How Lovely (Again) is Thy Dwelling Place

St. Mary's Church

In a recent Crisis essay, I indicated that the recovery of tradition, reverence and symbolism in sacred architecture is not limited only to newly built churches, but that it has also been on the increase in existing church renovations in recent years.

Some of the most jarring evidence of internal unsettledness in the Church over the past century has been the drastic physical alteration of older church interiors, often to a point of becoming unrecognizable as what they once were. Such alterations were enforced based on the assumption that the buildings, along with the liturgy and other sacraments inside them, needed to cede to the thinking of the times in order to remain relevant with modern Catholics.

Had this been a truly successful endeavor—or even a correct initial assumption on which to base such an endeavor—we should be able to observe, after all these years, that the majority of lay people actually want their churches to look and feel like casual living rooms or concert halls. Yet, according to Fr. Jamie Hottovy of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, a growing body of evidence would seem to suggest exactly the opposite.

A priest with a background in architecture, Fr. Hottovy is part of a team that advises on church renovations throughout the diocese. He finds that more often than not, parishioners have not so much embraced modernism as tolerated it over the years because they’ve felt that they had no choice. “When they’re shown what their church could look like, the enthusiasm and response is amazing,” he says. “Every renovation has very intentional theological and symbolic weight to it, and people have been hungering for that.”

The point is not only to have a church that looks nice, but that communicates and teaches the truths of the faith to a world bombarded by competing messaging. “We live in the most visually stimulated culture the world has ever seen,” he says. “We as a Church have to have a valid and compelling visual language. To recapture that is needed now more than ever.”

At present, there are approximately twenty-five churches in the Diocese of Lincoln that have been affected by this new approach. It should be noted that the efforts have not been part of a deliberate top-down campaign, but rather, have spread organically at the grassroots level with organized guidance and support from the diocese.

The formula is straightforward, notes Fr. Hottovy: as more and more faithful see what has been done, they want the same in their own parish. And thanks to a succession of supportive leadership there—Bishop Emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz and now Bishop James Conley—as well as the younger generations being very responsive and enthusiastic, he doesn’t detect an end in sight. “There’s definitely a momentum, and I see it continuing.”

What is happening in Nebraska is somewhat unique due to being formally encouraged and fostered by the diocese, and is therefore an operational model worthy of serious and prayerful consideration by bishops everywhere. However, right order is already being restored to existing churches elsewhere on more localized initiatives.

StMaryBeforeAfter

Tradition Crafted Anew through a Collaborative Process
St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, completed a multi-year renovation late last year. The pastor, Fr. Greg Markey, states quite plainly the singular reason the project was undertaken. “The purpose is to properly communicate God’s holiness through beauty, very much in line with the vision of Pope Benedict XVI,” he says.

Built in the 1870s, St. Mary’s was one of the most beautifully adorned churches in Connecticut by the early twentieth century. In 1961, however, a subtractive renovation radically altered the interior. Walls and ceilings were covered, the marble sanctuary was carpeted, and the altars were decapitated.

From the beginning of his pastorate at St. Mary’s in 2003, Fr. Markey has striven to develop a caliber of liturgical celebration and music truly worthy of the sacred mysteries that unfold during the Mass. By 2009, it had become apparent that the physical appearance of the church was the final factor in the equation.

So, work was initiated under the direction of architect Duncan G. Stroik. First, the sanctuary was renovated to accommodate the proper celebration of Mass in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. The freestanding altar was removed, as all Masses at St. Mary’s are once again celebrated at the original high altar ad orientem—that is, with priest and people facing east in unison. A marble altar rail, elevated pulpit, and side altars were also put back.

