Directive for the Implementation of Liturgical Principles of the Code
that all of them contribute through decorating their interiors and restor- of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Publications of the Episcopal
Commission for the Media, Jal ed-Deeb, Lebanon, 1996, no. 109.
their dignity, beauty, and art to the ing old ones are compatible with the 7 Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 122.
success of the liturgical celebration for criteria of the ancient Maronite litur- 8 Op. cit. 126.
the Glory of God.7 gical tradition and its meaning. This 9 Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 122-130

Therefore, the Holy Synod rec-

ommends to keep vigilance over the
church furnishings, the sacred vessels,
the liturgical vestments, and all that
relates to old, precious, and beautiful
objects, so that they may be preserved
carefully from deterioration and from
being sold, because they are the or-
nament of God’s holy house. 8 The
Holy Synod enjoins that these may be
blessed according to the Maronite litur-
gical tradition before they are used.

Church Music
The music in the church is an ancient
heritage and a most precious treasure.
Its first source is the Holy Bible and the
ecclesiastic and popular traditions. The
singing of hymns is in fact the blessed
prayer of the church that cannot be
separated from liturgical celebration.
For this reason the Church recom-
mends that the holy singing be execut-
ed to perfection, expressing through
Photo: Flickr, Carl Halal

the meaning and the music the stead-

fast faith of the Church in a prayer
sung with a beautiful tune that raises in
harmony of heart and voice the praises
to the Father with majesty and rever-
ence. The summer residence of the Maronite Patriarch in Dimane, Lebanon.
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 21
A r t i c l e s

B ack to the F uture

Ecclesiastical Art After Postmodernism
J. E. Rutherford

"The old Christian art should rise up volves an understanding, on the part of Dvur would have met with the com-
again to renewed life: in its spirit, not everyone involved in decisions about plete approval of the iconoclast emper-
in its form" church decoration, of the sacramental ors of the eighth century, who held that
—Peter Lenz, The Aesthetics of Beuron and liturgical theology of which Chris- the only material things that have any
tian aesthetics is but a part. A vitally sacramental character are the Eucha-

s there a future for ecclesiastical important part of what the fathers have ristic elements, and that the only per-
art that continues in the traditions to teach us grew out of the first great missible Christian symbol is the cross.
of the past, without being merely iconoclastic controversy in the eighth The only sacred things in this chapel
imitative: recycling past styles and and ninth centuries. Though the crisis are indeed the reserved Host in the
models? I would like to suggest that itself mainly affected the churches of tabernacle and the cross on the altar.
there is, but that only by rediscovering the East, it led to the development of The doctrinal necessity of depictions of
the principles upon which the art of the aesthetic theology surrounding the Christ and the saints in churches is part
the past was based will artists have the Seventh Ecumenical Council, and it is of Christian orthodoxy, and it is on this
necessary understanding to create art therefore a good starting point. basis that we must build.
for the future. Western architecture is
of course founded on geometric and The Doctrinal Importance of Imagery The Essential Unity of Architecture,
physical principles that have been The fundamental iconographic Art, and Liturgy
known since antiquity. For this reason principle deriving from the events Another important principle to arise
architects who wish to continue in the surrounding the Seventh Ecumenical from the Eastern iconoclast crisis was
Gothic or classical tradition are able to Council (787) is that imagery in Chris- that there should be an essential unity
do so creatively, without being reduced tian churches is not only permissible, between the church building, its interi-
to simply copying existing buildings. By it is necessary. By creating images of or art, and the sacramental symbolism
contrast, decorative art is in a state of Christ and his saints, we affirm the of the rite they enshrine. In Orthodox
crisis. The arbiters of artistic fashion have unity of the Person of Christ and the churches this unity is represented in
deliberately withheld from art students full reality of his Incarnate human part by each image occupying a deter-
the principles of Western aesthetics, in nature. This important principle surely mined place in the entire schema of a
much the same way that many children needs restating urgently today. Indeed, church’s interior, just as each saint and
of the 1960s were never taught to spell the chapel of the monastery at Novy heavenly being occupies a particular
or punctuate. Unless artists in the West
re-learn classical aesthetic principles, we
will be left staring at the great white void
of minimalism, as exemplified by the
“renovated” monastery of Novy Dvur
in the Czech Republic, bequeathed to
posterity by John Pawson.

Aesthetics and Sacramental Symbolism

in the Fathers of the Church
But to create ecclesiastical art,
knowledge of aesthetic and compo-
sitional principles is not enough. For
in the context of theology, and thus
liturgy, aesthetics is not as an isolated
subject. Like the Pythagoreans and
Platonists of antiquity, the fathers of
the Church regarded aesthetics as a
keystone of the entire doctrinal and
symbolic structure of theology—not
to be separated, for example, from
Photo: www.novydvur.cz

moral and sacramental theology, or

the symbolism of the liturgy. For this
reason forming an ecclesiastical art for
the future is only in part a matter of
teaching artists classical compositional
principles. More fundamentally it in- The newly dedicated chapel at the Monastery of Nový Dvůr in the Czech Republic.
22 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010
A r t i c l e s

place in the heavenly kingdom. But on the basis of a given

I am not suggesting that the schema church’s architectural
of Orthodox churches ought to be type. The content of
imposed on Western churches. An or- that imagery is open
ganizational schema provides a nar- to a wide field of
rative that unfolds as the eye moves choice and will in-
through a church. The centralized evitably be informed
plan of Orthodox churches (deriving by a church’s dedica-
from ancient martyria), with its square tion. The point is that
nave, combined with a central dome, all the images should
draws the eye along a different path cohere in a unified
than does the cruciform plan of many symbolism sugges-
Western churches. Of course there are tive of one or other
centralized neoclassical churches in (if not both) of these
which the hierarchical pattern of Byz- two symbolic narra-
antine iconography has always been tives: that of the life
appropriate, drawing the eye around of Christ (and his
and up into the dome. But even here, saints) and that of
the existence of the iconostasis and salvation history as a
consequent invisibility of the sanctuary whole. If these prin-
in Orthodox churches make an exact ciples are adopted,

Photo: http://rccommentary2.blogspot.com
adoption of their schema inappropri- the only thing that is
ate. In a cruciform church of course the prescriptive is that, in
eye is drawn down the nave, into the either narrative, the
sanctuary, and ultimately to whatever altar symbolizes the
is on the east wall; and the organization Passion. Wherever
of imagery should follow this path. The the eye has started
principle of iconographic integrity is its journey, when it
therefore not a matter of imposing a arrives at the altar
particular schema on all churches, but it has arrived at the
involves understanding the underlying Passion, whether in Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom in the sanctuary of the Church of
symbolism of both the liturgy and the the story of Christ’s Annunciation in Prague-Smíchov, in the Beuron School.
church building. life or in the entire
The important principle here is history of salvation.
again that a church’s architecture and Images of the Resurrection, Ascension, we need to approach God as integrated
art should affirm the complete unity of Christ enthroned in glory, the eschato- human beings, whose thoughts are in-
the divine and human nature of Christ, logical banquet, etc., would therefore formed by our feelings and whose feel-
just as this is enshrined in the Eucha- be most appropriate wherever the eye ings are reasonable. Here we can draw
ristic liturgy. Orthodox iconography naturally goes next: the east wall or the on the teaching of the fifth-century
does this by making two-dimensional ceiling (if not both). Church father, Diadochos of Photike.
images (suggestive of the heavenly He believed that as a result of the Fall
nature of the resurrection body), but The Form and Style of Artistic Depiction of Adam and Eve, our feelings became
using the symbolic language of “icon Deriving from the need both to have disconnected from our reasoning; and
writing” to teach Christ’s human art integrated with architecture and that only the Incarnation and Resur-
nature and true incarnate vulnerabil- to do equal justice to the divine and rection of Christ make it possible for
ity. Affirming both natures of Christ is human natures of Christ, we can then human beings to regain their integrity.
also inherent in the two complemen- ask: What form or style of architectural This seems to me to be very close to the
tary symbolic understandings of the and artistic representation is appro- thinking of Benedict XVI on the neces-
liturgy that Orthodoxy has. On the priate for a given church? Moving on sary integrity of thinking and feeling.
one hand, we are called to anamnesis1 from the principle of symbolic integ- To worship God with our minds alone
of Christ’s earthly life, ministry, sacri- rity, I would like to derive a principle would be to reduce ourselves to the
fice, and Resurrection. But we are also of stylistic complementarity. Having state of the iconoclasts, to split our-
called to see the place that the Incarna- affirmed the unity of the divine and selves in two, and at the same time to
tion and Resurrection of Christ have in human natures of Christ in the symbol- deny the unity of Christ’s divine and
the entire history of salvation, from the ism of the organizational schema of the human natures. On the other hand, to
Creation to the eschatological banquet. imagery, we need to create liturgical rely only on our emotions could lead
These two complementary Eucharistic spaces in which we can worship God us anywhere, since we would not be
symbolisms ought, on the principle of as entirely integrated people, that is, able to make critical judgements about
integrity, inform both the symbolic or- with both our faculties of reason and the innate goodness or evil of what
ganization and form of a church’s inte- intuition, or thoughts and feelings. Just our feelings were drawing us towards.
rior imagery. as we affirm the integrity of Christ as The architectural form of the building,
On this principle, then, we can one Person, human and divine, so, in therefore, together with the schema
decide on the organization of imagery order to be conformed to his image, and type of its imagery, should, as a
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 23
A r t i c l e s

symbolic unity, draw us as whole, inte- cally Western, and I think should con- neo-Gothic art and architecture were
grated people to complete attention to tinue to be normative. But there are part of the wider cultural movement of
what is happening in the liturgy. compositional principles common to European Romanticism. The Tractarian
I think that when viewed in this the idealized art of both east and west, Movement of the Church of England
way, the architectural and artistic style and it is on this basis that new art can was part of this movement, and Pugin’s
of a church should strive to be comple- be created. For the sake of convenience conversion to Catholicism bequeathed
mentary rather than identical, helping I am going to call this new geometric to Britain the neo-Gothic as a dominant
to unite our rational and intuitive art appropriate for Gothic churches not influence for both Anglican and Cath-
natures in an integrated attentiveness “Byzantine” or even “medieval,” but olic churches. From Britain it spread
to God as whole people. One way of “Platonic,” since it will be composed throughout Europe and the British
doing this might be to combine realis- on Euclidean/Platonic principles com- Empire. In the middle of the nineteenth
tic, emotive art with architecture that is bined with the use of a single perspec- century the sculptor and painter Peter
ordered and symmetrical, and in that tive.2 But it will, like Byzantine and (in religion, Desiderius) Lenz, whose
sense "rational". Neoclassical architec- medieval art, not be highly modeled early training had involved making
ture combined with highly representa- but look relatively “flat” (or in the case neo-Gothic furniture, was dissatis-
tional art, as found in many churches of sculpture, “stiff”). So where should fied with naturalistic Renaissance art.
of the High Renaissance, is an example we begin our journey towards modern Through studying classical and early
of this. Platonic church art? Christian art he discovered exactly
Gothic architecture on the other what the artist Jay Hambidge was to
hand has always been intended to Peter Lenz and the Aesthetics of Beuron3 find in the early twentieth century: the
elevate the imagination and spirit into To those who wish to develop the Euclidian geometric principles that un-
realms of contemplation inaccessible interior iconography of neoclassical derpin Egyptian, Greek, and some Byz-
to verbal reasoning. On the principle churches, I leave the foregoing obser- antine art.4 Significantly, both Lenz and
of complementarity I would therefore vations, and the suggestion that fully Hambidge, with their trained artists’
argue that in Neogothic churches the modeled, naturalistic art composed in eyes, first discerned these geometrical
most approriate art is that which is dynamically complex schemata would compositional features in the study of
figural but not representational, such be the best starting point, because it Greek vases. What they found were
as the idealized, abstract art of the would complement the order and sym- applications of the golden ratio (Greek
middle ages. metry of the architecture. But I would letter "phi" j) to area and volume that
But are we simply to be left with the like to concentrate on the future of had not been known to Renaissance
option of replicating mediaeval and neo-Gothic art. The medieval ideals of thinkers, because in translating Euclid-
Renaissance styles? It is precisely by
having an understanding of the prin-
ciples of integrity and complementar-
ity that the designer can be liberated
to explore a wide variety of artistic
idioms to create appropriate liturgical
space: one that incorporates symbol-
ism of the life of Christ and salvation
history, and integrates representational
art that can be applied to austere, sym-
metrical architecture to achieve this.
The more pressing problem is knowing
how to create modern idealized art to
complement emotively uplifting archi-
tecture. What we need is western art
that enshrines the same principles as
those found in eastern iconography,
while remaining in the western tra-
dition of art. I am therefore not sug-
gesting the slavish adoption of the
compositional principles of Orthodox
iconography. This iconography—liter-
ally “icon writing”—needs to be read
by those nurtured in the Orthodox tra-
dition. It cannot simply be lifted out of
Photo: Andreas Praefcke

its context and put into another eccle-

siological culture (particularly since it
has a sacramental significance in Or-
thodoxy that art does not have in the
The use of single perspective com- The Mother of God Enthoned in Glory with Saints Benedict and Scholastica, Saint
position, for example, is characteristi- Maurus Chapel, Beuron, Germany. Architect Desiderius Lenz, artist Gabriel Wüger.
24 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010
A r t i c l e s

ean and Platonic geometric writings

into Latin, the Greek word for “area”
had been mistranslated to read “line.”
The rediscovery of root rectangles re-
vealed the compositional principles of
both Egyptian and Greek schemata.
But while Hambidge was to continue
his researches to incorporate prin-
ciples of phyllotaxis, and came to con-
centrate on the dynamic symmetry of
both root rectangles and the logarith-
mic spiral,5 Lenz was overpowered by
the proportions present in drawings
he found of Egyptian art. His reaction
was so strong that it constituted for
him an artistic conversion. He rejected
the naturalistic art of the Renaissance
and was convinced that he had found
the universal canon of proportion and
arrangement that had been present in
early Christian art but had been lost in
subsequent generations. At the same
time he remained committed to medi-
eval aesthetics that incorporate both
Gothic architecture and “flat” art. The
artistic result of Lenz’s thinking can be
seen in his own work and in the School
of Beuron art generally. His geometric
principles are to be found in his un-
finished The Aesthetics of Beuron.6 Lenz
was in many ways a visionary, akin to

