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S acred A rchitecture

ISSN# 1535-9387

Issue 16 2009

Journal of the Institute for Sacred Architecture

The problem with a large part of modern liturgiology is that it tends to recognize only antiquity as a source, and therefore
normative, and to regard everything developed later, in the Middle Ages and through the Council of Trent, as decadent…we
cannot take as our norm the ancient in itself and as such, nor must we automatically write off later developments as alien to the
original form of liturgy. There can be a thoroughly living kind of development in which a seed at the origin of something ripens
and bears fruit. -- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy

art of the history of art and ar- summation of the world ... it is neither seen as part of the great tradition, along
chitecture is the revivification wise nor laudable to reduce everything with the Romanesque, the Byzantine,
of elements found in the past. to antiquity by every possible de- the Renaissance and Baroque. The his-
Sometimes this is a matter of continu- vice.” tory of sacred architecture is the history
ity, while at other times the elements While the advocacy of a return to of revival but also of development.
are referenced in order to associate the antiquity and the house church is to- This is not to argue that it is some-
new work with a building or a histori- day less strong, the archeologism to how unnatural for us to have our fa-
cal period. The twentieth-century Li- which Pope Pius referred is nonethe- vorite music, paintings, or churches. It
turgical Movement sought a return to less emerging in new forms. Christians is also perfectly valid, even beneficial,
the liturgy of antiquity and viewed de- look to the “good old days,” whether to debate the relative merits of vari-
velopments dating from the medieval they were the 1950s or the 1250s. The ous periods of architecture. However,
period or Counter-Reformation as un- further away the era, the easier it is to a catholic understanding of art and
necessary accretions or decadences. By mask its imperfections and to reclaim it architecture can appreciate the high
the 1920s, the desire to strip the liturgy as some golden age when things were Gothic cathedral as well as the humble
of these accretions found its architec- better, purer. However, as Sacrosanctum mission church, the early Christian ba-
tural corollary in the stripping of saints Concilium states, “in the course of the silica and the Baroque chapel of the Ro-
and altarpieces from high altars. The centuries, she [the Church] has brought sary attached to it. While it may seem
theorists of the Liturgical Movement, into being a treasury of art which must natural to equate different architectural
for instance, wanted to focus on the be very carefully preserved.” Art from styles with the strengths or weaknesses
sacrificial nature of the Mass, but to the the past is a window onto the faith and of an age, it is in fact based on a histori-
exclusion of other iconography. Their practice of a specific time, but it can cist or modernist approach to history.
model, which was adopted in both also speak to all ages. To reject peri- Seeking to build new architecture be-
new and existing churches, comprised ods, other than our favorites, as either cause it hearkens back to a golden age,
an unencumbered stone altar with a primitive or decadent is to miss out on whether antiquity, the Middle Ages, or
bronze tabernacle on top, surmounted the rich tapestry of art and architecture any other time is archeologism. Sacred
by a crucifix with a canopy or balda- that the Church has fostered. architecture must be based on prin-
chin above. It had a classic simplicity One of the most fascinating architec- ciples and examples of the past, but it
inspired by antiquity that continues to tural precursors to the Liturgical Move- cannot recreate that supposed golden
resonate with Catholics today. Did ment was the nineteenth-century Goth- age. As Pope Benedict XVI said on the
this paring down of Gothic and classi- ic revival. The leading Catholic figure occasion of the five hundredth anniver-
cal churches in the name of an earlier of the revival, A. W. N. Pugin, believed sary of the Vatican Museums in June
golden age lead to the later adoption of that the Gothic was the only true Chris- 2006:
modernist architecture for our church- tian architecture. He was supported
es? The removal of tabernacles, side in this belief by the Ecclesiological So- In every age Christians have
altars, altar rails, and pews which fol- ciety in the Anglican church. Though sought to give expression to faith’s
lowed in the 1950s and 1960s, resulted a talented architect, Pugin rejected the vision of the beauty and order of
in the reinvention of church architec- first nine hundred years of architecture God’s creation, the nobility of our
ture as community hall. as prologue and the last four hundred vocation as men and women made
In his 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei years as decline. His was an attrac- in His image and likeness, and the
Pope Pius XII expressed concern about tive, though simplistic, theory which promise of a cosmos redeemed and
what he called archeologism: “The lit- equated Gothic art and architecture transfigured by the grace of Christ.
urgy of the early ages is most certainly with the presumed purity, chivalry, and The artistic treasures which sur-
worthy of all veneration. But ancient piety of the Middle Ages. This roman- round us are not simply impres-
usage must not be esteemed more suit- tic conception, along with the dismissal sive monuments of a distant past.
able and proper, either in its own right of other periods of architecture as less Rather, … they stand as a perennial
or in its significance for later times and Christian, has curiously resurfaced in witness to the Church’s unchang-
new situations, on the simple ground recent decades. ing faith in the Triune God who,
that it carries the savor and aroma of Should we aspire to recover a golden in the memorable phrase of St.
antiquity. The more recent liturgical age of liturgy or architecture, or should Augustine, is Himself “Beauty ever
rites likewise deserve reverence and we seek to create beautiful and timeless ancient, ever new.”
respect. They, too, owe their inspira- works of sacred art and architecture?
tion to the Holy Spirit, who assists the Both the early Christian house church Duncan Stroik
Church in every age even to the con- and the Gothic cathedral should be November 2009

On the cover: Basilica of Sant’ Andrea, Mantua, begun by Leon Battista Alberti in 1472. Photo by Thomas Stroka.
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

E di t o r ia l
2 W Pulchritudo Tam Antiqua et Tam Nova . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Duncan Stroik

News & Letters

3 W Cathedral of Saint Paul designated National Shrine of Saint Paul W New Cistercian monastery in Norway W
W Freestanding altar at Westminster Cathedral removed W New parish named for Saint Josemaría Escrivá W
W AIA award to Saint John's Abbey Guesthouse W Bernini colonnade at the Vatican undergoing repair W
W Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago reopened W Dominican House of Studies addition dedicated W
W Salt Lake City Cathedral celebrates Centennial W Architect Peter Zumthor wins Pritzker Prize W
W New addition to the Circular Congreational Church W 50 parishes slated for closure in Cleveland W

A r t ic l e s
12 W A Roman Christmas Ritual: Micro-Architecture and the Theatre of the Presepio. . . . . . . . . . . Christopher Longhurst
17 W The People or the Steeple: An Examination of Architecture Among Parishioners. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kevin Manning
20 W Awe for the Noble Things: Alberti and the Meaning of Classical Architecture. . . . . . . . . . . . Carroll William Westfall
26 W Called to Beauty Through Iconography: Sacred Images in the Christian Tradition. . . . . . . . . Joan L. Roccasalvo, CSJ
30 W Depicting the Whole Christ: Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Sacred Architecture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Philip Nielsen
35 W The Luminosity of Peruvian Churches. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hans S.B. Roegele

