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Saint Mary’s Church, Dansville, NY

April 13th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

Dansville, New York, has a beautiful church that has avoided ruin through “Spirit of Vatican II” activism.

web 01bae5e57efea590ab7f6be82aaf955e110c7f55a5_edited-1Saint Mary’s in Dansville is a mix of styles. I would call it Romanesque but it has a Renaissance/Baroque main entrance, Gothic Revival coins at the corners and a prominent pediment, and touches of Byzantine in a domed cupola and stone/brick banding toward the top of the tower.

web 01f23438a9bcb34ca34acc4936d10c22ceb3a99c10_edited-1The church is in the style of an early Christian basilica and includes an open timbered ceiling, characteristic of the earliest of Christian churches. There is a large nave and two side aisles but no side chapels. The apse houses a gorgeous classical Renaissance altar designed to appear to have a baldachin or ciborium. The tabernacle was never moved after the Second Vatican Council and so is in the center of the cancel, on the altar. The vaulted ceiling isĀ  coffered with rosettes.

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Appropriately, the back and side walls of the apse are painted in a rich, gold pattern reminiscence of a king’s throne room.

The draped opening between the columns of the altar cries out for a painting but we are offered an aesthetically underwhelming (to me) suspended sculpture of the risen Lord. I’m wondering if a painting was once there or was at least planned for that space.

web 01d6a58bd89dcbcc95e6b8ac98d69b2c006c25f0c6_edited-2Unfortunately, banners have been hung on some of the sides of the piers (square columns). They are at least well designed but, alas, they are banners and I dislike banners. In this case I think they distract from the Stations of the Cross. The piers were designed to be unadorned except for the Stations. Thankfully, the colors of the banners harmonize with the architecture and they are in good proportion to the sides of the piers.

web 01db2453d20195dda066a1a05767c9c2c69bb836ab_edited-1The Stations of the Cross are outstanding in Saint Mary’s. Renaissance in style, each has a touch of Byzantine in the gold mosaic-like skies.

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Yet another style appears to us in the spandrels between the piers (those triangular spaces over the piers). A heavenly host of angels rendered in the Art Nouveau style look down on us and announce that we are in sacred space –the throne room of the King, the temple of the Lord. (Yes, yes, I know, in the New Covenant the people are the Temple.)

web three windows

Like nearly everything else in this church, the stained glass windows are beautiful. Rich in detail and outstanding in rendering they each invite study and reflection.

web 01e00df7767c17fa51f22ea19b6ea8e78071a45f0b_edited-1 Look at the wonderful elaboration of the main entrance. Something important happens here. This isn’t just any building.

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More Information about Saint Mary’s

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10 Responses to “Saint Mary’s Church, Dansville, NY”

  1. avatar Interstate Catholic says:

    It has been about 25 years since I was there, but there was a painting behind the curtains. I assume it is still there.

  2. avatar Bernie says:

    There indeed is a painting behind the curtain. At least there was a painting there. I don’t know if it still is. It is/was a large Marian painting –an Immaculate Conception or Assumption, perhaps. You can see it in an archival photo at http://dorchurches.com/stmarydansville. Scroll way down when you get to the link. If it is still there why not make it visible? What is the reason for hiding it?

  3. avatar Bernie says:

    Perhaps the curtain is pulled back on Marian feast days? I can’t tell what the title might be. Does anyone know the title and if the painting is ever displayed?

  4. avatar Interstate Catholic says:

    I would like to think it has something to do with preserving the painting.

  5. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Great post, Bernie and thanks for the CC link, IC (in the ‘burgh that’d be Iron City).
    “story by Fr. Robert F. McNamara”

  6. avatar Bernie says:

    Thank you Interstate Catholic!

  7. avatar raymondfrice says:

    Nice!

  8. avatar Eliza10 says:

    I don’t like banners either, but those are the nicest ones I’ve seen. They are not only very well done, but they compliment the space wonderfully. I like them!

    The ONLY other banners I have seen that I like are the ones at Holy Spirit Church in Webster, which are VERY fine, and perfect for the (unfortunate) space. And I have seen many many church banners!

  9. avatar SEMPRECATTOLICO says:

    Regarding St. Mary’s in NY, I think that the image of Christ should be replaced, appropriately, with a crucifix. The image of Christ, although nice, to me reflects a softening of Catholic teaching and represents a more protestant view; Christ rose from the dead, which of course he did. But it takes away the theology of suffering. We can’t have resurrection without the pain of suffering.


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