Cleansing Fire

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“The Little French (Romanesque, Baroque, Italianate) Church”

April 28th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

Our Lady of Victory RochesterJust down the street about a block from the remains of Saint Joseph Church is one of the architecturally unique churches of the Rochester Diocese, Our Lady of Victory/Saint Joseph Church, designed by noted Rochester architect Andrew Jackson Warner.

Like the German Saint Joseph Church down the street, Our Lady of Victory had an ethnic beginning. Immigrants from Canada established a French chapel on the site in 1848. I do not know what the ancestry of these first immigrants was but the chapel was later established as a parish to serve the needs of Belgian immigrants. Were the original immigrants from French speaking Belgium, coming to the United States via French Canada (Quebec)? Maybe someone reading this knows and can inform us.

The architecture of the exterior of Our Lady of Victory strikes me as Italianate in style but is listed as Early Romanesque Revival on authoritative sites. Indeed, the architect, Andrew Jackson Warner designed several buildings in the Romanesque style. The Mansard roofs atop the slender square towers, however, are actually French, the basic form of which was popularized by Francois Mansart (1598-1666). Mansart was a successful architect of the French Baroque period. Mansard roofs were also popular in Victorian architecture. But, the combination of the Mansard roofs with the slender towers creates a rather picturesque building. Indeed, we have in the architecture here eclectic elements. The upward curves of the façade “roof” lines, similar to what we saw in the façade of Saint Joseph’s, are 295925_163703637057698_1990723907_ncapped by an opposing curved pediment with an interrupted (or “broken”) cornice characteristic of the Baroque style. But, aspects of the Baroque style such as the sweeping roof lines were also part of the Italianate style. I don’t think of them as Romanesque. There are other elements that are Romanesque.  The façade has some architectural detailing suggestive of Romanesque Lombard banding over the porch windows, in the blind niches under the cornices of the towers, and above the center window (below the bottom of the pediment). The prominent porch is a Romanesque characteristic and it’s heavy looking as Romanesque usually is.

An Italianate feeling is conveyed to me by the pronounced eaves supported by corbels topping off Italian campanile-like (towers). Italianate roofs, however, are usually rather flat whereas these on the towers are steep and curved. The windows and blind niches are also tall and slender and topped off with round arches, characteristics of the Italianate style. Short, wider windows I associate with the Romanesque. Brick was a favorite Italianate building material but it was a favorite of the Romanesque Revival, as well.

Stepping inside (by way of an old photograph), we can see –as we saw in Saint Joseph’s Church– a Baroque-like interior. This is a rather small church and so we see no columns or nave arcades separating the nave from side aisles. Instead we see what I call “dripping arches” (hanging arches?) which are suspended from the ceiling where a nave arcade would ordinarily be located; no columns support these arches which repeat, somewhat, the Lombard banding theme that we see on web double altarthe front façade. Notice that those ceiling arches align with the right and left ends of the apse and, considered with the side altars, suggests a nave/side aisles basilica plan.[1] The wooden reredos of the altar almost suggests the façade of a Baroque church. The interesting scrolls on either side of the tall fastigium visually transitions the vertically of the fastigium to the bottom horizontal temple-like structure (or, the other way around, leading the eyes upward). Scroll buttresses are a characteristically Baroque element but they are not unknown in other styles. These, however, are rather elaborate which makes them Baroque. The interior looks French Baroque: white painted wooden structures with gold color on mostly floral or organic detailing. I associate it with small or rural churches in French Quebec.

Regrettably, the mural originally on the back wall of the chancel, is now gone. In the photo we can see that a prominent balustrade appeared in the painting. Actual and painted balustrades are a common feature of the Baroque style.

web IMG_3550The left side chapel that we see in the old photograph was dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. It was constructed to appear as the actual grotto in Lourdes where the apparition took place. This kind of dramatic and emotional tableau-like feature was common in many Baroque style churches. Unfortunately (in my opinion), the tableaux was eliminated during later renovations.

When Saint Joseph’s Church burned down, the parish merged with Our Lady of Victory parish forming Our Lady of Victory/Saint Joseph Church. You can see in more recent photos that the interior lost much of its original decoration and detailing during renovations.

Our Lady of Victory is, architecturally, a baffling style to pigeon hole –as least for me. Maybe we should call it “eclectic”. Are there any architects out there who can set me straight?

Practical information about the church and parish:

Should you wish to visit OLV/SJ [2] be aware that the parking lot to the right of the church is open only on weekends for Mass times. It’s gated, but the arms will go up for you (arriving and departing) on weekends. There is a security guard on duty in the parking lot on weekends.

On weekdays, you will need to park on the street at the meters ($.25 per 15 minutes?) or in the ramp garage ($2?) on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Pleasant Street, down towards Saint Joseph Park (church). It’s not far from the church. Don’t park anywhere other than at a meter on the street or in the parking garage on weekdays. Anywhere else and your car will be ticketed or, worse, towed! You can bet on it.

Masses at 4:30 pm Saturdays, 9 and 11 am Sundays. Confessions (11:30) are every weekday and Saturday before the 12:10 Mass. The church is only open for Masses. It is not open on Thursdays at all –no Mass or confessions on Thursdays.

The OLV/SJ church bulletin can be viewed HERE.


[1] OLV/SJ is actually a hall basilica plan; there is just a nave –no side aisles.

[2] the church has a beautiful set of painted Stations of the Cross, and lovely stained glass windows.

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2 Responses to ““The Little French (Romanesque, Baroque, Italianate) Church””

  1. Sid says:

    Super nice post, Bernie!

    A couple of comments / questions.

    1. Unless it’s an alternate spelling, I think there might be a little typo: the French architect should be Mansart I think, from which in English we have the mansard roof.

    2. The Cook Iron Store lot immediately behind the Church, with an entrance on Andrews Street, is also available on weekends (or at least Sundays) for free parking. There’s a gate from that lot that leads directly to the rear of the church. It’s probably a little shorter walk, especially if you enter via the attached church hall…

    3. Parking at the ramp garage you mention during the week is really quite easy, only a block walk. If it’s a nice day, I would recommend getting a spot on the roof where you can have a great aerial view of the remains of St. Joseph’s Church, which is just across the street.

    4. One can see in the old interior photo that high above each the side shrines there were formerly nooks for statuary. Those are filled in or otherwise closed up now, which is a pity.

    5. In a few places inside, there is a gilded woodwork monogram visible which looks like an “A” superimposed upon an “M”. Am I reading it correctly, and if so, what does it represent, “Ave Maria” ? An example can be seen in the lower center of the picture of the high altar.

    6. Regarding the stained glass, I am particularly fond of the two “wounded pelican” renderings!

    7. Were there ever any statuary in the exterior nooks? In the few old pictures I have seen, these are empty as they are today.

    Thanks again for running these pieces!

  2. Bernie says:

    Thank you for the correction, Sid! and for the comments.

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