Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

In today’s bulletin, Father Hilton writes:

Does it seem like a long time since we started the renovation of our church? I know that many of us, from the Design Committee to the Finance Council, from our Architect to our dedicated staff, and all those who were involved in the planning and executing this project put forth the best of our efforts and energies. All of us were determined to use our gifts of generosity for the greatest honor of God and to provide future generations of parishioners with a beautiful place in which to worship. We hope that, when you walk into your new church, you will feel that we have achieved our goal, because during all the planning and executing stages we had you, as well as our Lord, in mind.

Traditionally, our Catholic churches have been designed as places of peaceful beauty for two reasons: First, because we instinctively know that God is the Creator of all that is beautiful and, as King David so many centuries ago, we want to honor Him by making for Him a home that is worthy of Him. Second: because when we gather in a beautiful place our minds turn more easily towards God, who is Beauty Himself. Many of our adorers, for instance, tell me that they find rest and gather strength every time they visit the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel: that was our goal, and it has been our goal as we planned, designed and transformed the church. I encourage you to look around, observe all the details, and tell me whether you agree that we have achieved our goal.

You will also notice that we have tried to make the space as comfortable as possible for you: the pews are a little farther apart, so those with long legs will not “bump” in the kneeler behind them. If you pardon me for saying it, I think that the Choir loft not only is beautiful, but it does more justice to the voices of our choir members. How about our confessionals? They are elegant, but more importantly, they will give greater privacy to everyone and the sound-proof wall coverings will make sure that no whisper can be heard outside. We gave special attention to our Marian Chapel, where our beautifully restored statue of the Blessed Virgin finds her home. The raised ceiling, the “clerestory,” with high windows give us more light and greater height. The best part, of course, is our Sanctuary, our new altar area. It is difficult to be distracted during Mass when our eyes are attracted to the exquisite work that required the greatest amount of thought and skill in execution.

Of course, the fact that we now have air conditioning for the Summer will make everyone more comfortable.

I pray that you are thrilled with how our renovated church has turned out. More importantly, I pray that our new church will be a rich source of blessing for you, your children and grandchildren. I again thank you for your generosity and sacrifice, which made all this possible, and I know that those parishioners who will come to the Holy Mass in the future will thank you, just as we thank those who fifty years ago first built the Parish of Holy Trinity that we love. God’s blessings upon you and your family!

Fr. John Hilton and Fr. Carlos Bello

Editor’s note: Click the embedded links for more about Holy Trinity Parish in Westminster and this remodeling project. Thank you to Allan Eckert, Dave Koski and Nancy Thompson for the images.


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In today’s Wall Street Journal (Thursday 18 March 2010), a review of two recent church projects designed by Duncan Stroik. Here are a few excerpts:

Two Churches by Duncan Stroik

A look at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Thomas Aquinas College chapel.

River Architects

A Return to Grace


La Crosse, Wis. and Santa Paula, Calif.

Though its documents say nothing about abandoning traditional Roman Catholic architecture, the “spirit” of the Second Vatican Council has served as justification for doing precisely that. Hence, for example, the Catholic cathedrals in Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., erected during the past decade—the one a concrete behemoth, the other a glazed, truncated cone. Is ersatz-traditional schlock the only alternative?

The answer is no, as two new churches designed by Duncan Stroik, a 48-year-old, Yale-educated professor at Notre Dame’s architecture school, powerfully attest. As a designer, lecturer and founding editor of the journal Sacred Architecture, Mr. Stroik has labored long and hard to reconnect Catholic artistic patronage with its ancient heritage.

Mr. Stroik’s Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, outside the small Mississippi River city of La Crosse, and his chapel for Thomas Aquinas College, northwest of Los Angeles, employ a complex high-classical architectural vocabulary. But they resonate in very different ways; each feels unique. Each also reflects the vision of a hands-on client. In the case of the shrine, which was finished in 2008, that client was Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, formerly bishop of La Crosse and now prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, making him the Vatican’s highest judge after the pope. With the chapel, the client was Thomas Aquinas College’s president, Thomas Dillon, who was killed in a car accident weeks after the building’s dedication in March 2009.

Outside, the shrine is a simple, handsome domed building with a tall campanile, set in a little piazza that was carved out of a wooded hillside. La Crosse architect Michael Swinghamer took Mr. Stroik’s exterior concept in a rustic direction, cladding the church mainly in quarry-faced Wisconsin fieldstone. This leaves the visitor unprepared for the splendor of the nave and sanctuary. Here Mr. Stroik has successfully orchestrated a hierarchy of scales in form and space that includes the majestic crossing and apse; the great piers supporting the dome; the pilasters carrying a massive, uninterrupted entablature; the gorgeous baldachin looming over the main altar—and so on down the line.