Photo: www.panoramio.com
William Blake, and his canon is so eso-
teric that it is difficult to understand its
principles. But the presence in his art
of root rectangles (particularly √5, also
important to Hambidge because of its
special relationship to the golden ratio,
together with symmetrical composi- The interior of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Cardiff, Wales.
tion and simplified abstract represen-
tation, is obvious. On these, if not on expressed in the chant of Solesmes art, Platonic (Solesmes) Gregorian
the entirety of Lenz’s canon, our future and Beuron were the very ones he chant, and the Benedictine order is
Platonic art can be based. was seeking to embody in his art. For thus not only close, but intrinsic. 10
It is significant that, just as Pythag- Plato and those in the Platonic tradi- Through his study of Gregorian chant
oras discovered the 1:0.618 ratio first tion, the purest art is that which con- Lenz came to emphasize the simple
by noting the relationship between the forms most fully to the great underly- numbers closest to unity, namely 1–6.
relative length of strings on a musical ing fundamental geometric principles: From the “hexachord” of Gregorian
instrument and their musical pitch, so not the precise observation and repre- chant he developed his “senarium,” in
Lenz became absorbed in the relation- sentation of natural objects that was which each number was represented
ship between these ratios by experi- sought in Renaissance art. What both by a different shape, with 6 (thought
menting musically with an instrument Sauter and Lenz were doing was in by both Vitruvius and Augustine to
known as a monochord. He was indeed fact rediscovering the Pythagorean be the perfect number) expressed as a
first drawn to the Benedictine monas- Platonic belief that, given that there six-pointed star, the key component of
tery of Beuron through the book Choral are geometric principles that are in- Lenz’s canon.
Music and Liturgy by Benedikt Sauter, herent in all things, the characteristics
who had spent time at Solesmes, and of form have in and of themselves an Albert Gleizes and Platonic Art in the
was convinced that there were inher- effect that is moral.8 Indeed the ancient Twentieth Century
ent principles of harmonic unity that Greek “modes” (scales) of music, upon Lenz’s theoretical legacy reached
represent universal numeric relation- which the “tones” (scales) of Ortho- a wider audience as a result of the
ships. 7 This is a given of Platonism, dox chant are based, were thought to translation of The Aesthetics of Beuron
and through his extensive reading of have a moral influence when played into French by the artist Paul Sérusier,
Platonists both pagan and Christian to people, a belief accepted by many a pupil of Paul Gaugin. Sérusier also
(particularly Saint Augustine), Lenz Church fathers.9 gave a more practical explanation of
became convinced that the universals The link between Platonic (Beuron) Lenz’s rather esoteric writings in his

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 25

A r t i c l e s

ABC de la Peinture (1921). Through the ing the complementa-

works of Sérusier, Lenz’s theories of rity of Christ’s divine
both liturgical art and music came to and human natures)
the attention of the equally esoteric would satisfy the
artist, Albert Gleizes. Gleizes was as principle of the nec-
convinced as Lenz had been of the fun- essary symbolic unity
damentally sacred character of Platoni- of building, art, and
cally proportioned art. He also agreed liturgy.
that the same Platonic ratios underpin
Gregorian chant. At this point tensions The Future of
between the Platonic and Aristotelian Ecclesiastical Art in
traditions arise. Crudely put, the dis- the West
tinction between Platonism and Aris- So how do we go
totelianism is manifest in our distinc- about creating Pla-
tion between the arts and sciences. The tonic art “for today”?
thought processes of Platonists tend The very question is
towards the synthesizing of disparate mistaken and derives
observations into a unified whole. This from postmodern-
involves identifying universal underly- ism. We have been
ing principles, in the way that Byzan- forced into such a
tine/Orthodox iconography does, and high degree of his-
which Lenz and Gleizes attempted. torical self-conscious-
Aristotelians on the other hand prefer ness that we have

Photo: Martin Crampin

to identify, analyze, and categorize dis- been made to “try
crete objects and phenomena.11 Gleizes too hard” to belong
believed that the Platonic/Aristote- to our age. But all art
lian dichotomy was represented in the is going to reflect the
“Platonic” Benedictine Gregorian chant period of history that
and Beuron art, in contrast to the Aris- the artist belongs to, The dome of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in
totelian/Thomist Dominican approach as long as it is based Cardiff, Wales.
to art represented by Father Pie-Ray- on understood prin-
mond Régamey, who was responsible ciples and does not merely copy past posium in Maynooth, Ireland; Irish Cor-
for giving commissions to artists such styles. Once artists are taught the aes- respondent to the International Association
as Henri Matisse and Le Corbusier. Ré- thetic principles and theology that un- for Patristic Studies; and an editor of the
gamey’s dislike of Gleizes was indeed derpin the art of the past, they cannot Fota Liturgical Conference Series. Email:
part of his more general disapproval of help but create art that is “of their bearpair@eircom.net.
the tradition of Beuron art and a thor- time.” This phenomenon can indeed be
oughly Thomist hostility to Platonism. seen in many new Orthodox churches. 1 Neither “remembrance” nor “memorial” is an adequate translation for
But in keeping with the principle of Their architectural and iconographic the New Testament word anamnesis, which implies that worshipers of
the present take part in events of the past.
complementarity that I have outlined, principles have not changed since the 2 I will explain further below why this art should be called Platonic.
I suggest that the tension between the fourteenth century, but no one seeing, 3 The comments on Lenz, Gleizes, Sérusier and Régamey in the
Platonic and Aristotelain traditions for example, St Nicholas’ Greek Or- following two sections draw extensively on P. Brooke et al., Desiderius
Lenz: The Aesthetic of Beuron (London, 2002).
should itself be seen as a corporate thodox Church in Cardiff, Wales, for 4 I have argued elsewhere that the Byzantine icons of the Moscow
human manifestation of the “schizo- example, could doubt that it had been school that incorporate root rectangles and the logarithmic spiral
phrenia” described by Diadochos of made at any time prior to the late twen- are part of a devotional theological tradition that goes back to the
third-century Christian Platonists of Alexandria. See J. Rutherford,
Photike: the disjunction between the tieth century. To the past then we must “Pythagoras, Byzantium, and the Holiness of Beauty,” Irish Theological
rationally analytical capacity of human return, to study the great art of both Quarterly 71 (2006): 302-19.
5 See J. Hambidge, The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry (Yale, 1926).
beings and their ability to synthe- the Renaissance and the Platonic tradi- 6 An English translation is included in The Aesthetic of Beuron (see
size perceptions into a unified whole. tion, in order to create new art to incor- note 3 above), which also contains a useful introduction and afterword,
On the principle of complementarity porate into the churches of today. But as7 Againwell as a summary of Lenz’s canon.
it is interesting that the “tones” (scales) of Orthodox chant
as I have described it, I would like to only a knowledge of both the aesthetic are descended from the ancient Greek musical “modes,” the particular
argue that “scientific” Renaissance principles and the liturgical symbol- characteristics of which were known to the Eastern fathers of the
art, with its basis in observation of ism of the art of the past will capture Church.
8 See P. Brooke’s afterword in The Aesthetic of Beuron, p, 75.
nature, should not be regarded as the its spirit, so that it can be given a new 9 The Doric mode, for example, was supposed to have a calming effect.
antithesis to abstract Platonic art, but form for the future. The modes and their associated moral attributes were well known to the
Church fathers.
rather as its complement. They should 10 As indeed is the link between the Benedictines and Gothic
in turn both be employed in churches W architecture, via Abbot Suger and the Abbey of Saint Denis in Paris.
whose architectural style is comple- 11 Thus Aristotelianism has given us the taxonomy of living things
according to family, genus, species, etc.
mentary to their own.12 Combining the 12 As a Platonist, I like to see complementarity as an expression of the
principle of complementarity with an Dr Janet Rutherford is an author in the three symmetrical pairs of Platonic solids.

overall scheme that follows the narra- fields of church history and patrology,
tive either of the life of Christ or of the specializing in the Eastern Fathers. She is
history of salvation (themselves affirm- Honorary Secretary of the Patristic Sym-

26 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

A R esponse to O ttokar U hl ' s

C hurch B uilding as P rocess
Heidemarie Seblatnig

Editor’s Note Because the church building becomes sentimental requirements made
Ottokar Uhl, born in 1931, is a retired a sacred object by consecration, often of “sacred” spaces, inherited
Austrian architect who lives in Vienna. it is placed under the protection of a from tradition, result from a
He studied modernist architecture at the saint, and thus it is removed from the problematic attitude. Why should
Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where profane sphere by its very nature. Yet people want to be enveloped by
he received his degree in 1953. The influ- if its architecture suggests the profane, an atmospheric space during the
ence of industrialization on building and it introduces an inner division between Eucharistic celebration? Is private
constructive possibilities was particularly the profane and the sacred, contradict- “devotion” more important than
interesting to Uhl over the course of his ing its natural character—such a divi- active participation in the activity
career. He taught architecture at the Uni- sion is entirely opposed to Christianity, of the community?
versity of Karlsruhe beginning in 1973 and which tends toward unity in God and
designed several church projects across not toward division. True sacred archi- Seblatnig: The active participation of
Austria. Some of his built works include tecture can thus never be profane, and the faithful in the liturgy is possible
the Student Chapel Peter Jordan Strasse, the same counts the other way round. only by entering into the presence of
the Siemens Street Church and the Saint The division becomes clear when God within the silence of the heart, that
Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in a structure conceived in a profane is, in prayer. It is in prayer that the indi-
Vienna. In 1994 Uhl served as professor manner becomes the home of the real vidual truly becomes himself, because
of Liturgical Studies at the University of presence of God: we find the paradox there he is member of the Body of God.
Vienna. In response to the Second Vatican of the light of the Eucharist placed Only when a person has been formed
Council, Uhl wrote the controversial essay “under a bushel,” that is, in a com- by the experience and by the regular
“Church Building as Process,” which was pletely inadequate environment where practice of prayer and true communion
part of a book called Building Church- it can scarcely shine. For, unlike Prot- beyond “private devotion” and the
es for the Future compiled by Günter estant assembly halls, which are con- “activity of the community” can he or
Rombold in 1969. This article, by art his- structed for a simple “Lord’s Supper,”1 she be able to create a space that makes
torian Heidemarie Seblatnig of Vienna, is a the Catholic church is home of the this experience accessible for others,
response to quotations from Uhl's original physical presence of Christ, the Blessed and that leads them toward it. The re-
essay in the form of a debate: Sacrament—and that must be evident. quirements of sacred space are thus
in no way “sentimental,” nor do they
Uhl: The church building cannot be Uhl: The atmospheric and even
considered a sacred object. The need
for built churches arises first from
the necessity of having a place where
the community can assemble for
the Lord’s Supper. For Christianity,
the difference between “sacred”
and “profane” is fundamentally
transcended (“aufgehoben”). Thus,
there can be no prescriptions for a
“sacred” architecture.

Seblatnig: The transcending of the

difference between the sacred and the
profane is worked exclusively by the
activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of
the Church, all that was profane tran-
scended to the level of the sacred. This
“transcending” of the profane needs
to express itself in the life of the Chris-
Photo: Heidemarie Seblatnig

tian and in any and all of the works

that he is called to bring to completion:
should it be deemed sufficient for a
sacred building to be incomplete and
profane, it would contradict this tran-
scending of the profane by reintroduc-
ing the latter into the Christian world. The interior of the Student Chapel Peter Jordan Strasse in Vienna by Ottokar Uhl, 1963.

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 27

A r t i c l e s

a “mood.” His multipurpose idea,

however. seems to have curbed the re-
alization of a truly “introverted space.”

Uhl: Nor does theology require

specific methods in planning
community buildings.

Seblatnig: The “buildings of the com-

munity” may generally resemble
public housing, as corresponds to their
function: but the building erected for
God also needs to resemble a house of
God, otherwise it is divorced from its
purpose. Church buildings are called
churches—and not community build-
ings—because they represent the mys-
tical body of the Holy Church. Just as
the communion of the faithful is not a
simple crowd, but a body, the place of
their encounter with the incarnate God
cannot be a simple building: it must
necessarily have a lot of “specific” ele-
ments to it if it is to realize its unique

Uhl: A dominant placing of the

church building within the city is not
a desirable image of social position
in our time.

Seblatnig.: A hidden and unrecog-

nizable church building, on the other
hand, is not a desirable image of the
ecclesial situation.
Photo: Heidemarie Seblatnig

Uhl: Church buildings do not need

to be symbolic. Christianity has
defied all myths and continues to do
so. In this sense, secularization is a
Christian process.

Sanctuary of Ebendorfstrasse church in Vienna by Ottokar Uhl. Seblatnig: Following Judaism, Chris-
tianity has since the very beginning
come from “tradition,” but they are the no Christian sacred architecture come been fighting the superstitious pagan
logical consequence of prayer. This is into existence, but only hapless carica- myths that make symbols—animals,
why the monks of Mount Athos must tures, not motivated by the love of God objects, stars, dreams, etc. —into gods
demonstrate, not just the necessary but by bloated vanity. If an architect is and submit to them. The Christian
talent and formation before they can not willing to accept this, he has to be effort consists in assigning the symbols,
become active as iconographers, but consistent enough to spare the church i.e., the “gods” of the heathens, their
they must also put their vocation to the from having to bear his exaggerated true place: indicating the one true God.
test in the spiritual life and in prayer ego (which threatens to eclipse even Their true significance resides only in
and through long years of ascetic exer- God). their being “road signs” toward God.
cises. Ottokar Uhl himself contradicted For God is not intellect, and Christian-
By analogy, before the construc- his own thesis in 1991, in wanting to ity is not an intellectual mind game,
tion of a Catholic church building can create a “very introverted space” in his but God is love (1 John 4:16), and love
be realized, the architect planning it construction of the chapel on the first does not express itself in technocratic
must discern his or her vocation to the floor of the Catholic theological faculty clauses, but in symbols and signs. To
realization of the given plan. If this at the University of Vienna. With his get to know God, we need to treas-
does not happen, the work at hand confidence in technology, he wanted ure in our heart all the little signs that
remains a vain human effort and can “different moods to be created by light point toward Him in this world: with
never become sacred architecture. effects and picture projections”2 within cold reason alone, one does not become
Thus, without prayer and a lived faith, the sacred space—just as if prayer were a Christian, but an ideologue. In the

28 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

Photo: Heidemarie Seblatnig

Photo: Wikimedia
Exterior and interior photographs of Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Vienna by Ottokar Uhl, 1966-7.

words of Pope Benedict XVI: “The

profound fertility, the forces that truly
form and transform history, can only
come from what has ripened a long
time, from what has deep roots, from
what is proven and reflected, what
has been assimilated by experience
and suffering” (homily, Donauwörth,

Heidemarie Seblatnig is an art historian

and painter who lectures at the University
of Technology in Vienna, Austria. She
completed studies in the history of art and
archeology at the University of Vienna.
Email: seblatnig@seblatnig.com.
1 Friedrich Kurrent, Kathedrale unserer Zeit (Salzburg-Munich,
1997), p.12. In 1919 Otto Bartning published a small book, About
New Church Architecture, in which he describes the experiences
he made building his first church in Peggau, north of Graz,
in 1906. He talks about his night-long discussions with the
responsible Protestant pastor; about his experiences in building
the sixteen “away-from-Rome-churches” he worked on as a
young architect before the outbreak of the First World War in the
Austro-Hungarian territories in Styria, Carinthia, Lower Austria,
Bohemia, Silesia, and Romania; about the thoughts that led him
to the “radical construction program of the Protestant Church.”
“In short,” says Bartning, “the church is an assembly place. The
size of the church is determined by the size of the community.”
2 Steger, p.148 f.


Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 29

A r t i c l e s

A n O ffering of B eauty
Saint Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough, and Stylistic Catholicity
Evan McWilliams

The history of architecture is, on the

whole, a history of revivals and imita-
tions. Each epoch has admired past
principles and reworked older ideas.
Long before any concept of conscious
stylistic revival, the early Christians
looked to pagan art for inspiration and,
centuries later, as Christianity matured,
Romanesque architects reused the vo-
cabulary of ancient Rome in their own
way, just as the Romans had appropri-
ated the architecture and art of Greece.
History attests to the validity of stylistic
spoliation as an expression of identity.
With the recent reaction against
modernist design, which appeared in

Photo: Rev. Kenneth Crawford, Vicar

the Roman Church in the 1930s and
culminated in the reordering of hun-
dreds of churches after the Second
Vatican Council, comes a strong drive
to imitate the past in an academic
manner. This new desire for purity of
form is laudable as a temporarily suc-
cessful answer to the problem of de-
signing for the contemporary age.
However, as was the case with all con- Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England.
scious revivals, there exists the danger
of stylistic dogmatism and, with it, less nature of the Church Catholic. assembled the great multitude, which
the danger of creating dull churches— Begun in 1906 and gradually con- no man can number. This knowledge is
academic exercises rather than living structed over several decades, Saint what makes Comper’s Saint Mary the
buildings. To advocate designing in Mary the Virgin has been called “one of Virgin so wonderful; it is a place for
only one style or to look on one age as the most beautiful churches the twen- leitourgia, our public service to God.
the height of Christian art runs the risk tieth century has produced.” Even While it is undoubtedly the decora-
of creating yet another passing revival. Nikolaus Pevsner, who often criticized tions that first grip the visitor’s imagi-
The pendulum swing of changing Comper’s work, observed that “it glis- nation, it soon becomes apparent that
fashion will once again sweep away the tens and reveals and conceals to one’s Comper’s ideas went far beyond col-
work of diligent, concerned men and heart’s delight.” It is easy to lavish lecting various motifs and combining
replace it with mediocrity. Let history praise on the building for its beauty, them in novel ways. The sequence of
bear witness—it has happened before. but if that is all we do, we have missed spaces, the arrangement of screens and
This constant stylistic flux can be Comper’s point and, with it, the point galleries, and the overriding sense of
prevented, or slowed, by one idea: of all church architecture. Churches do purpose in the design makes it clear
Catholicity. The key to creating a not exist as monuments to the glory that Saint Mary the Virgin is a func-
lasting revival of good, solid Chris- of the Church or even to the glory of tional building above all else. For
tian architecture and Christian art in God; churches exist to provide a place Comper, the liturgy was always the
all its forms is to explore and embrace in which Heaven and earth can meet primary concern. In his 1947 pamphlet
all that the past has presented to us together. The purpose of a church is to Of the Atmosphere of a Church, he
as beautiful and profitable. The late provide a place where the liturgy may emphasized two points: first, that the
Gothic revivalist Sir Ninian Comper be performed through which we enter church’s purpose is to house an altar;
lights the way in his church of Saint the courts of Heaven with the saints and and secondly, that it must “move to
Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough, all who have gone before us in Christ. worship, to bring a man to his knees, to
England. In it, liturgically minded In worship, the Christian community refresh his soul in a weary land.” His
planning and beauty drawn from cen- on earth enters consciously into the first point informs the implementation
turies of Christian experience combine stream of redemptive history bringing of the second. All thought about church
to create a building that reflects not our prayers and praises into the very building revolves around beauty; form
only the glory of worship but the time- throne room of the Most High, where is and function are inextricably linked

30 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

and beauty is itself inherently func- once passed, the

tional, not something added later to a expansion of space
purpose-built object. Beauty is part of from the entrance
purpose: “The plan, the ‘layout’, of toward the east
the church must first be in accord with end is remarkable.
the requirements of the liturgy and the The aisled nave
particular needs of those who worship stretches forward,
within it, and the imagery must express an arcade of fluted
the balanced measure of the Faith; and columns support-
for guidance in both we must look to ing a low clere-
tradition. There is no need to apolo- story. The glass
gise for doing so in architecture, any is all clear but for
more than in music, unless we need the east windows,
apologise for the guidance of tradition which shimmer
in the interpretation of the New Testa- in the distance,
ment and the creeds of the Church.” beyond a gilded
Looking to Saint Mary the Virgin and painted rood
with Comper’s ideas in mind, we find screen, like some
the example for future building within jeweled vision.
the Roman Church and within any Overhead, great
congregation of Christians who would pendants hang
be consistent in their claim to the faith down from a fan
once delivered to the saints. The build- vault covered

Photo: Rev. Kenneth Crawford, Vicar

ing is perfectly suited to the proper with bosses like
performance of Christian liturgy in carved snow-
the form of the Mass as well as other flakes. The rood
liturgies that are derived from it. Saint screen projects far
Mary’s is as much suited to worship into the nave and
according to the Book of Common the entire sanctu-
Prayer as it is to the Tridentine Rite. ary is surrounded
The building is entered through a by screens, some
western tower and, had the intended painted and gilded The nave ceiling is a series of fan vaults with pendants.
bell-ringers’ platform been construct- wood, others of
ed, the opening out of the nave would iron crested with angels and shields there is a statue of Our Lady beneath
have been even more dramatic than and sacred monograms. The altar a canopy to the north. The spacious-
it is today. Still, motion is impeded stands beneath a gilded ciborium ness of the sanctuary is notable; there
slightly by a large font with tall canopy; placed just before the east window and are returned stalls for clergy; above,
the screen provides a place for a small
choir. Beyond the north aisle lies
the Jesus Chancel edged by parclose
screens and having a roof of carved
and painted angels. And, beyond the
south aisle, the little chapel of Saint
John the Evangelist provides a more in-
timate space now used for daily offices.
The multiplicity of spaces for the
performance of liturgy on various
scales shows that Comper was con-
cerned with fitting the building to the
needs of a full congregation and the
private individual. In this way the
design is highly relational. The luxu-
rious amount of space allotted to the
sanctuary gives the high altar dignity
Photo: Rev. Kenneth Crawford, Vicar

and allows the Mass to breathe and the

aisles are suited to the largest proces-
sions. Saint Mary the Virgin could be
used effectively on the highest of holy
days ornamented with the most elabo-
rate of ceremonial as well as ordinary
days where ceremonial is limited. There
is no waste in the church, however, for
The nave ceiling is a series of fan vaults with pendants. its decoration shows great consider-
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 31
A r t i c l e s

Photo: Rev. Kenneth Crawford, Vicar

Photo: Rev. Kenneth Crawford, Vicar

The ornate metalwork of the ciborium and high altar iron screens with painted rejas surround the sanctuary.
ation for reflecting the multiple dimen- capitals are decorated with entwined sion here on earth of that spiritual
sions of devotion. Comper viewed the vines that terminate in lilies in the nave Church built of living stones, the Bride
Church as Catholic in the best sense: and Tudor roses in the Jesus Chancel. of Christ, Urbs Beata Jerusalem, which
as universal, traversing boundaries Iron screens, inspired by Spanish rejas stretches back to the foundation of the
of space and, most importantly, time. at cathedrals such as Seville, edge world and onwards to all eternity. With
This Catholicity applied specifically the sanctuary, while the quire is sur- her Lord she lays claim to the whole of
to architectural style is what engenders rounded by Tuscan columns set atop His Creation and to every philosophy
enjoyment of Comper’s masterpiece. Renaissance paneling. The pulpit, set and creed and work of man which his
There are few who would enter and outside the sanctuary, is Jacobean. Holy Spirit has inspired. And so the
immediately perceive the thorough- The remainder of the church’s screens temple here on earth, in different lands
ness of its planning, but many would are Gothic in style; those of the Jesus and in different shapes, in the East and
note the atmosphere created through Chancel being particularly fine ex- in the West, has developed or added to
light, proportion, and painted and amples in the manner of G. F. Bodley. itself fresh forms of beauty and … has
gilded decoration. In Of the Atmo- The ciborium above the high altar never broken with the past: it has never
sphere of a Church, Comper argued is, in conception, early Christian but renounced its claim to continuity.”
that Christian tradition was accretive is composed of a unique type of Co- Continuity is what made the church-
as the Church crossed new boundar- rinthian column possessing praying es of the past so marvelous. They were
ies of nationality and cultural context. angels on each of their four faces. all glorious within, filled with the of-
The Church, in order to be truly Catho- All down the sides of the columns ferings of faithful hearts. They were
lic, must absorb all good things from are painted garlands of flowers. Catholic, representing the Church in
all times and places and make these The wealth of motifs is astonishing. her many robes of beauty. It is not for
her own. Comper admitted that “the It should not be surprising, however, us to recreate the social environment
religion of Christ knows no moment for Comper was keen to convey a sense that made these wonders possible; we
of perfection here on earth” yet urged of heritage informed by a uniquely cannot repristinate the past. We can,
that it “retain all perfections to which Christian view of time and of the however, focus our own hearts on
man has attained and reject all im- world: time in which the Church, those worthy things which are above
perfections of barbaric or evil days.” within the world but not of it, steadi- and strive to bring them ever closer to
In this spirit, the nave columns, ly attained greater perfections even us and ourselves closer to the perfec-
while drawn from English precedent as the world itself writhed in the grip tions of Christ. Saint Mary the Virgin
seen at Northleach and Chipping of sin. “A church built with hands,’ is not just an ideal space for liturgy,
Campden, have Greek entasis. Their said Comper, ‘is the outward expres- not merely a beautiful building; it is

32 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

an example of a manner of thinking to when the budget is unlimited and the fabrics were little more than a barn …
which we must attain. Comper’s mas- craftsmen readily available, yet even but which became glorious by beau-
terpiece confronts us in our selfish- Saint Mary’s, which was a result of tiful workmanship within.” Beauty
ness and our attachment to the dust the generosity of three very wealthy need not mean extravagance. This is
of the earth. To give ourselves fully to sisters, remains incomplete. Com- the first step toward recovering the
God in worship means more than of- per’s original plans for the build- spirit that compelled men to create
fering our thoughts and emotions; it ing had to be revised and downsized Chartres, Gloucester, and Segovia.
means offering our abilities and our and, though still a masterpiece, it is They were able to build these won-
actions. Leitourgia means giving time not as he intended. How then is the drous temples because they were not
and effort to worship. Our Lord de- ordinary parish to take hold of stylis- limited by the belief that every work
serves nothing less than our collective tic Catholicity and make it a reality? had to be complete at its inception.
best; He deserves our finest poetry in The answer lies with Comper and a Their offering of such beauty came
liturgical texts, the best music we can host of other sensible architects from from humility to realize that what
bring to ornament each holy day, the various periods who, despite their they strove to build was greater than
most beautiful architecture, sculp- more spectacular achievements, were themselves, and so they joined their
ture, and painting. If we take our not out of tune with simpler expres- offerings together, slowly rearing the
Christianity seriously, we will look to sions of beauty. “A lesson might be spires and filling windows with spar-
the Church of the past for guidance. taken from the simplest of our medi- kling glass. The cathedral enshrines
Catholicity is easy to dream up eval churches,” wrote Comper, “whose the simple man with simple dreams, a
longing to be part of some great host
gathered before God’s throne of splen-
dor. The average parish may begin
with a small, simple structure, but
over time it may grow and become
filled with beautiful work showing
forth the devotion of generations.
The first step is to build a solid,
well-proportioned structure in conti-
nuity with one of the old styles, be it
Romanesque, Gothic or some variety
of classical. It must not be modernist
for modernism is jealous by nature and
brooks no rivals. Attempts at correcting
churches built in this style have been
largely awkward and unsuccessful. The
only essential in this first step is that
the beginning be of quality, designed
by someone steeped in the past, who
has absorbed its principles and can in-
tuitively create harmonious geometry.
It may seem outrageous at this junc-
ture to consider in detail the various
options for designing a functional
church, but Comper’s ideal of Catho-
licity allows for such variety of design
that I would be remiss not to share
some possibilities. The Mass and the
various liturgies derived from it by the
Protestant Reformers possess the same
fundamental requirements for their
proper celebration. Though Comper
himself might not see it as the logical
conclusion of his thoughts, stylistic
Catholicity generates a climate in which
Photo: Rev. Kenneth Crawford, Vicar

the intelligent architect can design a

church for a Roman congregation that
will function perfectly for an Anglican
one. With some slight modifications,
a design produced with the Mass in
mind will clothe the communion of
Lutherans or Presbyterians in majesty.
Comper’s work at Saint Mary’s
The view toward the sanctuary complete with rood screen. brought the altar toward the people
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 33
A r t i c l e s

the nave floor, making the secondary of their membership in the commu-
ministers less of a distraction from the nity at every service. From a purely
movements at the high altar. This is an practical standpoint, placing the font
unusual but successful arrangement, at the west end allows the entire con-
because it permits the altar to retain gregation to view the baptism cer-
visual supremacy. Also successful is emony. If private baptism is desired,
the placement of singers in galleries the placement of the font in an un-
above the chancel. The music can be encumbered space at the entrance of
heard but the singers need not distract the church allows for large baptismal
the other worshippers by their move- parties to participate comfortably.
ment. The nineteenth-century trend of The pulpit too must be dignified.
collegiate style seating for singers may At Saint Mary’s, Comper designed
be followed in some cases, and this a pulpit that, though significant and
plan often adds a tremendous sense attractive, does not detract from the
of dignity to the liturgy. However central unity of the building around
it is generally best that this arrange- the altar. Allowing for only one focus
ment be used only in larger churches is wise; too many visual centers in a
where the chancel can be quite deep. church creates disharmony. The el-
In this case the altar remains distant evation of the pulpit above floor level
from the people and, though this need is significant for, when the minister
not mean that the congregation feel speaks to the congregation, he has the
isolated from the ministration of the duty of speaking to them the unencum-
priests at the altar, it is perhaps a less bered Word of God. This high office
ideal plan than one that places the must be reflected in the placement of
choir elsewhere. In smaller churches, the Word over the people, symbolically
placing the choir in a rear balcony is a calling them to remember their place as
more effective use of space as well as both subjects and children of the Lord.
fostering an increased feeling of gran- Having posited the ideal, it is nec-
deur in the sanctuary. Larger churches essary to address one of the central
might follow the balcony model or the criticisms raised in relation to the im-
and, though the placement of the altar Spanish custom of placing the choir at plementation of stylistic Catholicity.
so as to be surrounded by worship- floor level toward
pers was effected at his little church of the rear of the nave,
Saint Philip, Cosham, he was careful separated from the
never to allow it to become common congregation by a
in its appearance or undignified in its screened enclosure.
setting. Whether spatially very close Next to the altar,
to the people or not, it is best that the the font is the other
altar be freestanding, allowing both ad liturgical center
orientem and versus populum celebra- that must be con-
tion in a dignified and orderly fashion. sidered. At Saint
If the church is designed to accommo- Mary’s, Comper
date the most complex liturgies it will placed the font at
naturally be suited to the less complex. the west end, one
If Pope Benedict XVI has been inter- bay forward from
preted correctly, the current trend lies the tower. This ar-
toward the Tridentine Rite. Churches rangement was
of the Roman school would do well common during
to provide for coming changes while the nineteenth
maintaining their current manner century and is a
with proper decorum. A benefit to reasonable place-
freestanding altars, aside from their ment both practi-
inherent dignity if designed after cally and symboli-
Comper’s principles, is their ecumen- cally. Just as the rite
ism. It could only be a good thing of baptism marks
if the Church’s elder and younger the entrance of the
daughters were more comfortable baptized into the
in each others’ places of worship. life of the Church,
The sanctuary ought to be spacious, so the placement
affording the ministers breadth of of the font at the
action. The sanctuary at Saint Mary’s entrance of the
is wide in comparison with its depth, church reminds
and the quire is set one step lower than the churchgoers