In the second phase, an exquisite paint scheme throughout the church was executed by the John Canning Studios with meticulous detail and precision, and the third phase introduced the visual focus of the project: a dignified main altar reredos containing a thirteen-foot-tall mural of the Assumption by renowned classical painter, Leonard Porter. A rood beam was also introduced above the sanctuary, which bears an original crucifixion scene by Peter Kelley, a professional sculptor who is also a St. Mary’s parishioner. This realizes Fr. Markey’s desire that the Exaltation of the Holy Cross be front and center without competing with the reredos.

The process that moved the Assumption mural from a vision to the finished work is something rarely encountered today, but makes for a unique masterpiece that belongs only where it is. “A large classical painting as part of an altar is something you don’t find very often in American churches,” says Fr. Markey. He recalls Mr. Porter spending an entire afternoon alone in the church just contemplating and getting a feel for the colors, the lighting quality, and the overall ambience, in order to let these things inform what his painting would become.

Forest Walton, the project architect for Mr. Stroik, observes that “…the vision of the patron and client, Fr. Markey, as well as the thoughts and collaboration of architect and artist and consideration of the actual space within the church, all contributed to the final result—the aesthetic reality of Leonard’s painting.” He adds that to simply salvage and repurpose an existing work “would not allow for this truly dynamic collaboration between patron, artist, and architect to create a masterpiece fitting for the space it is in, while at the same time transcending these factors to lift minds and hearts to the eternal.”

He attributes the success of the project to the vision, rigor, and determination of the client. “Fr. Markey is that patron who recognizes the virtues of striving for perfection. Because of this, the fruits of his vision will now be shared by all for years to come.”

HolyNameBeforeAfter

Tradition Reintroduced around a Period Masterpiece
A few years ago, when Fr. James Cunningham arrived in his new assignment at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Brooklyn, New York, he found himself being asked by many of his new parishioners to please “do something” about their church. This may sound like an unusual request, but the recent history of the building tells why.

Dating from the late nineteenth century, Holy Name of Jesus has been a familiar anchor in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood of Brooklyn for generations. Although humble in size and outward appearance, the church boasted an exquisitely decorated interior. Expansive scenes from the life of Christ adorned the sanctuary walls, serving as the backdrop for elaborate altarpieces.

In 1980, though, all of that—quite literally every last bit—abruptly disappeared. The sanctuary was gutted and painted over, and a single crucifix high on a blank flat wall was all that remained as a backdrop. Where the original altar had been were now seven identical tall, hollow drywall objects, covered in the same trim color that carried through the whole church—a “Pepto-Bismol pink.” “Everybody in the parish just referred to them as the ‘upside down hockey sticks,’” recalls an amused Fr. Cunningham. “The tabernacle was put over in a corner in this awkward sort of structure, and the baptismal font looked like a wok.”

Despite the presumed best intentions behind the idea at the time, it is difficult to see it as anything short of a near-wholesale fit of iconoclasm. Parishioners had wanted it remedied for the thirty years they had endured it, and with the church occasionally used for diocesan functions, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio also expressed his desire to see something done.

As providence would have it, Fr. Cunningham learned of a “homeless” masterpiece that was sitting in four hundred seventy-three pieces in a diocesan warehouse: an altar designed by nineteenth century American architect James Renwick, Jr. Among other things, Renwick is famous for designing St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

Originally intended as a side altar in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it turned out to be too big, and so was installed in the newly built St. Vincent de Paul Church in Brooklyn as the main altar. When that church had to close due to extensive structural problems, the altars were disassembled, catalogued, and stored.

In 2013, Holy Name launched a capital campaign, and Baker Liturgical Art was selected to oversee the project. The campaign took on a life of its own, beyond anything Fr. Cunningham had imagined. “The people gave until it hurt because they were all able to see what it would look like,” he says. “In 1980, they were all surprised, and not in a good way. I used to open the church every few weeks [during the 2013-14 renovation] to enable them to take a look at the process and see what was happening.”

