Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

What if it had just been tweaked a little?

July 28th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie


Apparently, the only person who had a problem with the St. Januarius Church chancel was the pastor. There did not appear to be any popular dissatisfaction with the chancel. Of course, a pastor has to lead –pastor- his flock.  But, that doesn’t mean he should abuse his authority to get what amounts to just something he prefers.

What the pastor wanted in this case were legitimate changes but not changes absolutely mandated by Church documents –unless, of course, the bishop ordered the changes. When the pastor met with some strong vocal opposition he should have backed off and scaled back his proposal to something more likely to garner consensus. Anyway he certainly mismanaged, in my opinion, the situation. But, he’s in good company. We’ve seen a lot of that, even in regards to our cathedral.

Some of the concerns with the existing chancel were really physical problems: the rise of the steps and the glare from the colored windows, for example.  Adding a ramp was apparently an issue. Visual clutter, too, was mentioned. The relocation of the tabernacle was not absolutely necessary, however.

It has been, and continues to be, a period of tension and pain for at least some members of the parish and so it is a risk to sensibilities to put up yet another post about the chancel.

But for the sake of maybe leaning from mistakes and seeing how we might handle differently such things in the future, I offer the following study of how the chancel may have been tweaked just a little. Not all the physical problems are solved in the study but I’ve tried to demonstrate how I think a chancel like the former one at St. Januarius could be improved without a massive and expensive renovation.

(Quite frankly I’m not sure anything needed to be changed. What I show below is just personal preference.)

(Click on Photos for larger images)

The now destroyed chancel.

The tweaked chancel.


It is the exact same photograph of the old chancel but the second one has been edited.

1. I reduced the glare by lowering the intensity of the windows directly behind the altar. I assume that could be done by simply adding filters in those windows. They could probably be taken to rather dark which would provide more contrast with the altar, tabernacle, and cross (especially with intense spot lighting suggested in number 2, below).

2. By spot lighting the altar, tabernacle, cross, ambo, and celebrant’s chair I tried to create emphasis on to the most important parts of the chancel so as to separate them from the background. This would be rather effective if the windows had been adjusted as I suggested in number 1.

3. I tied the altar, tabernacle, and ambo together visually by using a coordinated set of embroidered  altar frontal, tabernacle veil and ambo tapestry. The frontal would have covered the entire width of the altar. In addition I chose a design -the gold horizontal band that runs several inches below the top- that helped to emphasis the width of the altar and not its height, thereby creating the illusion that the chancel was lower than it actually was.

4. I’m not exactly sure what the problem was with the steps but apparently they were somewhat difficult to ascend which is why railings were added. The railings solved the problem short of an expensive renovation. I show an adjustment that reduces the visibility of the railings by using functional black iron ones rather than the thicker wooded ones with decorative spindles.

5. I would have gotten rid of the plantings in the back left.

6. I would have replaced the Risen Christ with a Crucifix but that would have been just a preference.

7. I removed the Paschal Candle and Baptismal font from the photograph.

8. I did not show a ramp.




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9 Responses to “What if it had just been tweaked a little?”

  1. Diane Harris says:

    EXCELLENT approach! Sensitive, obedient and reverent! What doesn’t show is that if such an approach had been taken, with someone able to listen, feedback, and build consensus, it would not only have been a different story for the final result, but it would have built community rather than destroying it. When 40 people come out to an evening meeting on the opening night of the World Series (2009) and are told they are not allowed to discuss anything of significance except minor items like whether or not the bushes should be trimmed, it is a path to destruction! Thank you for doing this; I hope it opens many eyes.

  2. christian says:

    Bernie: I also like your approach.
    I read one reader’s view in a recent post which conveyed a deep dissatisfaction with Wegmans over funding most of the wreckovation, resulting in their boycott of that supermarket chain. I would think Wegmans (Danny Wegman) would want to side with the majority of parishioners over the various sensitive undertaking of redoing a sanctuary. I don’t know enough of the intimate deals to form an opinion. I don’t know how the deal was proposed to the Wegman family, particularly Danny Wegman, and if any misleading information was given to him.

  3. Eliza10 says:

    Those are very charitable assumptions, Christian. But personally I think Danny Wegman should be more discerning about where he invests his charitable giving. And if I don’t like how he supports Bishop Clark’s clearly and unquestionably unpopular wreckovations, I can respond by altering my shopping patterns.

  4. Eliza10 says:

    It is very nice, Bernie. I particularly like what you did with the altar cloths. I have been to a parish where the altar cloths and the priestly vestaments always tie in beautifully and thoughtfully and clearly point to which day it is in the Catholic calender. You can see it as soon as you walk in. Its a reminder throughout the whole Mass of who you are, where you are, and when you are.

    The people of St. Januarius and of the DOR would have been very happy with this renovation! What Bishop Clark has done instead is shameful, divisive, and destructive. And business-as-usual, for him.

  5. militia says:

    I didn’t understand why wooden railings should be replaced with wrought iron? Would you please explain a little more for those of us who don’t understand these things?

  6. Bernie says:

    militia: That you for you question.
    I was trying to emphasize and better unite the altar, tabernacle, and ambo. I thought the black color and simpler design of a functional iron railing would make the railings less obvious. Also, by enlarging (or appearing to enlarge) the altar with a wide, traditional frontal I believed a more nuetral railing was appropriate.

  7. Bernie says:

    If the wood railings were constructed by a member of the parish, I wouldn’t remove them but rather find a way to work around them.

  8. militia says:

    Oh, I see. Thank you for the explanation.

  9. Raymond F. Rice says:

    I cannot stand any kind of architecture that covers up a part or whole area of church windows!!! How many rose windows have been lost because of a poorly designed organ cabinet!!

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