D o c u m e n tat i o n
40 W Seeking the Light of True Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . His Holiness Benedict XVI

42 W Temples for Protestants by Per Gustaf Hamberg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . reviewed by Gretchen Buggeln
43 W Churches for the Southwest by Stanford Lehmberg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . reviewed by Norman Crowe
44 W The Art of the Sublime by Roger Homan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . reviewed by Michael Morris, OP
45 W From the Publishing Houses: a Selection of Recent Books . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . compiled by Sacred Architecture

w w w . s a c r e d a r c h i t e c t u r e . o r g

Journal of the Institute for Sacred Architecture

The Institute for Sacred Architecture is a non-profit organization made up of architects, clergy, educators and others interested in the discus-
sion of significant issues related to contemporary Catholic architecture. Sacred Architecture is published biannually for $9.95.
©2009 The Institute for Sacred Architecture.
Address manuscripts and
letters to the Editor:
Duncan Stroik John Burgee, FAIA Andrew Remick
P.O. Box 556 Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap. Tom Stroka
Notre Dame, IN 46556 Rev. Cassian Folsom, OSB Jamie LaCourt
voice: (574) 232-1783 Dr. Ralph McInerny Forest Walton
email: Thomas Gordon Smith, AIA Helena Tomko

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 3

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S acred A rchitecture N ews

Timed to coincide with the African The Vatican
Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in has designated
October, an art exhibit of the Christian the Cathedral
heritage of Africa was organized by the of Saint Paul
Centro Orientamento Educativo (COE). in Minnesota
On display in the entrance hall of the as the National
Paul VI Hall were works such as Wedding Shrine of the
at Cana Celebrated by African Tribes by Apostle Paul.
Joseph Malenga Mpasi of the Congo, The cathedral
and the Deliverance of the Chained Angel staff announced
by Zeleoe Ewnetu of Ethiopia. Joseph the designation
Atangana Ndzie, who works for the COE on June 16, 2009,
in Cameroon, suggested that sacred art shortly before the
in Africa reveals the values of the people conclusion of the
in Africa and their Catholic identity: Year of Saint Paul.
“When someone sees this art, there is This is the first
a universal language that can express national shine in
devotion. A singular participation in North America
man’s expression to God that enriches dedicated to
the universality of the Church.” Paul and the
first national
W shrine located in
Minnesota. In
Vatican Museums donated the proceeds the cathedral,

Photo: Rick Dossey

from May 10, 2009, to benefit the which opened in
families of victims of the earthquake 1915, the Apostle
in Abruzzo, Italy, in April. Though to the Gentiles
traditionally closed on Sundays, workers is particularly
agreed to open their doors for an extra commemorated The Cathedral of Saint Paul, of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and
day on one Sunday in May and donate with a series of Minneapolis, was named the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul.
the funds to those impacted by the bronze grills
quake. surrounding the sanctuary that depict
W the major events in the saint’s life, from W
his conversion to his martyrdom. Two
$115.9 billion of private donations hundred thousand people visit the The metal-framed freestanding altar
were given by the United States to cathedral each year, but, following this that stood in the center of the sanctuary
help developing countries in 2008, designation, that number is expected to at Westminster Cathedral, the mother
while public aid was $21.8 billion. increase. church of English Catholics, has been
Foundations gave $3.3 billion, W removed. It stood in front of the
corporations donated $6.8 billion, and high altar and baldacchino
voluntary organizations gave $10.8 and blocked sight lines
billion. Religious organizations and into the sanctuary. After it
churches gave $8.6 billion to help was temporarily removed
developing countries. In its 2009 for this year’s Holy Week,
Index of Global Philanthropy and Archbishop Vincent Nichols
Remittances, the Hudson Institute allowed for its move to be
Photo: Steve Cadman (stevecadman

found that despite “the loss of assets permanent. The wooden

in 2008, giving abroad by foundations, platform, which was erected
corporations, charities, churches, and for His Holiness John Paul
individuals is not expected to take a II’s visit in 1982, has also been
sharp downward turn in 2009.” The removed and the wooden
World Bank predicted monetary gifts to floor has been repaired. Any
decrease by only 5–8 percent this year. celebrant at the cathedral can
Africa received the majority of foreign now face east or west at the
aid from corporations and charities in original stone altar designed
2008, while Latin America was given by John Francis Bentley. The
the bulk of religious organization aid. Archbishop Vincent Nichols authorized the removal cathedral was opened in 1903
Philanthropists are helping people in of the freestanding altar in Westminster Cathedral, and consecrated in 1910,
the developing world start their own restoring the original arrangment of the sanctuary though the interior remains
businesses and create jobs for others. which centers on the stone altar under a baldacchino. unfinished to this day.
4 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009
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A Superior Court judge in Massachusetts Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, in a

ruled that the Archdiocese of Boston retreat he gave to clergy from around
must disclose development plans for the world at Ars, France, urged priests
a thirty-acre seafront property worth to engage in the combat of prayer and
$3.3 million in the town of Scituate, to encourage all the faithful to pray
MA, in order to avoid paying the six- well. He asked them to keep the doors of
figure real-estate tax bill. The former parish churches open to invite people to
parish, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini visit the Blessed Sacrament: “In Austria