This past spring, after months of work, the church was rededicated with the majestic Renwick altar as the focal point, and with the parishioners overcome by joy and excitement for the future. And numbers don’t lie. According to Fr. Cunningham, an average of two new families per month would register with the parish before, compared to twenty-eight that have been gained just since this past June. There were five weddings last year at Holy Name, and this year there are thirty-five that have happened or are scheduled. And several hundred people filled the pews for the first Solemn High Mass in the church in half a century, celebrated on the “new” high altar.

HolyTrinityBeforeAfter

Ordinary Parishes Thinking Extraordinarily
St. Mary’s and Holy Name are not rich—they are both moderately sized and middle class parishes, and funds have been almost entirely in small donations. St. Mary’s was done on a very smart and lean budget, and Holy Name has raised an astounding two hundred fifty percent and counting of the maximum amount they were told was possible. This is a testament to the power of pastoral vision, strong lay faith, and desire to have a sacred home that glorifies God while welcoming and teaching people.

Responding to a common refrain that projects like these are unnecessarily extravagant, and that the money would be better spent on helping the poor, Fr. Hottovy notes that all of the parishes with which he’s worked are very active in social outreach, and that Catholics often forget that we are a people not of either or, but of both and. “The Church has always been responsive and caring for the poor,” he says. “That does not diminish, and the poor are welcome. The church is built for them, for them to be able to enter into the beauty that they might not otherwise have access to.”

For many people, the first step in discovering or rediscovering the faith is simply setting foot in a church. Fr. Cunningham relates that before, there was nothing about Holy Name that would resonate with passersby. Now, however, he leaves the doors open daily until evening, and there is a steady stream of people coming in to pray or just to look around throughout the day. “I said, ‘You have a beautiful church here now. Don’t lock it up.’”

What all of this should say is that a truly successful undertaking does not have to be sold to the faithful, because they overwhelmingly want it from the start. This runs counter to past decades, when small elite groups typically dictated to the masses that the imminent violence to their cherished spiritual homes was good and necessary.

Thanks to a newer generation of faithful priests like Fathers Hottovy, Markey, and Cunningham, reversing the damage caused by that misguided approach is accomplished in a much more gradual, transparent and pastorally sensitive manner. These are ordinary parishes that had the vision and determination to do something extraordinary, and if they can do it, others surely can too.

Michael Tamara

By

Michael Tamara is an architect who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. He holds a BA in architectural studies and art history from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, and an M. Arch I from Syracuse University. He studied in both Rome and Florence.

  • hopecrolius

    Beautiful and uplifting piece. There’s a reason medieval and Renaissance church architecture takes up a big chunk of the art history 101 semester. It speaks to the human soul. Nothing proves this more than the returning numbers of families, seekers, and faithful.

  • Fargo106

    OK, the church with the “seven hockey sticks” was truly hideous, but the one in Norwalk was heaven compared to many I’ve been in during my travels around the country. It is amazing what crap is out there posing as a church. Most sad are those semi-circular or in-the-round places. More often than not, the poor people I encounter in those churches seem lost and unengaged. There are exceptions, of course, but by enlarge the concept seems to hurt more than help the liturgy and the worshippers, at least in my personal experience. I applaud this return to glorifying the dwelling place of the Lord.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      I’ve been to a parish where everything was completely wreckovated, all the statues thrown out, Altar replaced with a glass table thing, walls emptied, the Tabernacle replaced & put in the back little corner, etc. The only thing they put was instead of the actual Crucifix, they had one of those Risen Christ “crucifix”. I never went back.

      • Athelstane

        The iconoclasts seem to have wider purchase in the Catholic Church than they ever did in Medieval Byzantium.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Also in my city, the liberal Episcopal parish looks way more Catholic (from both the outside & inside) than the actual Catholic parish. (The LCMS Lutheran parish also looks more Catholic than my Catholic parish, they even have Altar rails & an altar attached to the wall.) It’s really sad, but when I speak out about it in my parish, my opinion is not valued (& am often ostracized & ignored). I’m even willing to pay for the renovations until it hurts.