While the disconnect between the shrine’s exterior and interior is hardly a fatal flaw, Mr. Stroik’s Thomas Aquinas College chapel, beautifully situated in the foothills of the Los Padres National Forest, does benefit from its stylistic unity. Slightly smaller than the shrine, the chapel is also a domed structure cruciform in plan. Aisle arcades are supported by columns, not piers. The chapel’s exterior and interior palette is largely monochrome—white stucco or plaster walls with detail in off-white or pale hues. The main entrance is configured as a triumphal arch within an elaborate facade centerpiece articulated in limestone. From the flanking three-tiered, 135-foot-tall Spanish baroque tower, bells call the college’s 350 students to Mass three times daily.

Inside, the focus is once again on a baldachin. In this instance, swirling bronze Solomonic columns and an exuberant superstructure were inspired by Bernini’s baldachin at St. Peter’s. Otherwise the decorative program for the interior is much simpler than at the shrine, and the visitor experiences a harmonious fusion of Brunelleschi with Mission style. Given the interior’s natural daytime luminosity, Dillon and Mr. Stroik decided to dispense with traditional lighting fixtures to save money. The interior is “uplit” from hidden lights atop a lofty cornice. But a recessed bank of spotlights in the sanctuary vault too easily catches the eye from the altar rail.

Thomas Aquinas College chapel.

The $23 million chapel—the shrine’s price tag is not available—conveys a robust sense of mass due to an astute combination of reinforced concrete block with steel framing in its construction. And both churches make extensive use of structural as well as material illusion to cut costs. Leaving aside the pilasters adorning them, the seemingly massive piers of the shrine’s aisle arcades are essentially hollow—consisting of plaster mounted on stud walls separated from steel columns by large cavities, the latter making room for ductwork. The chapel belltower and its architectural detail are painted, prefabricated aluminum. Unlike their

Mastering the classical architectural vocabulary, as Mr. Stroik has done, is hard. But these important churches serve as a timely reminder that mastering the classical representation of the human figure is harder still.

Mr. Leigh writes about public art and architecture for the Journal.

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The summer 2009 issue of ArchitectColorado includes two features on projects at Holy Trinity. ArchitectColorado is the professional journal of the Colorado Component of the American Institute of Architects. Our architect, Adam Hermanson is a member of the AIA. This issue has a focus on religious architecture. Holy Trinity and Integration Design Group are featured in two articles.

The second article is in the On The Boards section, by author Mary Lou Jay.  Jay highlights four current design projects. Two projects are Catholic churches (us and Holy Name in Steamboat Springs) and two projects are in Westminster (us and Westminster Church of the Nazarene.) The other project is the Boulder Jewish Commons, a future campus development on the east side of Boulder. With our completion date of 2010, the Holy Trinity project is farthest along.

Here is the part of the article referencing the new Holy Trinity remodeling project:

Excerpt: ArchitectColorado, Volume 5, Issue 1, p 45:

Holy Trinity Church
Architect: Adam Hermanson, AIA
Location: Westminster, Colorado
Client: Holy Trinity Catholic Church/ Archdiocese of Denver
Construction Cost: $2 million
: 2,000-square-foot narthex addition, new bell tower, entry plaza, addition of clerestory roof and windows and complete interior renovation.
Purpose: Accommodate needs of growing church
Completion: April 2010
As the community of Holy Trinity Catholic Church approaches its 50-year jubilee, it is preparing to expand the church to accommodate a growth in parishioner families. In 1959, when parish members built the current church building, they intended to use it as the church only until a new one could be built. The original building would then become the school gymnasium. The separate church was never built, so for 50 years the parish has continued to use the original building as its worship space.

To raise the stature and nobility of the church, the parish is moving forward with an addition and complete renovation of the building. Integration Design Group has worked with the parish to develop the design over the past several months. The project will include a new prominent entrance into a larger narthex at the west front of the church, surmounted by a cross to be salvaged from the existing steeple; a new choir loft; a new area of raised roof with clerestory windows; a completely remodeled sanctuary; and new liturgical elements and furnishings throughout. The community hopes to include a new bell tower in the project as well. The addition and renovation will encourage a greater sense of the sacred, both on the exterior and interior of the church.

Integration Design Group is providing design services for not only the architectural aspects, but also the complete interior design and finish package; the artwork and furniture design and procurement; and the design of the liturgical elements, including altars, tabernacle canopy, ambo, baptismal font, baldachino and altar rail.