Photo: Marian Marr

Church, was closed five years ago in we carry on a constant struggle to keep
the reconfiguration of the archdiocese our churches open, accessible to the
by Sean P. Cardinal O’Malley. About faithful and to others who are seeking.”
three hundred parishioners were hoping The cardinal noted that many people
that a decision by the Vatican’s Supreme who no longer attend Mass might still In recognition of its ministry to tourists
Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura step inside a church to light a candle or the National Shrine of Mary Queen of the
would overturn the decision to close spend a few minutes in prayer. He asked Universe in Orlando was named a basilica.
the church after the 2004 decision and the priests to “do everything possible,
have held a continuous twenty-four- and the impossible, to allow the faithful W
hour vigil at the church for five years and persons seeking God—whom God
to prevent its closure. Currently, only awaits—to have access to Jesus in the On August 22, 2009—the Feast of the
twenty to forty parishioners attend Eucharist: don’t close the doors of your Queenship of Mary—the National
a Communion service held at Saint churches, please!” Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe,
Frances on Sundays. Though the future in Orlando, FL, became the sixty-third
of the property remains undisclosed, the W minor basilica in the United States. It is
spokesman for the archdiocese stated the third church in Florida to be granted
“the Saint Frances Cabrini property, A “Mass for Thanksgiving for the the honorific by the Vatican. Located
owned by the Roman Catholic Church in Gift of Human Life” was approved by one-and-a-half miles from the entrance
Scituate, is tax-exempt under applicable the United States Bishops at the their to Walt Disney World, the central Florida
law.” meeting in San Antonio, TX. The Mass shrine’s primary ministry, and the
was requested by the late John Cardinal reason it is being recognized as a basilica,
W O’Connor of New York in 1990. The text is serving the many tourists who travel
was approved by the bishops in 1992 and to the area. This special ministry began
A 68 percent retention rate of Catholics was sent to the Vatican Congregation for in the 1970s when the shrine’s founding
in the Church was found in a study Divine Worship and the Discipline of the rector, Monsignor Joseph Harte, traveled
by the Pew Forum on Religion and Sacraments for review. from hotel to hotel to offer Mass for
Public Life. The report indicates travelers to the area. Harte realized that
the importance of Mass attendance W a more permanent venue was needed in
for children and teenagers and notes order to better serve the growing number
some of the reasons people leave the O n t h e f e a s t o f t h e T r i u m p h of tourists and the Orlando diocese
faith. Twenty-one percent of those of the Cross, September 14, 2009, eventually purchased seventeen acres
who left became Protestant, while 27 four Cistercian monks from France near Interstate 4. Ground breaking for
percent are no longer affiliated with formally established a new monastery the first facility on the shrine’s campus
any church. Archbishop Donald Wuerl in Munkeby, Norway. Munkeby occurred in 1984 and construction of its
of Washington, commenting on the Mariakloster is the first new monastery two-thousand-seat church began in 1990
findings, said “Adolescence is a critical founded by the Abbey of Citeaux since and was completed in 1993; the church
time in religious development and, as the fifteenth century. Situated on a was designated a national shrine in 2007.
the poll shows, what happens in the teen former farmstead, the new monastery
years has a long-lasting effect.” stands only one-and-a-half kilometers W
from a medieval Cistercian foundation
W of which only ruins survive. The monks The annual Church Music Association
will first reside in an of America Colloquium that will take
Photo: Munkeby Mariakloster,

interim monastery, place June 21–27, 2010, at Duquesne

while they raise funds University is the world’s largest
for a permanent conference and retreat for sacred
structure capable music in the world. The focus of the
of housing a small colloquium is instruction in the sacred
monastic community music tradition and participation in
of ten to twelve Gregorian Chant classes and both
monks. Following English and Latin liturgies. There will be
the construction of training for parish music management,
the larger monastic vocal technique, and the sung parts of
complex the interim the Liturgy. Meals and lodging are
The interim monastery of the Cistercian community at facility will become a included in the colloquium. Registration
Munkeby Mariakloster in Norway guesthouse. at

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 5

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In Santa Fe, Mexico, a suburb of

Mexico City, a new parish church
named for Saint Josemaría Escrivá,
the founder of Opus Dei, was
dedicated on July 28, 2009. The

Photo: Opus Dei Information Office

process of building this church began
in 2002 when His Eminence Norberto
Cardinal Rivera Carrera, archbishop of
Mexico City, asked Opus Dei to build
a church and establish a parish served
by priests of the Prelature. Mexican
architect Javier Sordo Madaleno

Photo: Bob Marchand

The interior of the new Saint Josemaría designed the church and construction
Escrivá Parish located near Mexico City. began in 2005. The parish serves an
average of two thousand local faithful
every weekend and is an essential part of
W the Santa Fe Community Center, which Pope Benedict XVI named Saint John
offers medical, personal, and spiritual the Evangelist in Stamford, CT a minor
The Catholic faithful are being care to area residents, a majority of basilica; the designation was announced on
prepared for textual changes in the whom live close to the poverty line. October 17, 2009.
prayers of the Mass, set to take effect
in the United States by the end of the W W
year. Bishop Arthur Serratelli, chairman
of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for A large generational gap in vocations On July 16, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI
the Review of Scripture Translations to religious orders in the United elevated Saint John the Evangelist
explained the reason for the changes: States was found in a study done by Church in downtown Stamford, CT, to
“The words used in liturgy bring God’s Georgetown University’s Center for the status of a minor basilica. Originally
revelation into our present moment and Applied Research in the Apostolate. founded in 1847, the present church
because they lift our prayer to God in The largest gap is between the “Vatican II was built by Irish immigrants in 1875
worship.” One example of a change is generation” born between 1943 and 1960 of stone from a local quarry, fifteen
the response to the priest’s invitation and the “millennial generation” born in years after construction of the Catholic
“The Lord be with you,” to which the 1982 or later. Currently in the United school. The church is considered the
people should now respond “And with States, 75 percent of male religious and mother church of southwestern Fairfield
your spirit.” Other well-known prayers 91 percent of female religious are aged County, since twenty-three parishes in
set to be altered include the Confiteor, sixty and older. However, there are now the area trace their heritage to Saint John
Gloria, and Nicene Creed. “The new 2,630 new men and women in the initial the Evangelist Church. Bishop William
translations also have great respect for stages of formation for religious life E. Lori welcomed the designation by
the style of the Roman Rite,” Bishop throughout the country. The younger Pope Benedict: “It becomes the pope’s
Serratelli said. “Liturgical language members are more diverse in ethnicity church and a center for the promotion
should border on the poetic. Prose than the Vatican II generation: 58 percent of the teachings of the Holy Father and
bumps along the ground. Poetry soars are Caucasian; 21 percent are Latino; 14 the Catholic Church’s magisterium, as
to the Heavens.” The website developed percent are Asian/Pacific Islander; and well as a center for a deeper devotion to
by the USCCB to educate Catholics about 6 percent are African-American. the pope as the successor of Saint Peter.”
the new translation is
romanmissal. W W

The American Institute of Architects

selected the Saint John’s Abbey
Guesthouse for the 2009 AIA Special
Housing Award. The guesthouse
Photo: Paul Crosby Architetural Photography

is located on the Collegeville, MN,

campus designed by Marcel Breuer in
the 1950s. The architects, VJAA, were
inspired by the Benedictine precepts of
frugality, durability, and environmental
sustainability. The guesthouse is
designed with a dining room, library,
offices, meeting rooms, and guest rooms
that face Lake Sagatagan. Sustainability
is now a required element of the AIA
Housing Awards. The Saint John's Abbey Guesthouse received a 2009 AIA Special Housing Award.
6 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009
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The Bernini colonnade that surrounds The seventeenth-century Basilica of

Saint Peter’s Square is undergoing Bom Jesus in the old city of Goa, India,
structural restoration in sections over was nominated as a wonder of the world
the next four years. Antonio Paolucci, by the New7Wonders Foundation. Built
who is also the director of the Vatican in 1605, the baroque basilica contains