    • Athelstane

      From the NY Daily News story on the renovation of Holy Name of Jesus, this telling passage about how the “hockey stick sanctuary” was received in the parish:

      Parishioners had hoped for a change since 1981, when their old altar was replaced with a then-modern design that locals said resembled a collection of “hockey sticks.”

      The altar was so offensive that some parishioners strayed to nearby St. Saviour’s. Three decades after the hockey sticks were installed, a little, old Irish woman, a daily communicant, confessed to a priest, “God forgive me, but I hope the ones responsible for that altar are still in purgatory.”

  • Sebastian

    How architectually inconsistent, the church in Norwalk is clearly neo-gothic and the altar in neoclassical style.

    • Michael Tamara

      Yes, but keep in mind this wasn’t a strict restoration. They went through a lot of iterations and ideas, and in the end, the logic was that traditional styles work in harmony. You also see this mixture of styles a lot in European churches.

      • ForChristAlone

        Exactly. There is the church of Ste Madeleine in the Burgundian region of France that is historically notable for having been the site where St Bernard preached the 2nd crusade. The basilica has an outstanding Romanesque nave with wonderfully carved capitals and a tympanum in the narthex that is incomparable in all of France. However, the choir is Gothic style. The two stylistic periods blend harmoniously well.

      • slainte

        If you have not already visited the restored Cathedral of Saint Patrick in Norwich, Connecticut, you may wish to do so.
        .
        It is breathtakingly beautiful.

        http://www.stpatsnorwich.org/photo.html

        • Michael Tamara

          Wow, stunning. Thank you!

    • ForChristAlone

      That’s exactly the comment most of the parishioners make as they enter St. Mary’s. How very perceptive of you.
      🙂

  • John Albertson

    One might ask, not out of revenge but out of anthropological curiosity,
    of any of the perpetrators of those wreck overs still are alive. If any of those grey haired hippies still are with us, it would be interesting to hear what they thought they were
    doing and what they think now of the fact that it is the young, and not reactionary elders, who want restoration. Meanwhile, not all is upward. While there are some beautiful improvements going on in vibrant parishes such as the church of St. Theresa in Sugarland, Texas (along with its new and stunning new classical school building), there is also a lot of hideous stuff going up out here in California and elsewhere. And the beautifully restored Church of Our Saviour in
    Manhattan is now undergoing some kind of inexplicable iconoclasm, with
    icons and silver lamps, et c suddenly removed and garish lighting, along with a radical drop in attendance and contributions. So taste works both ways these days. Bishop Di Marzio is to be congratulated. It would be a boon if more bishops understood aesthetics
    better a paid more attention to the evangelical power of good art and
    architecture.

    • Joyfully

      Crickets…i hear crickets.

      • John Albertson

        What ever does that mean ?

    • christine

      What has happened to the beautiful icons at Our Saviour in Manhattan is nothing short of a sacrilege. I haven’t been there, can’t bring myself to go, but heard. I only hope that those beautiful icons were removed and not painted over. I’m not sure if that can be done. They looked as if they were painted directly on the wall.
      Fr Rutler restored more than physical church. He also restored reverence and a beautiful liturgy, with Our Lord( AND His Tabernacle) at the center.

  • Vinnie

    What’s happening to our Protestant Catholic churches? Boy is this true – “He finds that more often than not, parishioners have not so much embraced modernism as tolerated it over the years because they’ve felt that they had no choice.” That includes me. It’s so much more fruitful to worship in a Catholic Church.

  • Richard A

    “Responding to a common refrain that projects like these are unnecessarily extravagant, and that the money would be better spent on helping the poor …”

    How’s this for a response? If you’re stuck with a church that is already embarassingly beautiful (and paid for), take the money in your uglify budget and give THAT to the poor?

    • Dominick

      Or another response: “That’s what Judas thought.”

      • More Tea Vicar?

