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“A tribute to the College’s Catholic heritage”?

June 10th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

Below is a corrected version of the original post in which I made an ignorant statement concerning the placement of Tabernacles in newly constructed churches.

From Saint John Fisher College News

20160302_SJFC Chapel Design Review.ai

The St. John Fisher College Board of Trustees recently announced the construction of the Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great… Read the whole article HERE

My comments follow:

The outside, not too bad. The inside… ?

“College News” calls the chapel “A tribute to the College’s Catholic heritage”. I certainly do not see a strong reference to Catholic heritage in the proposed architectural design for the new Chapel. The original founders/administration were Catholic, shouldn’t the chapel look Catholic?

This could be any mainline Protestant chapel; certainly not Catholic in any strong sense. Replace the crucifix with a plain cross and place a high back chair in front of the tabernacle and it might just be a Baptist church. Add the stained glass windows and you’re tilting toward the more liturgical wings of Protestantism.

What would make it “more” Catholic?

  1. Place the Tabernacle in the center behind the altar, incorporated into the wall on in front of the wall. Appropriately adorn the area of the Tabernacle with imagery appropriate to the Blessed Sacrament. Several sanctuary lamps alone would add a sense of the sacred. Right now the Tabernacle looks like an unfortunate requirement, off to the side and, most especially, lacking any elaboration suggesting sacred space.
  2. Treat the “sanctuary platform” –as College News calls it– as the chancel it is supposed to be. A Catholic church or chapel to be Catholic must convey a sense of sacred hierarchic space. That is basic to Catholic theology. What we see in the proposed design is a reflection of protestant theology: the complete absence of a sense of the transcendent and an emphasis on the merely human.
    • the altar needs to be prominent in a Catholic church: raised up and covered by a ciborium or baldachin or some form of tester. That is still a requirement for Catholic Churches although often left out in new churches.
    • the chancel in a Catholic church should be clearly marked off from the rest of the space. Usually that is accomplished by a railing or at least by a significant number of steps –at least three steps. The separation suggests a special, more sacred space.
    • the altar in a Catholic church is a sacrificial altar and not just a table. The Catholic Mass is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Calvary made present. There is a meal component to the Mass but the element of sacrifice should not take second place and in this design it is not even evident. I would look for a solid stone, marble faced, or precious wood altar adorned with imagery.
    • Gosh! Is that music stand supposed to be where the Gospel is proclaimed from? Please, create a pulpit along the same lines as a proper altar: of noble material and appropriately adorned.
    • the wall behind the altar in the proposal appears as a demonstration piece (and an uninteresting one at that) for a gardening or landscape/masonry business. The sacred in Catholic churches is traditionally suggested by imagery around the altar. It is usually the grandest area of the interior space. At the very least the crucifix should be monumental and not the stingy sized one in the proposal. The stained glass windows should be a wonderful addition but the chancel should always be accorded the most important imagery or treatment.
    • the chancel is the throne room of the king (or the Holy Sepulcher or the sacred bridal chamber or the Holy of Holies). There are several possible interpretations from Catholic tradition of the chancel and altar area. Rich and intricate designs as well as regal colors suggest heaven and the transcendent. There is no decoration at all in this proposal. (The addition of a ciborium could minimize the need for imagery on the wall.) The furnishings as well are as plain as can be in this proposal.
  3. Is there even a statue or image of Saint John Fisher planned? Or Saint Basil the Great?
  4. Get rid of the piano. The organ has pride of place in Catholic liturgy, along with Latin and Gregorian chant.

The people responsible for this design have not considered what makes a Catholic church “Catholic”. They have consulted the anti-Catholic worship space designers of liberal liturgy that was barely recognizable as Catholic. That is especially unfortunate since the proposed chapel is meant to be a tribute to the school’s Catholic heritage.

Too bad the architects and sponsors are not aware of the resurgence of classical church architectural. “Classical” in the sense of the use of the esthetic principles of Romanesque, Baroque, Classical, and Gothic church architecture. That’s the latest. What they have come up with has been resoundingly rejected as “not Catholic”.

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3 Responses to ““A tribute to the College’s Catholic heritage”?”

  1. avatar Hopefull says:

    Maybe this is a good opportunity for a short survey: chairs or pews? Personally, I much prefer pews (and will share some reasons, but first I’m wondering what is the general consensus?)

  2. avatar Bernie says:

    Either, as long as there are kneelers.
    I don’t know if there are any kneelers planned for this chapel.

  3. avatar raymondfrice says:

    I do not want to digress too far, Bernie, but is there any speculation as to the placement of the confessional and/or the baptismal font? Does higher education trump the Roman Catholic Church?

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