Museums, is coordinating the project, the relics of Saint Francis Xavier and
estimated to cost $14–28 million. Gian is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage
Lorenzo Bernini began work on the Site. The declaration of the basilica as a
colonnade for Pope Alexander VII in Portuguese wonder provoked protests
1657 and took ten years to complete the from members of the Goa Freedom
work. A large portion of the project Fighters Association, which claimed
will consist of roof and gutter repair. The colonnade at Saint Peter's Basilica that the human and material resources
In addition, the columns will be given built for Pope Alexander VII to construct the basilica were Goan,
a protective treatment to prevent rapid including people who reverted to their
deterioration. Since the repairs will former religion from Christianity and
be carried out in sections, the square W were punished with hard labor. The
will not have to be closed during the builders “were indigenous people who
restoration. The Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, IL, worked until they dropped dead” said
W has announced their 2010 Conferences. Naguesh Karmali, association president.
A day-long conference called "The Glory Almost a quarter of a million people
of Catholic Architecture" will take place voted to select the seven Portuguese
April 30, 2010. Dr. Denis McNamara wonders from a list of twenty-seven
will explain how the Garden of Eden, places around the world. Some of the
Photo: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune

the Temple of Solomon, the Heavenly other monuments are the Church of
Jerusalem, and the notions of ordained Saint Paul in Macau and two convents
and baptismal priesthood inform the of Saint Francis of Assisi in Brazil.
theoretical and practical elements in
the design of Catholic churches. The W
Liturgical Institute’s fifth "Sacred Music
Retreat" will take place June 20–25,
2010, led by church musician Fr. John-
Following the completion of extensive Mark Missio as retreat master. It will
renovation work, Chicago's Holy Name be preached retreat on the ministry of
Catheral reopened in July. liturgical music with spiritual talks,
time for prayer and reflection, Mass

Photo: Abhishek Sagar

and Liturgy of the Hours, with a special
lecture by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput,
Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago OFM, Cap., of Denver.
reopened on July 31, 2009 after being
closed for nearly six months to repair W
damage caused by an early morning The seventeenth-century Basilica of Bom
fire in the church’s attic on February Jesus in Goa, India
4, 2009. This was the second time in Scott Turkington, Organist and
two years that the 1875 cathedral had Choirmaster at the Basilica of Saint W
to shut its doors, having only reopened John the Evangelist in Stamford, CT,
in August 2008 following a six-month will lead the Summer Chant Intensive The Vatican City State officially
closure for structural repairs. Executed at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, celebrated eighty years since the
by the Chicago-based Daprato Rigali PA. Organized through the Church Lateran Pacts were signed on February
Studios, the renovation work included Music Association of America, the 11, 1929, granting political sovereignty
the inspection, sanding, and polishing Intensive is a five-day seminar in which to the Vatican from the Italian nation
of more than twenty thousand pieces students will not only study the basics, state. Pope Pius XI’s cardinal secretary
of the cathedral’s intricate wooden but also explore the world of modes, of state Pietro Gasparri signed the pact
ceiling, the replacement of faded gold interpretation of neumes, rhythm, and with Prime Minister Benito Mussolini,
leaf with a new twenty-three-karat the style required by chant. In addition, who represented King Victor Emmanuel
coat, and the glazing and gilding of the Intensive includes sessions on III. After the treaty was signed, the
previously whitewashed columns. In conducting and the art of singing the Vatican guaranteed neutrality in all
addition, artists installed a hand-painted Psalms. Attendance is open to anyone international relations in return for its
rendering of the crest of Chicago’s interested in improving the quality clear independence from Italian political
archbishop, Francis Cardinal George, of music in Catholic worship, both power. The city-state automatically
on the back wall of the sanctuary. The professional musicians and enthusiastic adopted all Italian laws as its own after
estimated cost of repairing the fire and beginners. Classes begin on the afternoon 1929, until in 2008 it was decided that
water damage amounts to more than $8 of Monday, June 14, 2010 and continue too many new laws conflicted with the
million. through noon on Friday, June 18, 2010. right to life.
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 7
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The Dominican The Catholic University of America

House of Studies in School of Architecture’s 2010
Washington, D.C., Symposium “A Living Presence:

Photo: Domincan House of Studies,

solemnly blessed Extending, Continuing, and
and dedicated the Transforming the tradition of Catholic
institution’s new Sacred Architecture” will take place
Academic Center and April 16–18 at the CUA campus in
Theological Library Washington. The symposium will
on April 19, 2009. The explore the importance and attributes
addition is the first major of sacred buildings today and their need
capital improvement to employ human scale, materiality, and
to the campus of the imagery to inspire the people of God.
Pontifical Faculty of the On April 19, 2009, The Domican House of Studies The discussion of sacred architecture
Immaculate Conception dedicated its new Academic Center and Theological Library. is also a response to the call by His
in decades. Designed Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for an
by DeLizzio Architects & Planners, organic growth in every aspect of the life
PC, of Rockville, MD, the four-story, W of the Church. See www.architecture.
$18-million addition to the hundred-
year-old Immaculate Conception Priory,
the residence of the Dominican friars, A new mural on the wall behind the W
recalls the priory’s Gothic architecture, altar in the gym at Xavier College
while incorporating modern amenities Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ was

Photo: Andrew Junker, The Catholic Sun (Diocese of Phoenix)

such as large windows that not only executed by teacher Ruth Ristow. It
allow light to flood the interior but also depicts the Mass in the context of the
frame views of the adjacent campus Book of Revelation. Christ sits in the
of the Catholic University of America. center of the painting wearing white
The Dominican Theological Library is linen and is surrounded by angels. The
housed on the main and lower level of painting also incorporates the tree of life
the new building and features a spacious and sea of glass mentioned in the Book
reading room and climate-controlled of Revelation. “The mural provides
facilities for the its rare book collection. direction for the students’ prayer,” said
Located on the two upper stories are Father Muir. Xavier opened sixty-six
faculty and administrative offices and years ago by the Founding Sisters of
instructional spaces equipped with a Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and
wide range of educational technology, remains a female-only high school to this
including a 150-seat lecture hall (aula day. Commenting on the installation of
magna), a preaching studio, seminar the new twenty-four-foot by sixteen-foot The Book of Revelation inspired the design
rooms, and an audio-visual studio. canvas, Sister Joan Fitzgerald, B.V.M., for the new mural used during Mass at
principal of Xavier, said “I think it really Xavier College Prepatory.
W has turned the gym into a very reverent
and more solemn place.”
A study by the Barna Group found that
twenty thousand fewer churches in
Six parishes merge into one at Holy the United States had Sunday school
Family Catholic Church in Fond du in 2004 compared to 1997, though
Lac, WI. In 2007, a 53,000-square-foot 80 percent of churches still offer a
building with a fellowship hall, offices program to high-school students and
Photo: Plunkett Raysich Architects,

and a 1250-seat church was designed by 86 percent to middle-school students.