34 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

The most common, and most easily is often felt that
rebutted, is that churches of the kind every church must
described are expensive and money be an entirely
should be spent on service to the poor unique product.
or foreign missions. The great Ameri- It is the hubris of
can architect Ralph Adams Cram ob- architects trained
served that good proportions cost no to believe that the
more than bad ones and what makes only way to be
a church beautiful is its consistency progressive is to be
and effects of light and color. Comper futuristic that has
would undoubtedly agree; Saint Mary brought about this
the Virgin is not a particularly complex thinking. Comper
building in terms of its basic structure encountered this
or plan. It is essentially a series of rect- sort of thinking
angular volumes massed together in a and overcame it
traditional fashion and pierced through in his many won-
with openings in the form of arches. derful works. In
When distilled into simple geometries, response to those
the vast majority of churches through who claimed that
history are uncomplicated forms. Their architecture should
ornament often causes them to appear reflect its time he
complicated, but, with the exception of replied, “Is there
some of the more adventurous Baroque such a suprema-
examples, churches have remained cy of goodness,
rectangular in shape with the occasion- beauty and truth
al circle or triangle coming into play. in the present age
It may offend the architect brought as to mark it as dis-
up with modern ideas of individual tinct from the past,
genius, but the reality is that good and demand that
design has nothing to do with genius we invent a new
and everything to do with careful ob- expression of it?”
servance of the past and the studied Comper may not
combination of straightforward geo- have fully understood the implica- sometimes dulled but never broken,
metric forms. Let questions of expense tions of his thoughts but it is clear that that stretches back into the misty begin-
be put to rest and let not false humil- his belief in lack of originality is what ning of the earth when Adam and Eve
ity eat away at the Church’s central made his churches so original. This has first walked in the garden in their inno-
function—the worship of Almighty been the case for centuries; through de- cency. With the imago Dei impressed
God in space, in time, in a given place. signing with the past in mind, church- upon us, we must go forward in that
Ornament has the potential to be ex- es have been built that are of their tradition, bearing our best and highest
pensive. This is largely due to a lack of time but remain within the stream of
talented craftspeople and the codifica- a growing, developing tradition and W
tion of the architectural establishment are always suited to the performance
that has worked to eliminate the artist of the liturgy no matter its varied
and craftsman. Still, there is a resur- form. Originality is a result of design- Evan McWilliams holds a M.A. in Ar-
gence of artists today whose works ing with a view to the past. If an ar- chitectural History from the Savannah
are beginning to equal those of earlier chitect says, “I’m only doing what has College of Art and Design. His primary
generations. It is no easy task to recon- been done before; I’m using old bits interests are the confluence of architec-
struct a discipline so thoroughly cor- and pieces,” his heart at least is right. ture and liturgy and the influence of
rupted by modern thinking, but there If he says, “Look and see, I have made nineteenth and twentieth-century scholar-
is the hope of a future renaissance of something new, a unique product of architects on the production of church art.
Christian art to equal the Renaissances this age,” he is not to be trusted with Email: illuviatar@verizon.net.
of the twelfth century in Rome and the the design of the house of God. If his
fourteenth century in Florence. Their designs are, as Peter Anson called 1 Gavin Stamp, quoted in “Ninian Comper: Saint Mary the
Virgin Wellingborough,” published by Saint Mary the Virgin,
works may be costly, but it is their Saint Mary the Virgin, “brilliant pas- Wellingborough.
calling to offer in the service of the tiche” they are worthy of construction. 2 Anthony Symondson and Stephen Arthur Bucknall, Sir

Most High the gifts He has bestowed Saint Mary the Virgin is a truly Ninian Comper: An Introduction to His Life and Work with Complete
Gazetteer (Reading: Spire Books Ltd., 2006), 197.
upon them. Let us not prevent them Catholic building, taking beauty from 3 John Ninian Comper, “Of the Atmosphere of a Church,” in
from exercising their gifts by parsi- many places and times, drawing to- ibid., 234.
4Ibid., 235.
mony and a false sense of superiority. gether disparate strands of human 5 Ibid.
The most deep-rooted problem thought and work, uniting them all in 6 Ibid., 234.
faced today in the realm of the church- a glorious tapestry. Like the Mother 7 Ibid., 246.
8 Peter Anson, Fashions in Church Furnishings: 1840-1940 (London:
building arts concerns the philoso- Church that bore her, she stands as a The Faith Press, 1960), 285.
phy of novelty that has taken over. It memorial to a living faith, a tradition,

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 35

A r t i c l e s

E verglade O ratory
A Visit to the Chapel at Ave Maria University
William Turner

he campus of Ave Maria University
has been carved out of the tomato
fields and drained Everglades of
rural southwestern Florida. The college
and town of Ave Maria are found
after a forty-five minute drive north-
east of Naples, four miles outside the
nearest community of Immokalee. It is
unmistakably the vision of Domino’s
Pizza founder and Frank Lloyd Wright
devotee Thomas Monaghan, who has
focused clearly on a plan to “get to
heaven, and bring as many as possible
with me.” In light of this goal, Monaghan
has centered his endeavors on Catholic

Photo: Ave Maria University

education here, from the earliest years
through college and graduate programs.
The university was originally to be
housed in Ann Arbor on the grounds
and in the Frank Lloyd Wright-style
buildings of Domino Farms. Local
opposition to the expansion and variance The facade and piazza of the new chapel at Ave Maria University.
requests for this site eventually led to the
decision to move the plan to Florida. journey from the side road through the residents. “Center” is the appropri-
This was my first visit to the town well-cultivated grounds: “the road into ate word to describe it. The location of
of Ave Maria. It was obvious to me the Emerald City with a sacred bent.” what has been now called the “oratory”
that the buildings were new and remi- Driving onto the campus I noticed the is an obvious visual focus. The massive
niscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. The oratory façade from over a mile away. chapel, to date the largest concrete
property includes a golf course, resi- It indeed stood out as a central theme pour in Florida, stands out and calls
dential housing, public services, and for the buildings surrounding it. out to the students and residents as
the many divisions of the university. Growth in the town, hampered by they gather in the piazza and shop at
The parish deacon calls the impressive the suffering American economy, had the stores that surround it. The project
experience of travelling the three mile recently been limited to one family per is the architectural design of Harry L.
week, and as of Warren, AIA, of Cannon Design, Grand
January 2010 the Island, NY. Original plans called for a
population is 1,100. 185-foot-tall building with 3,300 seats.
The university Due to rising costs the structure was
student enrollment reduced to 104 feet with 1,100 seats and
is currently 725, an overall size of 25,755 square feet.
with plans to build The university chose the canoni-
that number up to cal term “oratory,” as the edifice is a
5,500. In the light place of prayer set apart for devotion.
of Monaghan’s It is primarily a university chapel, yet it
Roman Catholic also serves the town of Ave Maria. The
vision and the im- local bishop has dedicated the church
portance of faith in and assigned one of his own priests
support and direc- to administer the liturgical life there.
Photo: Ave Maria University

tion of education, As such, the oratory is called a “quasi-

the chapel of Ave parish” and will remain so until future
Maria has been growth causes that status to change.
designed to be the For official parish status, a church
centerpiece of the must be owned here by the Diocese
university and the of Venice, and not by the university.
town planned for Father Robert Tatman, the parish ad-
The new town of Ave Maria, Florida. an eventual 20,000 ministrator, spoke to me about his

36 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

A r t i c l e s

vision concerning the architecture of chitectural effectiveness until this Circle,” the piazza facing the church.
the chapel and how that architecture element is completed. The architecture of Ave Maria
assists in his ministry there. “The ar- Mr. Monaghan spoke to me about Oratory has not been without sharp
chitecture,” he said, “should direct us the chapel as “the Golden Dome of criticism. Called “a design based on
to focus on what is happening ahead, Ave Maria” that he hopes will become a suspicion of architecture” by Denis
without distraction.” He therefore re- a symbol like Notre Dame’s dome. He McNamara (Sacred Architecture 9)
ferred to the beauty that needs to be reflected upon a work in progress over , his words are reinforced by others
found in the sanctuary, overcoming the next five years that would hopeful- who observe that glass and exposed
any other architectural feature or flaw. ly and eventually include a freestand- steel are fundamentally a modern-
The architectural firm of Andrea ing bell tower and the largest outdoor ist approach to design. McNamara
Clark Brown of Naples is already cross in America—sixty-five feet high points to the irony in this style as a
on board with modified plans and with a thirty-foot corpus. Monaghan showpiece for a new era of traditional
models that will set a new mood, foresees covered walkways that will renewal. He notes that there is a return
express the intentions of the university, assist worshippers as they travel to in many places across the United States
and better respect a connection with the chapel from the adjacent build- to a genuine use of traditional design
church history. Mrs. Brown will design ings. A four manual virtual pipe organ, methods. Though this is thought to
either life-size statues or reliefs of the Opus 5, has already been installed by be evidenced by high ceilings, a long
Twelve Apostles shown in positions Marshall & Ogletree of Boston. A rose nave, permanent pews, symbols, and
where they seem to be in movement. window sixteen feet across will even- iconography, McNamara has argued
She plans to use stone in the altar, the tually be set over the front doors. A that the architecture itself plays a sac-
ambo, the altar rail, and the stand for Carrara marble relief of the Annuncia- ramental role that the designers of the
the central tabernacle. She will use the tion embraced to the left and right by Oratory may not have considered.
same stone with wood accents for the archangel side panels is to be found While expressing his praise for
seating. The new sanctuary is so criti- below the window. The work of Hun- Monaghan’s generosity and his gift
cal to the overall design that no final garian sculptor Marton Varo, the relief to the Church, Dr. McNamara related
comment may be made about the ar- will share its name with “Annunciation to me his concern that many ques-

Photo: Ave Maria University

Photo: Ave Maria University

The steel structure is exposed on the exterior and inside the chapel. The iconographic program for the sanctuary remains unfinished.

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 37

A r t i c l e s

securely on the and had to be augmented by spotlights

vertical posts of hidden behind the steel. Florescent
the nave? Tradi- lighting shining up on the fine Stations
tional architec - of the Cross that were obtained from
ture always clari- a church in Detroit, ironically provide
fies and beautifies too much light shining upward. The
structure. “The required lighting for worshippers and
exterior of tall the best illuminative effect to highlight
buildings tries to the design may not blend well if turned
express their own on at the same time. The original plans
structural logic for the chapel included the use of more
and stability,” glass, but the location in the Everglades
McNamara recalls, and the building restrictions to protect
“and spreads their structures from possible hurricanes,
mass over a greater necessitated that the first design be
surface area at changed. This deeply affects the light-
the bottom.” This ing in the building and its illumination
façade gives the becomes more of an issue. The exter-
building a bowed, nal lighting placed around the outside
top-heavy ap- of the chapel, however, succeeds in its
pearance. The plan to present each evening the build-
Church’s vision of ing and the piazza as a lit beacon for
a building as “the the surrounding area.
radiant order of Even though the use of glass has
the heavenly Jeru- been minimized, the structure already
salem, the Bride suffers from leaks and one may find
before her Bride- pails in the choir loft that catch falling
groom” has been rain in the wet season. This is a tre-
lost in what he mendously disappointing flaw in a
Photo: Ave Maria University

thinks have been new building. Wind and rain from

many decisions re- the west are particularly strong at this
sulting in disorder location. The steel beams that con-
and mistaken pro- tinue outside take on the heat of the
portions. day. They expand and contract and
The current in- leaks can and do develop when after-
The light fixtures are supplemented by spotlights behind the terior effect of this noon rains are added to the mix. There
steel to provide light for the nave. structure creates a seems to be some agreement that the
rather “Klingon- stark skeleton structure, which even
tions may not have been asked in the like” environment. It is an austere escapes to the outside walls in a spider-
discussions of how the design should architecture, that could be accused like fashion, may need to be muted
proceed. Important for McNamara is of utilitarianism in human terms. in some way. The concern over a ma-
that church planners ask themselves: However, I would prefer to mitigate chine-like quality, as opposed to pro-
“How will this building become a some of the criticism by noting that this moting church buildings as heavenly
sacrament of the heavenly Jerusalem, chapel and even the skeleton structure icon, could be partially resolved in the
God and man reunited at the Wedding are by no means finished. For example, soft colors and professional carving of
Feast of the Lamb?” Further questions there has been some discussion of Marton Varo. Further, twelve golden
emerge. Should sacramental theology muting the cold steel with color by the statues of the Apostles placed over the
be emphasized more than a tribute to addition of wood accents. This would doors have begun to address this point.
Frank Lloyd Wright? Is the design have a softening effect on the current Critics remain skeptical in the face of
overly concerned with creating a bare and strikingly dark impression of that hope. Meanwhile, the Everglade
logo for the university? In the light of the architecture. Oratory will take many more years to
Monaghan’s respect for Catholic tradi- There is indeed more to the chapel complete.
tion, have architects and consultants than its large skeleton inner structure.
been hired who have a proven record Some would say the effect is over- W
of a modernist approach to church ar- powering and is reinforced by the
chitecture rather than a sacramental large central crucifix. Light coming
approach? May the design be accused from louvers behind the skeleton and Rev. Dr. William J. Turner is a priest and
of being flawed by choosing the mod- the circle of light above the sanctu- pastor of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan.
ernist insistence on the expression of ary is currently inadequate to provide Email: drwjpt@aol.com.
industrially produced I-beams? Is the enough illumination for the entire 1 As quoted in America’s First Cathedral, p.44
created visual effect one of instability church. The lamps in their placement 2 John G. Waite Associates, Architects PLLC, Historic Structure
Report, Draft of June 7, 2000.
as many of the interior beams are at- hanging from the inner-most skeleton 3 As quoted in America’s First Cathedral, p.86
tached by flanges rather than landing arch are ineffective to light the nave

38 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

D o c u m e n t a t i o n

M eeting with A rtists

Address in the Sistine Chapel
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and

Distinguished Artists, 
Ladies and

ith great joy I welcome you to
this solemn place, so rich in
art and in history. I cordially
greet each and every one of you and I
thank you for accepting my invitation.
At this gathering I wish to express and
renew the Church’s friendship with
the world of art, a friendship that has
been strengthened over time; indeed
Christianity from its earliest days has
recognized the value of the arts and