        It is disgraceful that not only do non-believers have this ailment but there are one or two in the Catholic Church: It’s called the Judas Iscariot Syndrome.
        Unfortunately, it is not certifiable.

  • ForChristAlone

    Required reading for all seminarians with the warning: “Never again allow this to happen to our Catholic Churches. The worship of God deserves nothing less than the very best our frail human condition can muster. As a variation of the ole 60’s adage would lead us to acknowledge: ‘God doesn’t make junk, so why is it that we would offer that to Him in our effort to worship Him?”

  • Athelstane

    Some more examples of good church/chapel renovations, all featured on New Liturgical Movement in recent years:

    Jesuit High School, Tampa, Florida

    St. James Cathedral, Orlando, Florida

    St. Colman of Cloyne, Washington Court House, Ohio

    St. Thomas More (Ordinariate), Scranton, Pennsylvania

    Brick by brick, as a certain blogger likes to say.

  • publiusnj

    Personally, I like the hanging body of Christ on the Cross to be the focal point of a church; St. Mary’s had been set up that way but in the re-do, the Cross is up above eye-level and can only be viewed either from the back or by craning one’s neck. So, I found the Norwalk renovation to be somewhat disconcerting, although I would love to see such a beautiful Assumption mural as that elsewhere in the church. The rest of the changes in the Norwalk church seemed to be improvements. The renovations of the other churches all were unquestionably improvements.

    Particularly Brooklyn. To go from that post-modern but thoughtless monstrosity to the sublimity of a Renwick chapel originally designed for Abp. Hughes’s great project, the new St. Patrick’s, had to be an act of evangelization for the whole neighborhood.

    I just got back from a trip to Ireland and I saw what happened to the Catholic cathedrals of that Holy Island when they fell into the hands of iconoclasts. One good story that the Renwick altar brought back to my mind was about the stained glass behind the main altar of St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny. The glass was so beautiful that when Ireland sided with the English King in the Civil War and a papal legate was sent to the Irish Confederates, he offered to buy the stained glass for the sum of 700 pounds (a large sum in 1643) to take it to Rome. The Irish so loved the glass that they declined the offer. A few years later, though, that ultimate iconoclast and hater of Catholicism, Oliver Cromwell, came through Kilkenny and his troops destroyed the glass. In the 19th Century, plans for the glass were found right about the time the Protestant Church of Ireland was losing its “established” grip on Ireland and apparently realized that they would never be able to attract a congregation with the existing church (which is filled with plaques recognizing various civil servants and nobles, such as the Butlers who were Dukes of Ormonde) and needed some evocation of more heavenly matters. So, they recast the stained glass from the plans and it now graces the Protestant cathedral better than any of the works put up from 1539 through the 19th Century.

  • Louis Tofari

    Unfortunately, some of these restorations are committing the same liturgical architectural mistakes that were common prior to wreckovations, such as “wedding cake altars”. See Geoffrey Webb’s, “The Liturgical Altar” for further details: http://romanitaspress.com/the_liturgical_altar.htm.

    Furthermore, an excessive amount of decoration – as often seen with the neo-Gothic style – is not ideal. A spirit of simplicity – as exemplified by the traditional “minimalism” of the Cistercians – conveys a strong, but elegant focus upon the most important aspect of a church: the sanctuary and most especially, the altar. In this regard, the balanced style of Perpendicular (English) Gothic as well as Art Deco designs (such as the magnificent Baltimore Cathedral of Mary Our Queen) achieve this important aesthetic very well.

    One American architect in particular who excelled in achieving this was Kansas City, Missouri native, Maurice Carrol, who designed at least 160 ecclesiastical buildings in the Midwest. Two of his most notable designs were St. Vincent de Paul Church and St. Peter’s Church in KCMO (both of which were awarded gold medals by the American Institute of Architects), as well as the Redemptorist rectory. He also designed the Rockne Memorial Hall at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, from where he graduated from architectural school.