Plunkett Raysich Architects. Six beams Only 15 percent of ministers today
that span the space symbolize the six describe Sunday school as a priority.
parishes that merged. Local stone was Sunday school was always considered
used to construct six octagonal pavilions a foundation of Protestant churches in
that link to colonnades of the church. the US. It became common after Sunday
Three of these pavilions contain precious classes were developed by newspaper
artwork from Saint Joseph, Saint Louis, editor Robert Raikes in eighteenth-
and Saint Patrick churches to incorporate century England to educate the poor in
the history of each contributing parish. the faith. Charlotte Hays, editor of In
In addition, stained-glass windows and Character, laments the loss of Sunday
The design of Holy Family Catholic other elements from the six merging school: “In short, Sunday school was a
Church honors the six parishes that parishes were included in the design of civilizing experience that assured some
merged to form the new community. the interior of the church. level of religious literacy.”

8 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

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Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican On August 16, 2009, one thousand
secretary of state, discussed the faithful gathered in Salt Lake City,
potential dangers of constructing a UT, for the Mass celebrating the one
skyscraper close to the Roman Catholic hundredth anniversary of the Cathedral
Saint Joseph Cathedral, Bucharest, of the Madeleine’s dedication on the
with Romanian prime minister Emil feast of the Assumption of Mary after
Boc. There is concern that the structural months of preparation and celebration.
foundation of the historic architectural The cathedral was built under the
monument may be jeopardized by the direction of Bishop Lawrence Scanlan,
new skyscraper nearby. A legal decision who became the first bishop of Salt
in Romania approved the construction Lake City in 1886. The architects of
project despite the potential damage the Romanesque and Gothic church
done to the cathedral. were Carl Newhausen and Bernard
Mecklenburg. The sandstone is from
W Carbon County, UT, while the stained
glass was produced by Zettler in
Germany. The project took ten years
Photo: Christopher Capozziello, NY Times

to complete and cost $344,000, twice

Photo: Kevin Riley

the original budget. Bishop Joseph
Glass, who succeeded Bishop Scanlan,
decorated much of the interior and
added a carved depiction of Christ with
the apostles and doctors of the Church The Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt
over the entrance. From 1991 to 1993 Lake City celebrated its centennial in 2009.
the cathedral was closed for the cleaning
of soot from the walls and ceilings of W
Dedicated on September 27, 2009, Sacred the interior, a new baptismal font and
Heart University's new Chapel of the Holy pipe organ were installed, and a plaza A new monastery called Thien Tam,
Spirit features mosaics by Father Marko was built flanking the church. While which is Vietnamese for “heavenly
Rupnik, S.J. there were only ten thousand Catholics heart,” has been established in
in the diocese when the Cathedral the Diocese of Dallas, TX. The six
W was dedicated in 1909, there are over Vietnamese-American monks who live
one hundred thousand living there at the monastery grew out of a New
Sacred Heart University of Fairfield, today. The Most Reverend John C. Mexico monastery called Christ in the
CT, invited Father Marko Rupnik, S.J., Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City, told Desert, which is helping to pay for the
to design a forty-four-foot-tall colored the people present at the Centennial new offshoot. Their goal is to increase
mosaic reredos of the Annunciation, Mass: “If you listen closely enough, you to twenty or more monks and become
Resurrection, and Pentecost behind may hear the echoes of those bishops self-sufficient by running retreats and
the main altar at the school’s new and congregations before us.” Also in selling homemade products.
chapel. Rupnik had already completed attendance at the Centennial Mass was
work at the Basilica of the Holy Rosary William Joseph Cardinal Levada, Prefect W
at Lourdes, the Church of the Most of the Congregation for the Doctrine of
Holy Trinity at Fatima, and the Holy the Faith. He praised the Cathedral’s
Father’s private chapel in the Vatican architectural decoration, much of which
apartments. Mr. Anthony Cernera, was renovated in the 1990s: “It is nothing
president of Sacred Heart University, less than the sign of the beauty of the
commissioned Rupnik after working New Jerusalem.”
alongside him on ecumenical seminars W
for Orthodox and Catholics. The
mosaic took two weeks to complete. Architect Peter Zumthor of Switzerland
Christ’s tomb is blue, the Virgin’s robe was awarded the prestigious Pritzker
Photo: Martin Williams (

magenta, and the background gold. Architecture Prize on May 29, 2009, in
In addition to the mosaic in the main Buenos Aires. He has designed projects
chapel, Rupnik designed a Nativity in Europe and the United States but
scene in the daily Mass chapel in front has the highest concentration of work
of the church. The new chapel, located in Switzerland. Many have praised his
at the center of campus, was designed numerous minimalist rural chapels, such
by Sasaki Associates of Boston at a cost as the Bruder Klaus Kapelle. Zumthor
of $17 million. “We wanted something studied first in Basel, then at the Pratt
beautiful for our students because Institute in New York, before opening
beauty is one way that God calls us to his own practice in 1979. Perhaps his Bruder Klaus Kapelle by Peter Zumthor.
see what God is doing in our midst,” most famous work is the Thermal Baths Located outside Nuremberg, Germany, it
said Mr. Cernera. at Vals, Switzerland. was completed in 2007.
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 9
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Fifteen percent of Americans no The 2008 wildfires that consumed

longer identify with any religious 20,000 acres outside Santa Barbara,
denomination, a larger number of CA, also destroyed a 1947 Benedictine
people than any religious group in monastery of the Episcopal Order
the United States except Catholics of the Holy Cross. The six resident

Photo: Copyright 2009 Brian Coril

and Baptists., according to a study by monks were able to escape to safety,
Trinity College in Hartford, CT. The but the twenty-thousand-square-
state with the largest percentage of feet retreat house was burned to the
people without religion is Vermont, at ground. Precious objects were lost in
34 percent. In addition, 22 percent of the fire, including a seventeenth-century
all adults in their twenties no longer painting and gold altar. Before its
consider themselves members of a destruction, the monastery had more
particular religion. However, not all than two thousand visitors every year. Circular Congregational Church, Charleston.
those in the “no religion” group can be “The brothers are in shock and grief,”
described as atheists, since 51 percent said Nancy Bullock, director of the W
of them still believe in God or a higher Mount Calvary Retreat House.
power. Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysas Architect Frank Harmon of Raleigh,
found the “no religion” population to be W NC, won and AIA Honor Award for
very similar to the rest of Americans in his “green” addition to the Circular
other categories. “There’s no statistical Congregational Church, the oldest
difference on education, or income or church in Charleston, SC. The addition