Photo: L'Osservatore Romano

has made wise use of their varied
language to express her unvarying
message of salvation. This friendship
must be continually promoted and
supported so that it may be authentic
and fruitful, adapted to different
historical periods and attentive to social
and cultural variations. Indeed, this is the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the spirit and clothing them in words,
the reason for our meeting here today. Pope, who was an artist himself, wrote colours, forms – making them accessi-
I am deeply grateful to Archbishop a letter to artists, combining the solem- ble.” So great was Paul VI's esteem for
Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the nity of a pontifical document with the artists that he was moved to use daring
Pontifical Council for Culture and friendly tone of a conversation among expressions. “And if we were deprived
of the Pontifical Commission for the all who, as we read in the initial salu- of your assistance,” he added, “our
Cultural Patrimony of the Church, and tation, “are passionately dedicated ministry would become faltering and
likewise to his officials, for promoting to the search for new ‘epiphanies’ of uncertain, and a special effort would be
and organizing this meeting, and I beauty”. Twenty-five years ago the needed, one might say, to make it artis-
thank him for the words he has just same Pope proclaimed Blessed Fra tic, even prophetic. In order to scale the
addressed to me. I greet the Cardinals, Angelico the patron of artists, present- heights of lyrical expression of intuitive
the Bishops, the priests and the various ing him as a model of perfect harmony beauty, priesthood would have to co-
distinguished personalities present. between faith and art. I also recall how incide with art.” On that occasion Paul
I also thank the Sistine Chapel Choir on 7 May 1964, forty-five years ago, in VI made a commitment to “re-establish
for their contribution to this gathering. this very place, an historic event took the friendship between the Church and
Today’s event is focused on you, dear place, at the express wish of Pope Paul artists”, and he invited artists to make
and illustrious artists, from different VI, to confirm the friendship between a similar, shared commitment, analyz-
countries, cultures and religions, some the Church and the arts. The words ing seriously and objectively the factors
of you perhaps remote from the practice that he spoke on that occasion resound that disturbed this relationship, and
of religion, but interested nevertheless once more today under the vault of the assuming individual responsibility,
in maintaining communication with the Sistine Chapel and touch our hearts courageously and passionately, for a
Catholic Church, in not reducing the and our minds. “We need you,” he newer and deeper journey in mutual
horizons of existence to mere material said. “We need your collaboration in acquaintance and dialogue in order to
realities, to a reductive and trivializing order to carry out our ministry, which arrive at an authentic “renaissance” of
vision. You represent the varied world consists, as you know, in preaching art in the context of a new humanism.
of the arts and so, through you, I would and rendering accessible and compre- That historic encounter, as I men-
like to convey to all artists my invitation hensible to the minds and hearts of our tioned, took place here in this sanctu-
to friendship, dialogue and cooperation. people the things of the spirit, the in- ary of faith and human creativity. So
Some significant anniversaries occur visible, the ineffable, the things of God it is not by chance that we come to-
around this time. It is ten years since the himself. And in this activity … you are gether in this place, esteemed for its
Letter to Artists by my venerable Prede- masters. It is your task, your mission, architecture and its symbolism, and
cessor, the Servant of God Pope John and your art consists in grasping trea- above all for the frescoes that make it
Paul II. For the first time, on the eve of sures from the heavenly realm of the unique, from the masterpieces of Pe-

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 39

D o c u m e n t a t i o n

rugino and Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and claimed solemnly, “the Church of the would no longer be anything to do to
Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and Council declares through our lips: if the world. The whole secret is here, the
others, to the Genesis scenes and the you are friends of true art, you are our whole of history is here.” The painter
Last Judgement of Michelangelo Bu- friends!” And he added: “This world Georges Braque echoes this sentiment:
onarroti, who has given us here one in which we live needs beauty in order “Art is meant to disturb, science reas-
of the most extraordinary creations in not to sink into despair. Beauty, like sures.” Beauty pulls us up short, but
the entire history of art. The univer- truth, brings joy to the human heart, in so doing it reminds us of our final
sal language of music has often been and is that precious fruit which resists destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills
heard here, thanks to the genius of the erosion of time, which unites gen- us with new hope, gives us the courage
great musicians who have placed their erations and enables them to be one in to live to the full the unique gift of life.
art at the service of the liturgy, assist- admiration. And all this through the The quest for beauty that I am describ-
ing the spirit in its ascent towards God. work of your hands . . . Remember that ing here is clearly not about escaping
At the same time, the Sistine Chapel is you are the custodians of beauty in the into the irrational or into mere aestheti-
remarkably vibrant with history, since world.” cism.
it is the solemn and austere setting Unfortunately, the present time is Too often, though, the beauty that is
of events that mark the history of the marked, not only by negative elements thrust upon us is illusory and deceit-
Church and of mankind. Here as you in the social and economic sphere, ful, superficial and blinding, leaving
know, the College of Cardinals elects but also by a weakening of hope, by the onlooker dazed; instead of bring-
the Pope; here it was that I myself, with a certain lack of confidence in human ing him out of himself and opening
trepidation but also with absolute trust relationships, which gives rise to in- him up to horizons of true freedom
in the Lord, experienced the privileged creasing signs of resignation, aggres- as it draws him aloft, it imprisons
moment of my election as Successor of sion and despair. The world in which him within himself and further en-
the Apostle Peter. we live runs the risk of being altered slaves him, depriving him of hope
Dear friends, let us allow these fres- beyond recognition because of unwise and joy. It is a seductive but hypo-
coes to speak to us today, drawing us human actions which, instead of cul- critical beauty that rekindles desire,
towards the ultimate goal of human tivating its beauty, unscrupulously the will to power, to possess, and to
history. The Last Judgement, which exploit its resources for the advantage dominate others, it is a beauty which
you see behind me, reminds us that of a few and not infrequently disfigure soon turns into its opposite, taking on
human history is movement and the marvels of nature. What is capable the guise of indecency, transgression
ascent, a continuing tension towards of restoring enthusiasm and confi- or gratuitous provocation. Authentic
fullness, towards human happiness, dence, what can encourage the human beauty, however, unlocks the yearn-
towards a horizon that always tran- spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its ing of the human heart, the profound
scends the present moment even as the eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life desire to know, to love, to go towards
two coincide. Yet the dramatic scene worthy of its vocation – if not beauty? the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If
portrayed in this fresco also places Dear friends, as artists you know well we acknowledge that beauty touches
before our eyes the risk of man’s defin- that the experience of beauty, beauty us intimately, that it wounds us, that
itive fall, a risk that threatens to engulf that is authentic, not merely transient it opens our eyes, then we rediscover
him whenever he allows himself to be or artificial, is by no means a supple- the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp
led astray by the forces of evil. So the mentary or secondary factor in our the profound meaning of our existence,
fresco issues a strong prophetic cry search for meaning and happiness; the the Mystery of which we are part; from
against evil, against every form of in- experience of beauty does not remove this Mystery we can draw fullness,
justice. For believers, though, the Risen us from reality, on the contrary, it leads happiness, the passion to engage with
Christ is the Way, the Truth and the to a direct encounter with the daily it every day. In this regard, Pope John
Life. For his faithful followers, he is the reality of our lives, liberating it from Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes
Door through which we are brought darkness, transfiguring it, making it the following verse from a Polish poet,
to that “face-to-face” vision of God radiant and beautiful. Cyprian Norwid: “Beauty is to enthuse
from which limitless, full and defini- Indeed, an essential function of us for work, and work is to raise us up”
tive happiness flows. Thus Michelan- genuine beauty, as emphasized by (no. 3). And later he adds: “In so far as
gelo presents to our gaze the Alpha Plato, is that it gives man a healthy it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagi-
and the Omega, the Beginning and “shock”, it draws him out of himself, nation which rises above the everyday,
the End of history, and he invites us to wrenches him away from resigna- art is by its nature a kind of appeal to
walk the path of life with joy, courage tion and from being content with the the mystery. Even when they explore
and hope. The dramatic beauty of Mi- humdrum – it even makes him suffer, the darkest depths of the soul or the
chelangelo’s painting, its colours and piercing him like a dart, but in so most unsettling aspects of evil, the
forms, becomes a proclamation of doing it “reawakens” him, opening artist gives voice in a way to the uni-
hope, an invitation to raise our gaze afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, versal desire for redemption” (no. 10).
to the ultimate horizon. The profound giving him wings, carrying him aloft. And in conclusion he states: “Beauty is
bond between beauty and hope was Dostoevsky’s words that I am about a key to the mystery and a call to tran-
the essential content of the evocative to quote are bold and paradoxical, but scendence” (no. 16).
Message that Paul VI addressed to they invite reflection. He says this: These ideas impel us to take a further
artists at the conclusion of the Second “Man can live without science, he can step in our reflection. Beauty, whether
Vatican Ecumenical Countil on 8 De- live without bread, but without beauty that of the natural universe or that
cember 1965: “To all of you,” he pro- he could no longer live, because there expressed in art, precisely because it

40 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

D o c u m e n t a t i o n

opens up and broadens the horizons of and authentic sentiment of beauty, to approach the first and last source
human awareness, pointing us beyond there, truly, is the presence of God. of beauty, to enter into dialogue with
ourselves, bringing us face to face with There is a kind of incarnation of God in believers, with those who, like your-
the abyss of Infinity, can become a path the world, of which beauty is the sign. selves, consider that they are pilgrims
towards the transcendent, towards the Beauty is the experimental proof that in this world and in history towards in-
ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, incarnation is possible. For this reason finite Beauty! Faith takes nothing away
in all its forms, at the point where it all art of the first order is, by its nature, from your genius or your art: on the
encounters the great questions of our religious.” Hermann Hesse makes contrary, it exalts them and nourishes
existence, the fundamental themes that the point even more graphically: “Art them, it encourages them to cross the
give life its meaning, can take on a re- means: revealing God in everything threshold and to contemplate with fas-
ligious quality, thereby turning into that exists.” Echoing the words of Pope cination and emotion the ultimate and
a path of profound inner reflection Paul VI, the Servant of God Pope John definitive goal, the sun that does not
and spirituality. This close proximity, Paul II restated the Church’s desire to set, the sun that illumines this present
this harmony between the journey of renew dialogue and cooperation with moment and makes it beautiful.
faith and the artist’s path is attested artists: “In order to communicate the Saint Augustine, who fell in love
by countless artworks that are based message entrusted to her by Christ, the with beauty and sang its praises, wrote
upon the personalities, the stories, the Church needs art” (no. 12); but he imme- these words as he reflected on man’s
symbols of that immense deposit of diately went on to ask: “Does art need ultimate destiny, commenting almost
“figures” – in the broad sense – namely the Church?” – thereby inviting artists ante litteram on the Judgement scene
the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures. The to rediscover a source of fresh and before your eyes today: “Therefore we
great biblical narratives, themes, well-founded inspiration in religious are to see a certain vision, my brethren,
images and parables have inspired in- experience, in Christian revelation and that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor
numerable masterpieces in every sector in the “great codex” that is the Bible. the heart of man conceived: a vision
of the arts, just as they have spoken to Dear artists, as I draw to a conclu- surpassing all earthly beauty, whether
the hearts of believers in every genera- sion, I too would like to make a cordial, it be that of gold and silver, woods and
tion through the works of craftsman- friendly and impassioned appeal to fields, sea and sky, sun and moon, or
ship and folk art, that are no less elo- you, as did my Predecessor. You are stars and angels. The reason is this: it is
quent and evocative.
In this regard, one may speak of
a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty
which is at the same time an artistic
and aesthetic journey, a journey of
faith, of theological enquiry. The theo-
logian Hans Urs von Balthasar begins
his great work entitled The Glory of
the Lord – a Theological Aesthetics with
these telling observations: “Beauty is
the word with which we shall begin.
Beauty is the last word that the think-
ing intellect dares to speak, because it
simply forms a halo, an untouchable
crown around the double constellation

Photo: L'Osservatore Romano

of the true and the good and their in-
separable relation to one another.” He
then adds: “Beauty is the disinterested
one, without which the ancient world
refused to understand itself, a word
which both imperceptibly and yet un-
mistakably has bid farewell to our new
world, a world of interests, leaving it the custodians of beauty: thanks to the source of all other beauty” (1 John,
to its own avarice and sadness. It is no your talent, you have the opportunity 4:5). My wish for all of you, dear artists,
longer loved or fostered even by reli- to speak to the heart of humanity, to is that you may carry this vision in
gion.” And he concludes: “We can be touch individual and collective sensi- your eyes, in your hands, and in your
sure that whoever sneers at her name bilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, heart, that it may bring you joy and
as if she were the ornament of a bour- to broaden the horizons of knowledge continue to inspire your fine works.
geois past – whether he admits it or and of human engagement. Be grateful, From my heart I bless you and, like
not – can no longer pray and soon will then, for the gifts you have received Paul VI, I greet you with a single word:
no longer be able to love.” The way and be fully conscious of your great re- arrivederci!
of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the sponsibility to communicate beauty, to W
Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in communicate in and through beauty!
the finite, God in the history of human- Through your art, you yourselves are Pope Benedict XVI gave the above speech
ity. Simone Weil wrote in this regard: to be heralds and witnesses of hope to artists in the Sistine Chapel on Satur-
“In all that awakens within us the pure for humanity! And do not be afraid day, November 21, 2009.

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 41

A rtists I nvited to the M eeting with the P ope

Painting/Sculpture: Arnaldo Pomodoro Maurizio Cucchi Roberto Prosseda

Massimo Pulini Florence Delay Enrico Rava
Gustavo Aceves Oliviero Rainaldi Luca Desiato Claudio Scimone
Roberto Almagno Lucia Romualdi Luca Doninelli Alvaro Siviero
Getulio Alviani Filippo Rossi Alain Elkann Amii Stewart

Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images Europe

Tito Amodei Marco Nereo Rotelli Ernesto Ferrero Fabio Vacchi
Kengiro Azuma Marco Rupnik Sergio Givone Antonello Venditti
Marco Bagnoli Sandro Sanna Vivian Lamarque Bruno Venturini
Caspar Berger Ulisse Sartini Franco Loi
Venancio Blanco Sebastian Sinisca Luciano Luisi Cinema/Theater/
Cecco Bonanotte Mauro Staccioli Claudio Magris Dance/Photography:
John Martin Borg Laura Stocco Paola Mastrocola
Christoph Brech Alberto Sughi Margaret Mazzantini F. Murray Abraham
Amedeo Brogli Marco Tirelli Lorenzo Mondo Aurelio Amdendola
Carlo Busiri Vici Natalia Tsarkova Roberto Mussapi Enrica Antonioni
Angelo Canevari Valentino Vago Salvatore Niffoi Adriana Asti
Teodorus Van Kam- Ciaran O'Coigligh Pui Avati Andrea Bocelli with his wife
Antonella Cappuccio and sons.
Nicola Carrino pen Ferruccio Parazzoli Lino Banfi
Bruno Ceccobelli Giuliano Vangi Daniele Piccini Gabriele Basilico Virna Lisi
Sandro Chia Grazia Varisco Davide Rondini Marco Bellocchio Carlo Lizzani
Alfredo Chiappori Claudio Verna Susanna Tamaro Rachid Benhadj Francesca Lo Schiavo
Roberto Ciaccio Guido Veroi Maria Travia Mor- Paolo Benvenuti Samuel Maoz
Max Cole Bill Viola ricone Mahesh Bhatt Citto Maselli
Clelia Cortemiglia Simona Weller Liudmila Ulikskaya Pooja Bhatt David L. Miller
Ugo Cortesi Aleksandr Zvjagin Patrizia Valduga Alessio Boni Mario Monicelli
Nicola De Maria Alessandro Zaccuri Francesca Calvelli Giuliano Montaldo
Lucio Del Pezzo Architecture: Lino Capolicchio Laura Morante
Giuseppe Ducrot Music/Voice: Sergio Castellitto Nanni Moretti
Giosetta Fioroni Eugenio Abruzzini Liliana Cavani Lucilla Morlacchi
Giuseppe Gallo Sandro Benedetti Vadim Ananiev Vincenzo Cerami Franco Nero
Gino Giannetti Mario Botta Claudio Baglioni Giovanni Chiara- Salvatore Nocita
Laurent Grasso Bruno Bozzini Martin Baker monte Garin Nugroho
Emilio Isgrò Saverio Busiri Vici Mite Balduzzi Liliana Cosi Gabriella Pescucci
Pierluigi Isola Santiago Calatrava Domenico Bartolucci Maddalena Crippa Marco Pontecorvo
Mimmo Jodice David Chipperfield Andrea Bocelli Silvia D'Amico Giacomo Poretti
Roberto Joppolo Vittorio Gregotti Angelo Branduardi Caterina D'Amico Anna Proclemer
Anish Kapoor Nathalie Grenon Bruno Cagli Luca De Filippo Gianni Quaranta
Adam Kisleghi Nagy Zaha Hadid Michele Campanella Roberto De Simone Massimo Ranieri
Jannis Kounellis Daniel Liebeskind Roberta Canzian Piera Degli Esposti Luca Ronconi
Ernesto Lamagna Pier Paolo Maggiora Riccardo Cocciante Bruno Delbonnel Giuseppe Rotunno
Felice Levini Lucio Passarelli Flavio Colusso Osvaldo Desideri Maurizio Scaparro
Bruno Liberatore Antonio Piva Daniela Dessi Francesco Escalar Giacomo Scarpelli
Sergio Lombardo Paolo Portoghesi Marco Frisina Dante Ferretti Furio Scarpelli
Trento Longaretti Pietro Sartogo Roberto Gatto Arnoldo Foà Ettore Scola
Carlo Lorenzetti Tommaso Scalesse Gianluigi Gelmetti Jon Fosse Ballakè Sissoko
Giuseppe Maraniello Oswald Mathias Adriano Guarnirei Carla Fracci Aleksander N. Soku-
Paolo Marazzi Ungers I Pooh Matteo Garrone rov
Eliseo Mattiacci Andela Hewitt Valeria Golino Ferruccio Soleri
Igor Mitoraj Literature/Poetry: Jean-Paull Lecot Peter Greenway Paolo Sorrentino
John David Mooney Monica Leone Ugo Gregoretti Marinel Stefanescu
Allessandro Nastasio Eraldo Affinati Giuseppe Liberto Philip Gröning Peter Stein
Armanda Negri Edoardo Albinati Alma Manera Tonino Guerra Andrej Tarkovskij Jr.
Ugo Nespolo Alberto Arbasino Valentin Miserachs Eleonora Guerra Paolo Taviani
Mimmo Paladino Alberto Bevilacqua Grau Monica Guerritore Stephen Verona
Giulio Paolini Elena Bono Ennio Morricone Roberto Herlitzka Pamela Villoresi
Benedetto Pietro- Laura Bosio Carsten Nicolai Terence Hill Bob Wilson
grande Ferdinando Camon Marcello Panni Micha van Hoeke Krzysztof Zanussi
Cristiano Pintaldi Piero Citati Arvo Part Claudia Koll Franco Zeffirelli
Ezio Pollai Giuseppe Conte Vincent Paulet Giulia Lazzarini

42 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

B o o k R e v i e w

M innesota M arvel
Stone and Glass: The Meaning of the Ca- materials and manu- the readership in-
thedral of Saint Paul, by Dia Boyle. Saint facturers that gave tended for this book
Paul, MN: The Cathedral of Saint Paul, form to the edifice. is a popular one. In
2008. 196 pp. ISBN 9780962576522. In his appendices keeping with the in-
$25.00 Hansen references the tended audience,
“inexplicable” loss Boyle’s progress
Reviewed by Thomas M. Dietz of Masqueray’s per- though the cathedral
sonal papers, and it is experiential and

xcepting scholarly articles is conceivable further somewhat storylike,
and occasional references in scholarly works of often breaking into
monographic studies of Cass this nature are now rhetorical questions
Gilbert, texts addressing the architecture impossible for that or first-person exer-
of Minnesota classicist Emmanuel reason. Unless these cises, as when a hypo-
Masqueray are typically hard to come materials have been thetical “one” enters
by. Educated at Paris’s École des Beaux- returned, future the cathedral and is
Arts and groomed in the office of New works on Masquer- subsequently “asked”
York’s Carrère and Hastings, Masqueray ay seem bound to to look around.
served as architect of the St. Louis consider matters The path
and Louisiana Purchase Exhibitions divorced from most—if not all—the along which Boyle takes the reader is
before establishing a private practice primary source documentation. logical: The meaning of the cathedral
in Saint Paul, Minnesota. As a private Dia Boyle, a freelance writer and is first considered in light of its historic
practitioner, Masqueray is noteworthy parishioner in the Twin Cities area, and urban placement before entering
for having produced three cathedrals, consciously conceived of her book in into an analysis of the main façade as
Minneapolis’s Basilica of Saint Mary, light of Hansen’s earlier work. Re- primary approach. The plan is then
and numerous other projects, mostly for leased in commemoration of the hun- briefly considered before reviewing the
the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-Saint dredth anniversary of the laying of the narthex, baptistery, and center aisle.
Paul. cathedral’s cornerstone, Boyle intends Boyle next moves through the various
In 1990 an historian without a for her book to complement Hansen’s side chapels dedicated to Mary, Joseph,
formal education in architecture, Eric earlier work, focusing on the icono- Peter, and Jesus’ Sacred Heart. Then
C. Hansen, wrote The Cathedral of St. graphic and symbolic significance of Boyle reviews the dome, baldachin,
Paul: An Architectural Biography. This the cathedral rather than its technical and altar before engaging in a rather
book has long been the sole readily construction. In the words of the ca- in-depth consideration of the windows
available reference on Masqueray thedral’s rector, Reverend Joseph R. and bronze cycles in the Shrine of the
and his architecture. Hansen cast an Johnson, “The story of the building Nations, the name applied to the six ra-
academic gaze on the primary source of the cathedral—when, where, and diating chapels of the apse ambulatory.
documents of the cathedral archives, how—has already been told. It is the This area receives the most consider-
focusing considerable attention on the ‘why’ that now concerns us.” ation, and nearly a third of the book is
The two projects are thus different devoted to the statuary and windows
in scope: Hansen’s text is heavily re- comprising the Shrine of the Nations.
searched with a true academic bent; Boyle concludes by commenting on the
conversely, Boyle’s text is more in- nave, transepts, and dome, and their
terpretive and follows what might be mosaics, windows, and statuary.
called a formalist inquiry. This should As the subject is generally orna-
not be understood as a criticism, nor mental, the quality and abundance
should it imply Boyle’s commentary of images do not disappoint. Boyle’s
is subjective. The cathedral possess- writing style is clear and engaging, and
es a clear meaning. And the authors devoid of any hackneyed art criticisms.
of these artworks intended for that The result is a sincere and engaging
meaning to be readily comprehensible. text that will be cherished by both Min-
In Boyle’s own words, it is clear that nesota’s Catholics and Masqueray’s ad-
Photo: www.flickr.com "alexquick"

“Archbishop John Ireland and archi- mirers.

tect Emmanuel Masqueray, and all the
many others responsible for the con- W
struction and decoration of this edifice,
planned and executed their designs in A Minnesota native, Thomas M. Dietz
an effort to communicate a message.” received his education in the history,
As such, this book effectively address- theory, and criticism of architecture and
The Rotunda es the matter in question. art at MIT. He is currently an architect in
It is important to bear in mind that Chicago.

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 43

B o o k R e v i e w

R egularity , U niformity and P roportion

The Beauty of Holiness: Anglicanism and nent and enthusiastic. With the An-
Architecture in Colonial South Carolina, glican hegemony being eroded, links
by Louis P. Nelson. Chapel Hill, with London were strengthened, and
NC: University of North Carolina construction of Saint Michael’s and the
Press, 2008. 496 pp. 255 illustrations. new Statehouse on Charleston’s central
ISBN  9780807832332. square was authorized on the same
day. It and other new Anglican parish
Reviewed by Carroll William Westfall churches now enhanced their “regular-
ity, uniformity, and proportion.” Box

his book sparkles with erudition pews were made more uniform and
and clarity worthy of its title. were assigned according to the size
It reveals how South Carolina of the family’s pew subscription, with
colonists made manifest in their the entire family using it without the
religious buildings the beauty of holiness gender segregation prevailing in Vir-
mentioned in Psalms (29:2; 90:9), I ginia. This made visible the movement
Chronicles (16:29), and II Chronicles Church of Saint Luke and Saint Paul, of the colony’s affairs into the hands
(20:21) of their Bible and in their Book Charleston, 1811-16. of a wealthy class and out of those of
of Common Prayer. “The aesthetics of the less numerous planters. The lesser
the Anglican church became both an chael’s (1751-62) hews closer to James orders, including slaves in calm years,
agent of and evidence of the sacred in Gibbs’s example of Saint Martin in the occupied aisle seats or benches at the
the lives of the congregation. Beauty Fields and used an innovative long- back, in galleries, or in the vestibule.
was a Christian virtue, especially in a span truss to obviate interior colum- The Revolution replaced the An-
world so clearly ravaged by sin” (220). nar vault supports. With Prince Wil- glican Church, established since 1706,
The beauty resided principally in liam’s Parish Church (1751-53; burned with the disestablished Episcopal
“regularity, uniformity, and proportion” 1779), possibly the first ancient temple Church. War-ravished rural churches
in the liturgy, the architecture, and the descendent in the English-speak- were rebuilt and improved. In 1803 the
music, and it could reshape the moral ing world since Saint Paul’s Covent Charlestonian Robert Mills produced
sense as British moral thought of the Garden, the colonists were “at the cusp designs for a church (unbuilt) that
period taught. of English church design practice” provided “a brilliant look forward” to
The book’s evidence, reaching (53). Like others in the colony these the classical American temple church.
beyond all of the colony’s churches churches were designed more as au- Inside the Episcopal churches equal-
and chapels into the West Indies and ditory than as liturgical spaces. They ity was embraced as an ideal, but the
England, range from gravestone to lacked important chancels and found continued selling of prominent pews
belfry, from the exterior architectural convenient rather than liturgical loca- belied it. Charleston’s third and largest
orders to the Eucharistic plate, and tions for unremarkable baptism fonts major church, Saint Luke and Saint
through the smells, the sounds, and the and pulpits. The Eucharistic meal was Paul, begun in 1811 as a quotation of St.
feel of holiness. offered with fine silver from a humble Michaels, was built to stand out in size
The colony’s cultural basin lay in table, but taking it was rare. and finish among the now more visible
the West Indies and London more than The Word had displaced the Cross dissenters’ churches that quoted Epis-
with other American colonies. London and was prominent in tablets, books, copal churches, finally reasserting the
was the ultimate source, and the co- and pulpit. Anglicans found sacramen- former role of the Anglican Church. By
lonial builders of churches, usually tal significance in the building and its 1820 the Episcopal Church was visibly
a group of vestrymen, religious and fittings, seeing barrel vaults, often with “a thriving institution.”
secular officials and commissioners, painted cherubs, as the orb of heaven Louis Nelson, chairman of the De-
and builders, knew the latest thought above the quadratic earth of box pews partment of Architectural History at
and practice there through books and and nave. The scent of cedar, the sound the University of Virginia, pulls off an
personal contacts; the role of the archi- of bells, and the Temple-veil chalice impressive alchemical act of transform-
tect remained undefined throughout napkin stressed continuity between the ing vast and detailed information into
the colonial period old Church and the new. an account of how buildings respond-
While the rural churches and The beauty was in the universe ed to the needs and desires of those
chapels provide the background, the Ptolemy had described, and over the who built and used them.
book’s stars are the three, and later course of the eighteenth century, Des- W
four, great Charleston churches. Saint cartes’s and Newton’s description
Phillip’s (1715-23) amalgamated would displace his as reason began to Carroll William Westfall is the Frank
recent discussions in London about dispel the commingling of heaven and Montana Professor at the University of
the ancient Temple of Jerusalem and earth. Meanwhile, by mid century An- Notre Dame’s School of Architecture. He
the new London churches, especially glicans accounted for only 40 percent has written extensively on the history of the
Nicholas Hawksmore’s, responding of the colony’s white population, while city and architecture. Email: Westfall.2@
to Queen Anne’s 1711 edict. Saint Mi- Dissenters became increasingly promi- nd.edu.

44 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

B o o k R e v i e w

A rchitecture as the B uilt F orm of T heology

Catholic Church Architecture and the Mass. In turn, it is the Mass that
the Spirit of the Liturgy, by Denis unveils the mystery of the Temple and
McNamara. Chicago, IL: Liturgy the theology of liturgical architecture.
Training Publications, 2009. 256 pp. McNamara continues his analysis
ISBN  9781595250278. by illustrating the principles behind
classical and Temple architecture and
Reviewed by Riccardo S. Vicenzino explaining why the classical language
is still appropriate for contemporary

or those who have borne witness liturgical architecture. The chapters on
to the architectural and liturgical ornament, decoration, and iconography
vandalism that has occurred over are particularly insightful and follow
the last half century, there will be the Western architectural traditions
comfort in this groundbreaking work. as understood through the writings
It is a testament to a turning of the of Vitruvius until the present day. By
tide, a counter-revolution in liturgical using patterns in nature established by
and architectural thought, which has its Creator, these elements are absolutely
been held captive and scorned at by a necessary, not mere whimsical add-
"spirit of reform" that is foreign to both ons, in revealing and understanding
Catholic theology and pious customs for a building's purpose as well as its
the last two millennia. Modernism, both structural clarity.
liturgical and architectural (as well as in Every architectural choice is
all the allied arts), has roots dating back the result of a theological premise,
to the nineteenth century. Influenced hence all architectural arguments are
by "Enlightenment" thinking, liturgical implications of beauty is crucial in any ultimately theological. If we view
and architectural modernisms formed discussion regarding the appropriateness church architecture as the built form of
a natural partnership that rendered of liturgical architecture, as beauty is theology, then the architectural forms
ontology subservient to epistemology and the manifestation of the “splendor of (as are the rubrical forms in the rites of
consequently provided the framework truth”: one has to know what a thing worship) ought to be used as didactic and
for a worldview counter to Catholic is in its deepest sense to know how it functional mediums to communicate the
social teachings, as acknowledged in the should be made. Beautiful things are realities of the liturgy. One may infer that
writings of the holy pontiffs throughout formative as they move the will toward the clearer the rite of worship, the clearer
the nineteenth century and beyond. The the good, and this can also be described the liturgy, thus rendering a further
architectural destruction wrought upon as an act of love. Simply said, things clarity to a certain theology or system
the faithful since Vatican Council II was should look like what they are. This is of belief. Therefore, in Catholic worship,
documented powerfully in Michael a straightforward concept, but one that liturgical art and architecture must be
Rose's Ugly as Sin, but Denis McNamara unfortunately escapes many practicing subordinate to the proper understanding
has gone a step farther, establishing a architects and liturgical consultants of the liturgy in order to reveal the
connection between that destruction and today. divine nature of the Mass. A church’s
a "theology" that has rendered the sacred Another noteworthy contribution of legibility also depends upon conventions
liturgy and its architectural settings this book is the chapter dealing with the acquired from an inherited architectural
inadequate for expressing the dogmas scriptural foundations of the Temple tradition. If the architect departs from
of proper Catholic worship as confirmed as the typological precursor of the those recognizable conventions he
by the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, Church and the image of the Heavenly fails to convey the intended meaning
both as cardinal and pope. Jerusalem. Studying and acknowledging of a structure. A building's beauty is
This work is especially significant as the Temple as a model for our churches reduced if its external expression does
it reconnects both the philosophical and presents an opportunity to recapture our not correspond with its ontological
theological principles underpinning both understanding of sacrifice. McNamara reality. Therefore, a church must look
liturgical architecture and the liturgy. explains in detail the Temple theology like a church, or at the very least possess
The book is based on a refreshingly and its architectural forms and traces the quality of “church-ness.” The
Thomistic pattern, clear in its distinctions the roots of Catholic theology back to discussion on the inappropriateness of
and completely accessible to the average the Temple of Jerusalem. The symbolism domestic architecture as a paradigm
reader. One is guided through a discourse of the Temple as the Gate of Heaven for modern Church structures is clearly
regarding ontological categories and and the Temple ritual as a precursor demonstrated through scriptural and
laying out the basis and final goal of to the Catholic liturgy is one of the historical references. It is a textbook
any artistic endeavor, that is, truth, most profound concepts of liturgical defence against the “archeological
goodness, and beauty. The discussion architecture, but one that has been enthusiasm” and “pastoral pragmatism”
on beauty should be a prerequisite for lost to modern Catholics. Studying so often touted by liturgical consultants
anyone even remotely interested in the these Biblical typologies assists in our and those advocating the virtues of
arts. Understanding the theological understanding of the very essence of social justice while neglecting the