    • Athelstane

      A spirit of simplicity – as exemplified by the traditional “minimalism” of the Cistercians – conveys a strong, but elegant focus upon the most important aspect of a church: the sanctuary and most especially, the altar.

      Simplicity can be desirable, but it can also be overdone in certain contexts. We, as laypeople, are not Cistercians, and architectural austerity that infused the Cistercian spirituality is generally not fitting to needs of a lay parish. Visual inspiration generally plays a greater role in such contexts.

      There’s no question that decoration in some neo-Gothic churches of the 19th and 20th centuries was overdone or even . . . kitschy. Gothic can be a hard idiom to pull off, in any case, for those not thoroughly conversant in its language (as, say, Pugin and Cram were). This is probably why Romanesque and simpler classical designs seem to be leading the way in the return of traditional church architecture.

      Maurice Carroll’s designs are worth study (I lived in Kansas City myself for several years). Some have aged better than others, but there’s no question that there is much that his work could teach many of today’s architects.

      • Louis Tofari

        Yes, I agree that not all laity can necessarily go for the Cistercian’s spirit of simplicity, but certainly this can be applied to some degree in any instance.

        This is why I think that St. Vincent’s in KCMO is the perfect blend of a Cisterican abbey church with just enough ornamentation to satisfy the average lay person. The effect is consistent with those who first enter the church: “magnificent”, even “one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.”

        Another aspect to Maurice Carrol’s designs was to be unique (and not merely “cookie-cutter”) while insisting upon high-quality construction. For example, he designed St. Vincent’s to be a “true, gothic parish church”, meaning that every structural component was just that, and not a flimsy plaster column hiding a steel i-beam or cantilever ceilings that could not exist without steel truss work.

        Thus not a single i-beam was used in St. Vincent’s, and where stone could not be used, monolithic concrete (in the tradition of the ancient Romans) was employed. NB: his father, Martin Carrol, was a noted KCMO contractor and pioneer and patent-holder for concrete construction techniques.

        Lastly, a close study of Maurice Carroll’s designs (such as the 3 in KCMO I have previously named) demonstrate that he his knowledge and practical grasp of the English perpendicular style was not rudimentary, but a style of which he was a master.

  • I am finding that a number of traditional churches, whether built anew, or being restored to their former glory, have difficulty with the placement of the altar. Too often, a traditional altar and reredos is found or restored, and is used for reserving the sacrament, while a smaller, less dignified free-standing altar is placed entirely too close to the edge of the sanctuary, leaving almost no room for whatever occasional services are held (confirmations, weddings, etc), let alone for any celebration of the Traditional Mass, which must be said “versus orientem.” The result is that either the various ministers and attendants are at times performing near the edge of, or outside the sanctuary. Even worse, the altar is abandoned and appears to be in the way, as the “real” altar is used instead.

    This suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of church architecture, namely the centrality of the altar. To put it another way, the church must be designed around the altar, not the other way around (as I am seeing more and more of late). The elaborate decoration, the array of statuary, that perfect old high altar salvaged from an urban parish that was closing down — all of these things must coexist with a sense of order and proportion, something understood in centuries past, but lost amidst the preoccupation with the cosmetic.

    We still have much to learn, including that which is forgotten.

    • Louis Tofari

      David: spot on! Again, see Geoffrey Webb’s masterpiece, “The Liturgical Altar” for details – makes a great spiritual read too! http://romanitaspress.com/the_liturgical_altar.htm

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      In cruciform churches, the tabernacle was usually located in the North Transept, forming a secluded space for private devotion. The tabernacle itself was often a pillar-like structure of stone or metal with a spire-like canopy. Some fine mediaeval examples survive in Germany and the Low Countries.