Photo: Ray Ford, Preservation Magazine

marital status … they are present in on the churchyard features a green
every socio-demographic group.” roof, geothermal heating and cooling,
windows that increase natural lighting
W and ventilation, rainwater collection,
and recycled building materials
The former parish church of Saint where possible. The Independent or
Mary in Pittsburgh is now Saint “Circular,” Congregational Church
Mary Mausoleum, possibly the first was founded in 1681 as the White
such conversion of a Catholic church Meeting House by a group of English
building in the United States. The Built in 1947, the Mount Calvary Retreat Congregationalists, French Huguenots,
former sanctuary will become the new House in Santa Barbara, CA was destroyed and Scottish Presbyterians. A circular
commitment chapel with 200 seats, while by a wildfire in November, 2008. brick building was designed in 1804
the nave will contain 880 crypts and 712 by architect Robert Mills. After it was
niches for the remains. The exterior of the W destroyed by fire at the beginning of the
building will remain unchanged, though Civil War, the same bricks were used in
the work on the interior includes a new Buddhist ceremonial paintings and the construction of the present church.
concrete foundation, heating system, sculptures from the Doris Duke
and restored stained-glass windows. Charitable Foundation are on exhibit W
The new mausoleum sits adjacent to at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum
the historic Saint Mary’s Cemetery with this winter. Conservators at the museum The new Sacred Heart of Jesus Church
over 100,000 graves. Some of the oldest had to spend seven years restoring in Garjuan, Bantul, was re-opened in
graves include Catholics who died some of the works, which were stored August after the renovation following
during the French occupation of Fort in Ms. Duke’s shooting gallery and the 2006 earthquake in Indonesia.
Duquesne in the 1750s. indoor tennis court at her Princeton, NJ, The church design is a deliberate
estate. Some items were already in poor combination of Javanese and Catholic
W condition when acquired in Burma and architecture and is organized in the
Thailand, while others needed touching traditional Javanese “hall style,” with
up as a result of imperfect storage no interior partitions. Every exposed
methods at the Duke estate. Items on surface is covered with Javanese carving;
display in the exhibition include gold each of the piers of the church bears
Photo: The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

shrines, theatrical masks, and puppets. parallelogram carvings known as

One painting on gilded cloth portrays “wajikan.” The ends of the roof frame
Buddha descending to earth with Hell are decorated with wooden pineapple-
underneath. Another piece is a mythical shaped carvings. The pineapples are a
bird-man sculpture from Thailand made Javanese symbol of the effort needed
of wood and lacquer. Many of the works to earn the sweet things of life. The
of art would have been part of royal opening Mass was celebrated in Javanese
coronation ceremonies in the eighteenth by Monsignor Ignasius Suharjo, and
and nineteenth centuries. The show, the inauguration was led by Governor
which opened in October, is entitled Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, who
A gallery of the exhibit "Emerald Cities: “Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma praised the church for its unifying role
Arts of Siam and Burma 1775-1950." 1775–1950.” in the community.

10 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

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The Saint Mary Parish Council voted

in August to close the church, which
has served Dubuque, IA since 1867,
pending Archbishop Jerome Hanus’s
approval. Numerous reasons were
cited for the church’s closure. Fewer
young families join the parish, over 60
percent of the church’s current members

Photo: Theresa Crabill

are over seventy years of age, and at
least 90 percent of the parishioners live
outside the neighborhood. The church
building requires more than $2 million

Photo: WKSU Public Radio

Sanctuary of Saint Mary Catholic Church, in repairs on top of current debt. “It’s
Dubuque, IA. not easy, and nobody is happy about
it,” said pastoral associate Ann Wertz.
German immigrants built the Church
W of Saint Mary in 1867 with one of the
highest steeples in the Mississippi River
In preparation for the Jubilee of Queen Valley. The stained-glass windows were Facade of Saint James Catholic
Elizabeth II’s coronation in 2013, brought from Bavaria in 1914. “This Church, Lakewood, OH
officials at Westminster Abbey plan to church means everything to us,” said
rework parts of the building, including parishioner John Nicks. “All we can do
the construction of a new roof in the now is pray.” Whilte the church will Fifty Catholic churches in Cleveland,
shape of a crown over the lantern above close in May of 2010, there has been no OH, are slated for closure, including
the crossing. The dean of the abbey, decision on the fate of the property after fourteen which have already closed
Very Reverend John Hall, is leading the closure, once the parish is closed. their doors. Some architectural
development, which will cost ten million masterpieces still face closure. Many
pounds. There will also be a thirteen- W of the churches are already listed on
million-pound restoration of visitor’s real-estate websites for sale, including
facilities, including first-time access to Remains of a synagogue from Jesus’ Saint Stanislaus church, rectory, school,
the abbey’s triforium at the gallery level. time were uncovered during the and convent for $525,000. Diocesan
To access the triforium, a new elevator excavation for the Magdala Center, a spokesman Bob Tayek said “They have
will be required to replace one of the new institution for pilgrims being built to be very careful, want to be very
spiral staircases that climb the church. on a site overlooking the Sea of Galilee. careful, and are being very careful about
The project for the crown-shaped roof The Israel Antiquities Authority, in who would be the potential buyer.”
at the crossing will go forward as long charge of the excavation, concluded that Though parishioners at some churches
as it receives public approval. Every the synagogue may have been destroyed were disturbed with the speed at which
monarch since 1066 has been crowned during the Jewish uprising of 66–70 A.D. the churches were put up for sale, Tayek
under the crossing of the abbey, adding A stone engraved with seven-branched noted that the sooner existing church
importance to the lantern’s alteration. menorah was found in the middle of properties move into new hands, the
Though originally built in the eleventh the building. The authorities have less likely any vandalism or disrepair
century, the current asked the Magdala will occur. One example of a church
structure was begun Center to preserve set to close is the beautiful Saint James
in 1245 under King the excavation on in Lakewood, designed in the Sicilian
Henry III. Numerous their site. Christian Gothic style in imitation of the Cathedral
architects contributed communities were in Monreale outside Palermo. While the
to the abbey, including born in places all parish waits for a response to an appeal
Nicholas Hawksmoor, around Galilee, to the Vatican, the City of Lakewood is
who designed the including Magdala, proposing to designate the church as a
towers in the early and many times Historic Landmark so that the church
eighteenth century. the Christian building will remain intact. Elsewhere,
Architect Sir George faithful shared the in Elyria, OH, a group called the “House
Gilbert Scott oversaw use of synagogues of Healing” hopes to purchase Holy
a restoration in the with Jews until Cross Church after fundraising the
Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

nineteenth century. the Temple was necessary $299,000. The wife of Pastor
Westminster Abbey destroyed in 70 A.D. James Knight said “We want this place
is associated with the The Magdala Center to bring life back into this community
Church of England, is scheduled to and serve this neighborhood.” As fifty
but the dean is subject open in December, parishes close their doors, the Cleveland
directly to the authority 2011, but may be diocese is expanding in other geographic
of the Queen rather delayed due to areas, including a new three-hundred-
than the Archbishop Foundations of the synagogue found the synagogue’s seat church in Grafton, OH, for $3
of Canterbury. near the Sea of Galilee. discovery. million.
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 11
A r t i c l e s