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 45

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dignity of worship that is due to our or replaced by fiat. task of defending a classical vision
Creator. So by its very nature, liturgical Although some readers may not that seeks to recover the sense of the
architecture not only demands legibility share McNamara's enthusiasm for the sacred, particularly within the liturgical
but this legibility must be accompanied necessity of reform, his acknowledgment act and the physical form in which it
by architectural decorum that insists on of the disastrous outcomes of the last takes place. This work will be pivotal
church architecture possessing a higher forty years are uncontestable. There may in the re-catechesis of the faithful (a
dignity than that of secular buildings. be some legitimate points of dispute on "mystagogical catechesis" according to
The arguments in favor of traditional his historical assessment of the Liturgical the Holy Father) who have completely
architecture is not so much a set of Movement and what constitutes a true lost their understanding of the liturgy
architectural forms but a philosophy on liturgical reform as one seeks to identify and the dignified settings appropriate
the nature of things. It values that which the true “spirit” within the texts of the for its celebration. We must remember
is enduring and, through poetic allusion, Vatican II. But these discussions are that communication is not just a matter
represents what is "true." This poetry fruitful, for they are in line with the of language but of signs and symbols
of structure strives for a "timeless" art, Holy Father's request for honest inquiry that impart a deeper metaphysical
which ultimately occurs when noble, and further reflection on the "reforms" reality. “Full, active and conscious
universal, and enduring ideas are finely implemented since the council. Liturgies participation” can occur on a deeper
rendered as witnessed by some of the are not fabricated but grow from the contemplative level, not just physical.
great cathedrals of Europe throughout Saint Pius X recognized this when he
the Church's history. The classical pleaded to the faithful that we not just
worldview is ultimately connected to “pray at Mass” but “pray the Mass.”
a sacramental theology. It accepts and What the faithful desperately require
propagates the view that truth exists and is guidance in the sacred mysteries
is knowable through divine revelation "making [them] more sensitive to the
and intellectual inquiry. Architectural language of signs" through a liturgy
forms, like language, are composed of that takes them beyond their ordinary
recognizable conventions that not only everyday experiences. Our churches
promote a culture's artistic traditions should offer a foretaste of Heaven,
but a community's collective memory. as "bearers of divinity revealing the
Classical architecture, as an art, is a nature of things as they appear in a
bearer of that continuity, offering a restored, perfected and redeemed
clear structure that conveys meaning. It world.” The Holy Father has confirmed
is opposed to the modernist definition that architecture, as well as music and
of art, where absolute artistic license all the allied arts, must play a seminal
is sacrosanct and where novelty and heart of the Church through millennia role in that catechesis, and McNamara’s
creativity reign supreme. It seems the of organic growth and with the guidance Catholic Church Architecture and the
artist, having departed far beyond of the Holy Spirit. Our attitude should Spirit of the Liturgy will undoubtedly
recognizable artistic conventions, not be to approach the liturgy with accomplish this task. It will prove to be
has risked becoming unable to a “spirit of rupture” or a “spirit of a valuable resource for professionals,
convey meaning to his audience. It reform” but with a “spirit of paradosis”, pastors, or building committees who are
is this ambiguity, this chaos, that is the handing-on of tradition. The thinking of undertaking a restoration of
diametrically opposed to a God who Holy Father asks us not to fall into the a church to bring it in line with proper
so ordered the cosmos in “number, error of “archeological enthusiasm” or liturgical worship. This book ought to
measure, and weight.” The ordering “pastoral pragmatism” but once again to be required reading and should adorn
of things with “wholeness, harmony, understand and recapture the principles the bookshelves of all those who are
and clarity” is the hallmark of creation, that underline the Church’s liturgical toiling in the vineyard, working toward
which echoes the divine will. Classical and artistic traditions, principles that "restoring all things in Christ." Our
architecture has developed an articulate have inspired the faithful in living out Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!
and sophisticated language through the Gospel throughout the Church’s
the use of recognizable forms acquiring two-thousand-year history.
a level of legibility that impresses The value of Dr. McNamara’s
knowledge of itself on the mind of scholarly yet accessible work resides in W
the perceiver. We see this ordering of its application of architectural principles
things in classical buildings as the forces in light of the proper understanding of
of nature are placed in balance (i.e., the mysteries of the Catholic liturgy.
heavy things hold up lighter things). He is not trying to invent new concepts
These conventional forms also have the or a new philosophy with regards to Riccardo S. Vicenzino is an architect in
benefit of communicating and clarifying liturgy or traditional architecture but New York City.
hierarchical relationships, which would rather reestablish the proper framework 1 Temple and Liturgy, Margaret Barker, Lambeth Palace 2009.
otherwise be invisible, within a culture’s of what was once common knowledge 2 The Organic Development of the Liturgy, Alcuin Reid, O.S.B.,
political system and between buildings or a common sensibility toward the Foreword by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 11
themselves, representing the importance sacred. He is reintroducing a classical 34 Sacramentum Caritatis, 64
The Spirit of the Liturgy, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 209
and purpose of the institutions they worldview lost to the fury of reform 5 Sacramentum Caritatis, 64
house. This simply cannot be reinvented and has contributed to the immense 6 Ibid.

46 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

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U nrestrained I nnovation
Contemporary Church Architecture, the call for every church commission
by Edwin Heathcote and Laura to be “of its time.” Instead of address-
Moffatt. West Sussex, England: John ing the purpose of the church in the
Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2007. 240 pp. 320 community, the authors fuse each ar-
illustrations. ISBN 9780470031568. chitect’s work with broader political
and cultural movements. For example,
Reviewed by Thomas D. Stroka Josef Plecnik’s work in Vienna and
Slovenia is considered a felicitous re-

nlike any other building, a sponse to the nationalist period in
church is “an accessible public which he was engulfed, while mod-
space amid an increasingly, ernist projects in Britain are derided
and occasionally frighteningly because they lack innovation and too
commercial and privatized world.” closely imitate the works of Oscar Nie-
Edwin Heathcote and Laura Moffatt meyer and Le Corbusier. In the text, Christ Church, Donau City, Vienna, by
highlight the role of church architecture the authors exalt the role of the archi- Heinz Tesar, 2000.
in the modern world in Contemporary tect rather than the patron and praise
Church Architecture, which follows ten the church buildings most expressive they are meant to serve. The authors
years after Heathcote and Iona Spens of their time rather than those that are suggest that the minimalist aesthetic
published Church Builders. In the new the most noble houses of God. commonly found in contemporary
book, the authors document recent Contemporary Church Architecture churches is rooted in the Cistercian
advances in church architecture, first follows the work of the Expression- tradition, but also admit that a global
with a historical narrative of progressive ists in Germany during the 1920s, in- cultural exchange has introduced the
churches of the twentieth century and cluding architects Otto Bartning and sparsity of the Zen tradition into Chris-
then a compilation of twenty-eight Dominikus Böhm. Böhm conceived tian architecture.
contemporary projects. of a perfectly circular church, the first Heathcote and Moffatt allude to the
Heathcote and Moffatt’s chrono- modern Catholic church “unrestrained uncertain future of church building in
logical history of church architecture by the rectangular plan.” The authors a radically secularized world and are
assumes an evolution from the "histori- give the project specific praise for its realistic in their assessment of the drop
cism” of the nineteenth century to the innovation for innovation’s sake. The in church attendance and its implica-
seamless, industrial architecture of the Liturgical Movement in Belgium and tion for the number of contemporary
modern age. The authors adequately Germany and its implication in sacred projects. The text can be humorous
cover projects throughout Europe, architecture is mentioned, but the text at times, especially in its criticism of
aided by drawings and small black and does not include an in-depth explora- architectural clichés: “architects ap-
white photos of the more momentous tion of the meaning of architecture for proaching church design become ob-
projects. Each innovation is praised as Christian worship. For example, archi- sessed with light. Light is uncontro-
a positive advancement of the building tect Rudolf Schwarz’s desolate church versial, unlike say art or even form …
tradition, and the authors perpetuate designs were generated by the liturgy it appeals to atheists as much, if not
in a so-called “Sacred Objectivity” that more than to Christians.” Despite the
responds to the demands of the rites. authors' argument that churches are an
The contemporary church projects important bastion of the public realm,
exhibited in the book are mostly small Heathcote and Moffatt fail to include
chapels, but they vary in their materi- contemporary church buildings that
ality and use of glazing. Some of the incorporate the rich Christian tradi-
chapels simply consist of poured con- tion of art and architecture. They fail to
crete walls and ceilings. Many of the convey that a noble and transcendent
projects, including a chapel for the place for worship should be ordered
Chancery of the Archdiocese of Berlin, and enriched by the timeless forms and
bear no Christian symbols on the ex- symbols of sacred architecture. As a
terior or interior. In every project ex- whole, the photographic documenta-
hibited in the book, there are no hierar- tion in the book is generous. Small
chical distinctions between the church black-and-white images and drawings
buildings and their neighbors in the accompany the historical essays in the
city. Regarding the interiors, many first seventy pages, while full-page
of the chapels fail to properly distin- color photographs and line drawings
guish the sanctuary from the body of illustrate the contemporary projects in
the church, often forming one space the latter half of the book.
without a clear focal point for distract-
ed worshipers. Other projects featured W
Harajyuku Church, Tokyo, by Ciel Rouge are disorienting in their structural logic Thomas D. Stroka is an architectural de-
Création, 2005. and seem to disregard the community signer in Indiana.

Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 47

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W indows to H eaven
Picturing the Celestial City: The Medieval dral’s grisaille is a colorless ground in
Stained Glass of Beauvais Cathedral, by straight lattice patterns, which Cothren
Michael W. Cothren. Princeton: Princ- sees as displaying “uncommonly bold
eton University Press, 2006. 288 pp. and monumental simplicity.” Could
ISBN 978 0691120805. 64 color illustra- the choice also have been cost saving?
tions; 180 halftones. Later he does suggest that “thrift may
have been a motivating factor” during
Reviewed by Virginia C. Raguin Guillaume’s episcopacy. Indeed to the
critic Guillermy visiting in 1858 the

his is a richly researched and display was “completely mediocre,” an
beautifully produced book, assessment that Cothren disputes.
welcome among the studies on The third and fourth campaigns
Beauvais. Stephen Murray’s Beauvais were engaged in repair. Several extant
Cathedral: Architecture of Transcendence windows in the chapels, installed in
(1989) gave us a close architectural the 1290s after the collapse, reveal the
analysis. Meredith Lillich’s work themes of St. Vincent and the Apostles.
profiled stained glass of this period Here the forms are expressionist and
in a broad way. In The Armor of apparently betray different painters
Light: Stained Glass in Western France operating within a single workshop.
1250-1325 (1993), she noted many of The artistic quality of several of the
the trends at Beauvais, especially the windows is spectacular. The campaign
mingling of uncolored glass (grisaille) Germain-des-Prés. The latter, however, of the 1340s was extensive, producing
and color. Cothren’s book expands on to this reviewer, recalls the three di- the most glass that has been left to us.
these studies. mensionality of Laon’s windows, All the openings in the rebuilt straight
The author examines four successive which include a Theophilus story bays of the choir were filled with band
campaigns: first the three windows of (1210-15). This approach to evaluating windows. Here prominent donors, in-
the axial chapel, second, the original narrative parallels that of Alyce Jordan cluding Jean de Marigny (bishop of
glazing of the choir, third the glazing in z, (2002). Beauvais, 1313-1347) and the Roche
of the upper windows after the col- Analysis of the second campaign of Guyon family appear. Same lancets are
lapse of the vaults in 1284, and finally 1255-65 takes less space. The original linked visually to construct narratives
restorations and new windows in the glazing of the upper choir that sur- of the Stoning of Stephen and the Life
1340s. It is frustrating that he pres- vived the collapse of the vaults in 1284 of St. Denis, patron saint of France.
ents little speculation on what might consists of twelve standing figures. Overall, Cothren makes challeng-
have been in the other chapels, a total The axial window shows the suffer- ing assumptions: that the extraordi-
of sixteen windows. Might it have been ing Christ (Christus patiens), an inno- nary architecture of Beauvais often
grisaille, similar to the axial chapel vation of the mid–thirteenth century, remained with temporary closings;
of Auxerre? Precedents are found at associated with the new spirituality that stylistic diversity was the norm
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, roughly con- of the Franciscans and the construc- in the axial chapel, but the “overarch-
temporary with Beauvais. The more tion of Paris’s Sainte Chapelle around ing unity” brought a visual continu-
complex the architecture, apparently, relics of the Passion. The figures are ity to an ensemble built in three sepa-
the more intense the impulse to bring set in grisaille connecting them to rate stages; that in the final campaign
in greater light with uncolored glass. the new “band window” explored of the 1340s, the designers produced
The three double-lancet windows by Lillich. The straight bays of the windows with deliberate archaisms in
in the axial chapel that depict a Bishop choir would presumably have carried an attempt to harmonize the images
Saint, Tree of Jesse/Infancy of Christ, images of prophets or saints (precur- with those dating almost seventy-five
and Legend of Theophilus are visibly sors or followers). The original glazing years earlier. These are provocative
different. In ninety-six pages, Cothren of the triforium was also in uncolored ideas, but based on extremely thorough
argues that the variety is related to glass, accented with colored bosses research.
subject matter. Highly conservative and fillets. Grisaille at this time was
formats of the Jesse Tree/ Infancy usually enhanced with neutral paint W
window support the use of a retarda- in leaf designs against crosshatched Virginia Chieffo Raguin is professor of art
taire local style. The more progressive grounds. Here Cothren ventures some history and the John E. Brooks Chair in
Bishop Saint window may refer to all hypotheses about reglazing or the use the Humanities at the College of the Holy
four sainted bishops of the See, as well of temporary windows. Two transept Cross. She has published widely on stained
as the current prelate, Robert de Cres- roses whose architecture dates to the glass and architecture, including Stained
sonsacq (bishop 1238-48), very likely late 1220s and early 1230s presumably Glass from its Origins to the Present, 2003.
the patron. The Bishop Saint window received their glass between 1255 and Her exhibition “Pilgrimage and Faith:
he associates with the cathedral of 1265; were they replacing a temporary Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam,” will
Rouen, but the Theophilus window closure or were old windows destroyed appear in Worcester, Chicago, Richmond,
with Parisian styles, specifically Saint- to make way for the new? The cathe- and New York from 2010 through 2011.