Architect Adam Hermanson is a member of the AIA. The Colorado Component of the American Institute of Architects can be found at www.aiacolorado.org. Click the link for the order form to order your copy of ArchitectColorado.

An excerpt from the first article from ArchitectColorado on “A Shared Vision of the Sacred” by Chryss Cada can be found here: ArchitectColorado 1: Holy Trinity’s Adoration Chapel.

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Courtesy of Carolina at The Crescat, here’s an interesting contest. The goal is to correctly tag images of 12 structures as either a Catholic Church or as a Prison/Utilitarian structure.  So far, nobody has it right yet.

Here are a couple of samples so you can see what she’s talking about:

Hat tip on this one to Jeff Miller at the Curt Jester. Miller has his own take:

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8 Wonderfully Distinctive Historical Churches in Italy: Awe-Inspiring Architecture, Byzantine to Baroque

On the WebUrbanist blog, Lauren Axelrod has a quick photo tour of eight beautiful churches in Italy. The styles range from Byzantine to Baroque. Click the image above to link. The eight churches are:

  1. St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City)
  2. San Pietro in Vincoli (Rome)
  3. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Venice)
  4. Basilica di Sant’Agnese Fuori le Mura (Rome)
  5. Basilica di Santa Croce (Florence)
  6. Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Rome)
  7. St Mark’s Basilica (Venice)
  8. Santa Maria in Trastevere (Rome)

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Archbishop ColeridgeLast week, The Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, wrote a pastoral Pentecost Letter on the Liturgy to his archdiocese. The Archbishop issued new instructions as the Australian bishops begin the full implementation of their new General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM). The archbishop points out that “The new version of General Instruction is one of a number of indications that the Church is moving into a new phase of the ongoing journey of liturgical renewal”.

This event give the Archbishop a chance to consider beauty in Catholic worship (emphasis mine):

Pope Benedict has stressed the point that beauty has a unique power to speak of the mysteries of the faith, and to speak to those who may not share our faith. That is why the Catholic Church has always been concerned with beauty in worship – not for the sake of a vapid aestheticism but for the sake of the Gospel. Imperfect created beauty makes visible the perfect uncreated beauty of God which is revealed supremely in Christ crucified and risen. Therefore, the buildings in which we worship should be beautiful, which is not to say highly elaborate or impossibly expensive. The great churches of the Franciscan tradition, for instance, have about them a striking simplicity, but they are also strikingly beautiful. Some of the older churches in the Archdiocese are beautiful and need only to be respected for what they are. Many of the newer churches are less evocative, and it is worth asking perhaps how they might be made more beautiful without spending a fortune.

The good archbishop covers many topics in his letter We can read the whole Pentecost Letter on the Liturgy (in PDF format) on the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn web page.

Archbishop Coleridge has a handsome church, built in the Spanish Romanesque style. See the Archdiocesan web page for a beautiful slide show tour of St. Christopher’s Cathedral, Canberra. St. Christopher’s is in the Manuka district of Canberra, and is the largest church in the Australian capitol city. A 1973 remodeling extended the nave, increasing the seating from 440 to 720.

Hat Tip: The Curt Jester on “Chatty & Noisy Worship”

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Detail from the Mass of St. Basil by SubleyrasRussians tell the story of how the pagan ruler of Kiev, King Vladimir, desired to learn which of all the world’s religions was the one revealed from heaven.

His emissaries traveled to the far corners of the known world to learn how different people believed and worshiped God. They observed Jews pray in their synagogues and Moslem Bulgars along the Volga prostrate themselves in their mosques, but they had to report to Vladimir that these religions were unsatisfactory in their worship. Traveling then to the Byzantine capitol of Constantinople, the emissaries attended the Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Holy Wisdom and were awestruck by what they found.

“We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth,” they reported, “for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere upon earth. We cannot describe it to you. Only this we know, that God dwells there among men and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. We cannot forget that beauty.” With the conversion of King Vladimir in 987, the Christian faith would henceforth reign supreme among the Russian people despite oppression from Mongols and Communists.

The story may be apocryphal, but it serves to highlight an essential truth: The worship of God is not something arbitrary, something we can concoct any way we please. It is something based upon the heavenly model. As Germanus, patriarch of Constantinople (715-730), wrote in his commentary on the liturgy, “The church is an earthly heaven in which the celestial God dwells and moves.”

Excerpt taken from The Mass, the Temple, and Loraine Boettner
By T.L. Frazier,
in This Rock, January 1993 issue

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