A R oman C hristmas R itual

Micro-Architecture and the Theatre of the Presepio
Christopher Longhurst

he celebration which, according to
of Christmas tradition, the baby
in Rome has Jesus was placed
its own unique in at the stable at
flavor, combining Bethlehem. This
s u m p t u o u s relic, an object of
l i t u r g i c a l pious devotion
celebrations and for pilgrims from
festive religious around the world,
and cultural comprises five long
traditions. One of narrow pieces of
the most renowned ancient wood pur-
traditions during portedly brought
this joyful time is the to Rome from the
construction of the Holy Land during
presepio. The Italian the pontificate of
word “presepio” Theodore (640-
comes from the 649). On account of
Latin “praesaepe,” hosting this relic at
a combination of the Liberian Basili-
“prae” (in front of) ca, the church was
and “saepire” (to also known during
enclose), which is Theodore’s time
rendered in English by the title Santa
as “manger,” Maria ad Praesepe,
or “stall.” The and some devout
Christmas ritual locals even called
of constructing the neighborhood
a presepio is a on the Esquiline
tradition that has Hill as “Bethlehem
been passed down in Rome.”
for generations, Subsequently,
possessing an in the ceremonial
Photo: Wikimedia

important place in liturgy known as

symbolic Christmas the Officium Pas-
representation and torum, a practice
devotional practice. Fresco in the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi by Giotto di Bondone depicting common to elev-
At Christmastime the Institution of the Crib built in Greccio by Giovanni Vellita. enth century, a pre-
these displays sepio was erected
attract visitors to the city of Rome from all hem stable in the ancient Liberian Ba- behind the main altar of the same ba-
over the world. They are usually artistic silica (founded by Pope Liberius (352- silica to be at the center of an august
masterpieces, spectacular, dramatic, and 366) and known today as the papal event—the Holy Christmas Mass—
adorned with delightful figurines and basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore). A around which all other events were to
stunning landscapes. festive celebration was then introduced take place. A similar experience is also
Tracing the development of the pre- to commemorate the occasion of the recorded to have taken place there in
sepio “ritual” entails a passage into the “Infant Savior’s birth.” This devotion- the eighth century when Pope Gregory
history of Roman religion, art, theater al reconstruction resulted in what can III (731-741) placed a consecrated Host
and what may be referred to as pres- be termed the building of the world’s in the crib to commemorate the laying
ent-day micro-architecture. Originat- first presepio. of the body of the Christ-child in the
ing centuries ago in Rome, extant docu- Further evidence suggests that the manger at Bethlehem. A similar tradi-
mentation places the earliest evidence custom of constructing a manger scene tion is also attested to by the placing of
of commemorating the Christmas dates to the seventh century, when a "golden image of the Mother of God
story in this manner to 432 A.D., when the same basilica became the home of embracing God our savior" in the crib.
Pope Sixtus III reconstructed a “cave the legendary relic of Christ’s crib, the Many scholars, however, place
of the Nativity” similar to the Bethle- venerated cunambulum or sacra culla, the origin of the presepio tradition

12 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

proportions. Im- of churches and private homes into the

pressive presepio public spaces and piazzas of the city.
scenes were then This tradition, now ever more os-
composed of per- tentatious, had spread throughout the
manent figurines churches and homes of all the social
arranged with classes of Italy, acquiring a typically
realistic pedes- popular characteristic with extravagant
trian elements constructions aimed more at inciting
such as local cos- competitive admiration rather than
tumes, houses, pious devotion. The presepio reached
inns, shepherd’s its highest artistic and cultural expres-
c a b i n s , t r e e s , sion in the eighteenth century. Neo-
panoramic back- politan artisans added candlelit lamps
g r o u n d s , a l l and floral arrangements, and the scale
with the simple of individual scenes had now reached
a d o r n m e n t o f life-size proportions. The noted British
c o m m o n p l a c e professor of Latin, W. H. D. Rouse,
s y m b o l i s m . commented of such scenes:
During the sev-
enteenth century, "These are very often life-size. Mary
the Roman no- is usually robed in blue satin, with
bility continued crimson scarf and white head-dress.
to display these Joseph stands near her dressed in
scenes in their
Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen
the ordinary working-garb. The
homes, one being onlookers are got up like Italian
created by the contadini. The Magi are always very
baroque master prominent in their grand clothes."
Gian Lorenzo
Bernini for the Today the typical presepio, con-
The Sacra Culla, or Holy Crib, is reserved for veneration in a silver Barberini family structed with three-dimensional
reliquary by Giuseppe Valladier in the crypt of the Basilica of of Pope Urban sculptural pieces set in a stage-like at-
Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. VIII. Later the mosphere, comprises three principal
p r e s e p i o i n - figures: the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph,
in the thirteenth century. In 1223 cluded moveable figurines dressed in and the baby Jesus. Typically it dis-
Saint Francis of Assisi commissioned the ornate costumes of the day. The plays Joseph and Mary in a barn or a
Giovanni Vellita from the town of triumph of baroque nativity ornamen- cave beside the baby Jesus laying in a
Greccio to build a large-scale manger tation made it the most popular expres- manger. They are attended to by sec-
scene for the faithful to venerate on sion of Christmas devotion and ritual. ondary figures: the Magi (three kings
the anniversary of the Christ’s birth. By the beginning of the eighteenth from the Orient), a few shepherds, and
Vellita therefore constructed a three- century the practice had already ex- some farm animals, usually a donkey,
dimensional nativity scene out of straw tended beyond the enclosed dwellings an ox, and some sheep. The crib itself
in a cave of Greccio and Saint Francis
had Christmas Mass celebrated there
that year. According to the various ac-
counts, Francis also used real people
and living animals to illustrate the
revered event.
As a consequence of Saint Francis’s
initiative, the latter part of the thir-
teenth century saw the development of
elaborate small-scale architectural and
artistic constructions of splendid or-
namental nativity scenes. Figurines in
marble, wood, and terra-cotta were in-
troduced in various basilicas through-
out Rome. This practice became part
Photo: Flavio Cruvinel Bradao

of a popular devotion characteristic of

Roman Christmas ritual up until the
end of the sixteenth century. At that
time even more elaborate representa-
tions of the nativity scene were intro-
duced by Roman nobility extending the
practice to a feat of grandiose artistic The Presepio scene at the Pantheon in Rome, now the church of Santa Maria dei Martiri.
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 13
A r t i c l e s

setting becomes a kind of stage and

the viewer becomes a participant in
the event that again renders present
the remote and spectacular episode
of Christ’s birth. In this context the
visitor becomes an ospite (guest) who
is invited to renew the experience of
the first Christmas by participating
in the event.
For some the experience is merely
one of aesthetic religiosity, while for
others it is more a practice of faith,
although however experienced, it is
always characteristic of a religious
incident. Most people go to see how
the artistic representation is ren-
dered, although a religious experi-