48 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

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F oundation of the F aith in A merica

America's First Cathedral, by Mary- include acting as the site of the Second
Cabrini Durkin. Strasbourg, France: Provincial Council to establish bound-
Editions du Signe, 2007. 151 pp. ISBN aries for the new and fluid dioceses of
9782746818118. the United States and its archbishop,
James Cardinal Gibbons, playing an in-
Reviewed by Philip Nielsen strumental role in the election of Saint
Pius X to the chair of St. Peter. Illus-
trating the church’s physical and spiri-
tual dimensions, Durkin quotes George
The living stones of this building—
the stones which make up its luminous symbol of religious freedom.” Durkin
fabric, and the “living stones” that are explains the progression of these efforts
the countless lives transformed here by to restore Latrobe’s original design, in-
God’s grace—are a great … expression, cluding how the preservation architect
in a cathedral church, of America’s discovered on the drum surface origi-
noblest aspiration: to be a people who nal pieces of artwork depicting the four
freely choose what is true and good evangelists, covered by a previous ren-
and beautiful; to be a people who bind ovation.
themselves to the true, the good, and Through detailed photographs of
the beautiful in acts of worship.” the undercroft chapel, the exterior and
The book’s rich intermingling of cul- the dome restoration, this section pro-
tural and architectural history ensures vides clear insight into the process by
that the reader, whether well acquaint- which the architects and preservation-
ed with architecture or completely ig- ists worked to uncover the original
norant of the field, will find it both in- intent of Latrobe’s design. Ultimately,
teresting and informative. the images of the basilica interior with
Having established the importance its before and after images, its deli-
of the basilica both as a first-class ar- cate coloring and light-filled rotunda,

n America’s First Cathedral, Mary- chitectural composition as well as a rightfully steal the show in this book,
Cabrini Durkin presents a beautifully historical font of American Catholi- a valuable tribute to the first home of
illustrated history of the Baltimore cism—which combine to make it a American Catholicism.
diocese’s cathedral from Latrobe’s profound precedent for American
original designs through its rise Catholic church construction—Durkin W
as a national symbol of American moves to the fine details of the resto- Philip Nielsen is a graduate of the
Catholicism, culminating in years of ration project. The restoration’s intent University of Notre Dame School of
restoration that have only recently been seems clear from the first: “to restore Architecture. He has written on aesthetics
completed. the building to the original Benjamin for various journals, the Intercollegiate
The first half of America’s First Ca- Henry Latrobe design. This will ensure Studies Institute and Ignatius Press.
thedral places the cathedral in its his- that the building realizes its full poten- 1 As quoted in America’s First Cathedral, p.44
torical context, providing a succinct tial as a religious and architectural icon 2 John G. Waite Associates, Architects PLLC, Historic Structure
survey of the primary figures involved of national and international signifi- Report, Draft of June 7, 2000.
3 As quoted in America’s First Cathedral, p.86
in its creation, moving from Latrobe cance.” Even Pope John Paul II placed
and Archbishop John Carroll through his imprimatur on
James Cardinal Gibbons and Blessed the undertaking
Teresa of Calcutta. Durkin admirably when he was pre-
interweaves the architectural history— sented by the trust-
including marvelous detail about the ees with their plans
construction process—with the his- for restoring the ca-
tories of the men who played such a thedral: “I remem-
profound role in the building and de- ber well my own
velopment of the cathedral. As an ar- visits to the first
chitectural touchstone for the changing cathedral of the
population of American Catholicism, Catholic Church
the history of the Basilica of the Na- in America. May
tional Shrine of the Assumption of the God bless the
Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, MD, efforts you are now
illuminates the history of the Catholic making to restore
Church in America over the past two this historic shrine
hundred years. Its historic associations as a worldwide
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 49
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F rom the P ublishing H ouses

A S election of R ecent B ooks

Who Built Beverley Minster?, edited

by P.S. Barnwell. Reading, UK: W
Spire Books, 2008. 170 pp. ISBN
9781904965176. $30.00
Sacred Buildings: A Design Manual,
by Rudolf Stegers. Berlin: Birkhäus-
er Verlag, 2008. 247 pp. ISBN
9783764366834. $119.00

The design of sacred spaces pres-

ents architects with a particular chal-
lenge. In few other design tasks is
the need to achieve the right balance
between function and atmosphere
of such importance: which ritual
requirements have to be incorpo-
rated, which pragmatic needs have
to be met for a service? Which spe-
cific concerns and traditions of a
particular religion must be consid-
ered? Which shapes of plan, what
type of volume and which lighting
and acoustic concepts contribute to Christianity: The Illustrated History,
the sacred atmosphere of a space? edited by Hans J. Hillerbrand. London:
The publication provides a survey Duncan Baird Publishers, 2008.. 256 pp.
of conceptual principles of design- ISBN 9781844837175. $35.00
ing sacred buildings for Christian-
ity, Judaism and Islam. It explains With illuminating and accessible
technical and planning guidelines scholarship from a team of eminent
Beverley Minster, one of England's for this building type. Some seventy authorities, Christianity: The Illustrat-
greatest churches, is the creation of case studies from Europe, America ed History gives a concise, clear, and
craftsmen and women over more than and Asia--churches, synagogues, superbly illustreated acount of this
seven centuries. Who were they? How mosques and crematoria--spanning world-changing religion. Part One
did they work? How was the Minster the last four decades give answers to traces the development of Christian-
built and maintained? Analysis of tell- this most singular design task. ity, from the life story, teachings, and
tale marks on wood and stone and of death of Jesus through its beginnings
written sources is beginning to provide as a small local sect to its rise as a global
the answers. This book, which will be power. Part Two gives an overview of
of interest to all those interested in Bev- Christian beliefs, rituals, and festivals
erley Minster and in how great church- as well as introductions to the Catholic,
es were built, explains what has been Protestant, and Orthodox traditions,
discovered so far. It reveals different each with its distinctive identity. Part
kinds of evidence — masons' marks, Three surveys the rich body of sacred
carpenters' marks and documents — texts--including scrolls, testaments,
that tell the story of the church's con- and apocrypha--and their influence
struction and the background of its on literature and culture. Part Four
builders. The book provides a new examines the issues faced by Christi-
interpretation of the way in which the anity's diverse faith communities as
14th century nave was built, explains they strive to meet the challenges of a
how the Minster was maintained after new millenium. Beautifully illustrated
the Reformation and daringly rescued throughout, the scholarly yet accessible
from collapse in the eigteenth century, text is enlivened by dozens of boxes
and how it has been restored and main- and sidebars that emphasize the wide-
tained ever since. reaching legacy of Christianity, from
music to architecture. Anyone will
W find this book endlessly fascinating
and enriching.

50 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

B o o k R e v i e w

F rom the P ublishing H ouses

A S election of R ecent B ooks

Henry Wilson: Practical Idealist, by

Cyndy Manton. Cambridge, UK: The
Lutterworth Press, 2009. 284 pp. ISBN
9780718830977. $105.00

Henry Wilson (1864 - 1934) worked

in a highly individual style, uniting in-
fluences from the Arts & Crafts Move-
ment and Art Nouveau with his own
interpretation of traditional forms,
symbols and nature. Drawing on origi-
nal archives, biographical details and
insights from family members, this
is the first published study devoted
Preaching, Word, and Sacrament: Scot- wholly to Wilson and his work. This
tish Church Interiors 1560-1860, by Nigel book discusses examples of his work
Yates. London: T&T Clark, 2009. 199 throughout the UK and in North
pp. ISBN 9780567031419 . $130.00 America, where he designed the bronze
Reviewed by Gretchen Buggeln entrance doors for a leading Boston tea
importer and the great West doors of
Published posthumously, Profes- the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, W
sor Nigel Yates’ final work is his me- New York. Of equal impact were his
ticulously researched Preaching, Word exhibition designs, and his influential Nothingness: Tadao Ando's Chris-
and Sacrament: Scottish Church Interiors teaching at the Royal College of Art, at tian Sacred Space, by Jin Baek. New
1560-1860. Emphasizing the histori- the Central School of Arts and Crafts, York: Routledge, 2009. 210 pp. ISBN
cal and liturgical developments in the and at the Vittoria Street School for 9780415478540. $150.00
Scottish Church and their effects on Silversmiths and Jewellers in Birming-
church architecture, Yates offers the ham. This book explores the cultural sig-
“most accurate and up-to-date list nificance of contemporary architect
of ‘substantially unaltered’ pre-1860 Tadao Ando's works in reference to
church interiors available.” He in- W the Buddhist idea of nothingness, ex-
cludes a helpful chapter contrasting pounded by Kitaro Nishida, the father
the Presbyterian churches with Roman of the Kyoto Philosophical School. The
Catholic and Episcopal churches of the Our Lady of the Angels, by Rev. Leo Lar- interview text with Ando elucidates his
same period, and a final chapter that rivee, S.S. Photography by Jim Strat- conception and embodiment of sacred
takes these buildings to the present. ton. Helena, MT: Farcountry Press, space as it pertains to nothingness, the
Extensive appendices contribute to the 2009. 80 pp. ISBN9781591520511. $20.00 relationship between his residential ar-
book’s value as a research tool. chitecture and Christian architecture,
Father Leo Larrivee, pastor of Our and his design approach.
Lady of the Angels Parish at Charles-
W town, Maryland, writes the history of
the chapel built in 1913 as part of the
new Saint Charles Seminary. Adorned
with intricate mosaics, Carrara marble,
and breathtaking stained-glass
windows, the chapel is rich in detail
and Christian artwork. Our Lady of
the Angels has served as both sanctu-
ary and inspiration to the seminarians
of Saint Charles College, the thousands
of residents of Charlestown, and the
visitors who come to experience the
beauty of the chapel firsthand. The
newly published book consists mostly
of color photographs of the architec-
ture, stained glass and artwork that
fills the stunning chapel.
Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010 51
B o o k R e v i e w

F rom the P ublishing H ouses

A S election of R ecent B ooks

The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt: A The Lion Companion to Church Architec- Catholic St. Louis: A Pictorial History,
New Critical Edition and Color Facsimile, ture, by David Stancliffe. Oxford, UK: by Rev. William Barnaby Faherty, S.J.
by Carl F. Barnes, Jr. Burlington, VT: Lion Hudson, 2008. 280 pp. 500 illustra- Photography by Mark Scott Abeln. St.
Ashgate Publishing Company, 2009. tions. ISBN 9780825478581. $39.95 Louis, MO: Reedy Press, 2009. 170 pp.
292 pp. ISBN 9780754651024. $130.00 ISBN 9781933370835. $32.95
David Stancliffe goes beyond the
technical possibilities and liturgical
functions to explore how, in the words
of the eighth-century bishop Germa-
nus, even the humblest chapel was a
bit of 'heaven on earth.' Beginning with
a discussion of sacred space and the
influence of environment on human
experience, he traces the evolution
of church architecture from biblical
times to the present day, covering early
Roman house churches, through the de-
velopment of the Eastern church, to the
architectural shifts of the Romanesque,
Gothic, Renaissance and beyond. Later
chapters focus on the radical changes
that resulted from the Reformation and
the invention of printing, and explore
the journey to contemporary under-
standings of church architecture. Each
chapter addresses not only the shift in
building styles but also the historical,
theological and liturgical contexts that
frame it. Stancliffe draws on his exper-
This new facsimile edition of the tise in the fields of architecture, liturgy
Portfolio of the 13th-century Picard and worship and on his extensive
artist Villard de Honnecourt is the first travels to churches around the world to
ever to be published in color. The thir- bring a unique perspective to this fasci- The history of the Catholic Church
ty-three leaves are reproduced at actual nating subject. in St. Louis is dominated by strong per-
size from high-quality color transpar- sonalities and architectural grandeur.
encies to ensure the best possible color In Catholic St. Louis, rich text and pho-
reproduction of the drawings. One can tography capture the people and places
now see variations in inks and quill that have defined Catholicism in a his-
strokes, traces of preliminary draw- toric, and historically Catholic, city.
ings, and corrections made by the Renowned historian William Barnaby
The author analyses the tools Faherty, S.J., delivers concise historical
and inks used, Villard's drawing tech- sketches of the integral people and the
nique and style, and evaluates Villard landmark houses of worship; and pho-
as an artist-draftsman. The body of the tographer Mark Scott Abeln captures
book is devoted to detailed analyses of nearly forty different area churches in
the leaves, one by one, and their draw- majestic fashion. From the eighteenth
ings and inscriptions. These analyses century Holy Family Catholic Church
are of interest to those concerned with in Cahokia to the overwhelming Cathe-
medieval technology and theology as dral Basilica to the modern St. Anselm
well as to those interested in medieval in Creve Coeur, St. Louis's churches are
art and architecture. 

Also included is significant, not to mention spectacular.
a new biography of Villard that sepa- This book truly presents Catholic St.
rates obvious fiction from possible fact. Louis in all its splendor.
An extensive bibliography of Villard
studies and a glossary of Villard's tech-
nical and artistic terms complete this W
important new study.

52 Sacred Architecture Issue 17 2010

America’s First Cathedral:
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Donations of $50 or more to Sacred Architecture will receive the new monograph on
Benjamin Latrobe’s Baltimore Cathedral, America’s First Cathedral.

Go to www.sacredarchitecture.org, or fill out the enclosed card to subscribe or make a donation.

For more information, telephone (574) 232-1783, fax (574) 232-1792 or e-mail editor@
Presorted Standard
Sacred Architecture U.S. Postage
P.O. Box 556 Permit No. 6
Notre Dame, IN 46556 New Hope, KY

$6.00 Newsstand Price ISSN# 1535-9387

Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart USCCB

Houston, TX St. Anthony Cathedral, Beaumont, TX Washington, DC

Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart St. Paul the Apostle

Houston, TX Nassau Bay, TX

Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart USCCB

Houston, TX Washington, DC

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RENOVATIONS reviews upon request

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