      This example from the Lorenzkirche in Nuremberg is over 18 m (58 feet) tall

      http://tinyurl.com/l6rjysk

      Placing the tabernacle on an altar began in the 16th century.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    I wish someone would revive the Rood Screen, which was one of the glories of mediaeval architecture

    Here is a magnificent surviving example from Albi Cathedral

    http://tinyurl.com/mygyay7

    and here is one from the chapel of Kerfons in Brittany

    http://tinyurl.com/lv8gby2

    So much better than the perfunctory Baroque altar rails.

    • slainte

      MPS, was the altar and tabernacle located behind the rood screen not visible to the laity?

      If so, with a rood screen in place, how did the laity hear the mass or receive Holy Eucharist?

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Slainté

        The altar was behind the rood screen against the East wall, or a reredos, if there was a chapel behind it. It was rarely completely solid; you will see that the screen at Kerfons has small windows either side of the door.

        In larger Gothic churches, the tabernacle was usually located in a chapel or side altar. In parish churches, the sacrament was reserved in a pyx (often in the form of a dove), suspended from the chancel ceiling, above the rood screen.

        Very little of a low mass was audible to the congregation, rood screen or not and the sanctus bell served a practical purpose. At a missa cantata, the chanted prayers &c would be audible from the nave.

        To take communion, people queue at the door at the centre of the rood screen, where the priest or deacon stands.

        The rood screen was similar in design and function to the Eastern Iconostasis, separating the sacred space of the sanctuary from the nave.

        • slainte

          The rood screen then is a form of Temple Veil…but the temple veil was split in two when Christ died on the cross.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            The jubé or rood screen is a venerable feature of our churches in both East and West. Here is a fine Spanish example, from the monastery of San Millán de Yuso (Note the two side altars in front of the screen.

            http://tinyurl.com/ojfdgdm

            Others afford a virtually unobstructed view of the altar

            http://tinyurl.com/n24dfna

            It is worth recalling that many of them were destroyed in the 17th century, for there was a “spirit of Trent” as well as a “spirit of Vatican II,” something we are inclined to forget.

            • slainte

              Thank you; I have never seen a rood screen in place in a Church and I appreciate the beauty of those you provide and your commentary.

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                I’m glad you like them.

                You will not find one in a church bult after about 1560.

  • meyetoosents

    Norwalk: A+ for effort, but putting a neoclassical altar in a gothic church is harsh to the eye. Why do something so incongruous?

  • Wendell Clanton

    Thank you for this article!

    It is inspiring to read about parishes that have opted for beauty over banality. By so doing, the parishes you have described have chosen to leave their children and their children’s children a legacy that will speak to their love of the Catholic Faith. Their love and commitment to beauty is producing a catechism on the Faith in architecture, holy images, stained glass, etc., a catechism that rightly points to the living God.

    Hopefully many priests and parish counsel members will read your article and be moved to initiate or restore beautiful architecture and interior design.

  • Mary

    The denuding of the churches was not misguided; it was intentional and ideological.

  • What beautiful churches!

  • NOODLESOUP

    In the land of all outrages also known as California, a bishop decides that his cathedral simply isn’t big enough, takes it upon himself to buy the Crystal Cathedral complex. I consider this an outrage to waste money on a liturgical greenhouse renovation costing the “faithful” millions. It was an obvious attempt to compete with other “bishops” with the worst example being in California again! Our bishops for the most part have done more harm to the faith since Vatican II than the housewives being appointed to positions in parishes that they knew nothing about. The seminaries produced protestant priests who had the best of intentions to modernize morals. Then, we wonder what actually caused the mass losses of faith. Luckily thanks to God, there were enough to rescue our church, not the clergy’s church!!!! Put your dancing and accordion music and moves back where they came from and the church once again begins to bloom.

  • NOODLESOUP

    People like me who enjoy going to antique auctions and sales are often saddened by the appearance of Catholic and Orthodox church furnishings thrown to the collectors. Everything from censers, statues, baptismal fonts even a brass molded plate saying ”
    OLEA SANCTA. In one spaghetti restaurant and beautifully carved confessional. Disgusting? I think so!

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