ence is realized because the event
has a sacramental quality. In achiev-
ing this effect the presepio manifests
a kind of semiotic quality that directs
the attention of the observer to the
reality represented. Such an achieve-
The Presepio scene sculpted by Arnolfo di Cambio, 13th century sculptor and architect, is ment affords a sacramental realiza-
presently displayed at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. tion and in this context the religious
component of the experience is accom-
is the focal point of the scene. It may als such as sand, stone, and cork in plished.
also include some angels in the vicin- their construction and include over Given these two perspectives—
ity of the crib, although the archangel eight hundred figurines. Sometimes Christmas drama and religious archi-
Gabriel is characteristically present and the figurines are larger than life. Light tecture—both the process of construct-
usually hovering above the crib proper effects, water streams, rain, music, and ing the presepio and the event of visit-
just outside the barn. The star of Beth- automatons are also used to give a real- ing and viewing it makes for what is in
lehem is typically present as well in istic touch to the scene. fact a hybrid of both theater and archi-
the distant sky. The traditional scene Many visitors have commented tecture, though still much more. The
that shows the shepherds and Magi to- that viewing a presepio is not unlike religious import, even to the non-sec-
gether is not proper to the Biblical story going to the theater. Such an event tarian visitor, cannot be undermined.
since the Magi arrive later (Matthew may be classified as a type of “Christ- A visit to a presepio, therefore, or the
2:1-12) than the shepherds (Luke 2:7- mas drama,” a performance funda- “presepio event,” becomes a fusion
16), and Matthew indicates that the mentally religious in nature, a festive of architecture, drama and, on some
Holy Family was no longer in the theatrical occasion in which the entire level, faith. Some presepî are scenes for
stable at that time. Continuing this tra-
dition today, the ritual of constructing
the nativity scene comes close to what
may be called “architectural drama,”
an interface between architecture and
Indeed, the construction of a pre-
sepio may be referred to as a type
of religious architecture, or “micro-
architecture,” a small-scale building
of the most intricate type. Sometimes
this kind of elaborate construction is
not so small. The process of building
such nativity scenes has come to take
on a life of its own, involving the com-
Photo: *s*a*b*r*i*n*a*

position of various refined structural

designs and architectural morphemes
of large proportions. Not infrequently
traditional nativity scenes through-
out Rome at Christmastime comprise
the building of monumental outdoor
structures and landscapes. They can
be as large as 280 m², and use materi- The presepio at San Marcello al Corso in Rome.
14 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009
A r t i c l e s

drama, while others themselves exhibit as the caganer in the corner of the scene. Liberius (352-366). At this location
popular piety by providing the visitor On occasion life-size nativity scenes splendid Christmas rituals and litur-
with a setting in which both a social are erected with live animals, donkeys, gical celebrations still revolve around
and religious ritual is experienced. oxen and camels, and people stand in the relic of Christ’s crib. During Mid-
The occasion becomes one in which for the kings and shepherds. Nearly all night Mass, for example, an impressive
deeper religious meaning, the very sig- of Rome's churches set up presepî for ceremony occurs comprising a solemn
nificance of Christmas, is afforded in a the Christmas season, although some procession and the unveiling of a rich
setting now designed for popular cul- presepî are left as permanent exhibits reliquary designed by Giuseppe Vala-
tural entertainment. for the visitor to admire throughout dier and adorned with bas-reliefs and
In Rome today, as throughout the the entire year. The church of the Scala statuettes to enshrine the sacra culla.
entire world, presepî have come to be Sancta next to Saint John Lateran, the The relic is then solemnly exposed for
celebrated in the context of dramatic church of the Gesù and Santa Maria in veneration by the faithful until the
small-scale architectural arrangements Via, near the junction of Via del Corso Octave of the Epiphany. Santa Maria
in piazzas and public spaces through- and Via Tritone, are among the latter. Maggiore also boasts one of the world’s
out the city. Every year, the Vatican Among the many churches in Rome finest and most antique presepî made
constructs two nativity scenes for the that build a nativity scene, three par- by the thirteenth-century sculptor
Christmas season. The first is assem- ticular sites demonstrate the dramatic Arnolfo di Cambio (ca. 1245-1310). Di
bled inside the basilica of Saint Peter beauty and architectural grace of the Cambio sculptured this masterpiece
at the chapel of the Presentation, and presepio: the papal basilica of Saint in white Carrara marble between the
the second is built in the Piazza di San Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) years 1285-1291. It portrays an artistic
Pietro in front of the obelisk. The city on the summit of the Esquiline Hill, the warmth and gracefulness typical of the
of Rome also erects a large presepio basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian late medieval style, a sort of prelude to
on the central landing of the Spanish at the Roman Forum, and the basilica fine Renaissance art. Conforming to
Steps, comprising accretions not neces- of Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capi- the criteria of full visibility, nothing in
sarily related to the Christmas story but toline Hill. this nativity is more striking than the
rather associated with local popular At Santa Maria Maggiore one may sumptuous corporeality of its figurines.
culture. Sometimes even such large still visit the site intended to provide a The Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus
municipal nativity scenes have a cari- special place for the innovative Christ- in her arms, Saint Joseph and the three
cature of a disliked public figure such mas festivities introduced by Pope Magi, and an ox and ass convey a deli-

Photo: Olivier Monbaillu

The life-size presepio at the Piazza of the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome with the donated Christmas tree.
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 15
cate naturalism comprising the most recite festive poems at the chapel of the that time another procession sees the
attractive and refined of medieval art. presepio. doll brought to the landing at the top of
The faces are elegant and marked by a This site is also home of the famous the marble stairs that lead to the basili-
formal beauty. It is no understatement Santo Bambino (Holy Child), a strange ca’s main entrance where the celebrant
to say that this presepio is the most though comely little statuette of the raises it on high and solemnly blesses
“sacred” of all. new-born Savior that attracts the the Eternal City.
A visit to the basilica of Saints visitor on account of the odd beauty in Still today in the city of Rome, the
Cosmas and Damian at Christmastime the bizarrely mature and sapient baby’s tradition of the Italian presepio, and
is most worthwhile. Adjacent to the ba- face, and the pilgrim on account of the all the Christmas festive ritualism that
silica’s cloister is a famous Neapolitan miraculous activity associated with its encompasses it, remains a spectacular
presepio, a monumental eighteenth- curing powers. Clement A. Miles, the theatrical experience and an opportuni-
century nativity scene with exquisitely Christmas-stories author, describes this ty to enjoy small-scale religious art and
carved figurines. The artistic finesse child as: “a flesh-colored doll, tightly architecture. Along with the singing
of this presepio intricately portrays swathed in gold and silver tissue, of carols and other church events, the
the life and culture in Naples revolv- crowned, and sparkling with jewels.” presepio plays a vital role in Roman
ing around the sacred event of Christ’s An inscription outside its chapel states culture and religion when celebrating
birth. In a triumph of Christmas at- the birth of Christ. Visiting these
mosphere stand precious statuettes sites at Christmastime to celebrate
representing the entirety of human- their respective presepî, admiring
kind. Beautiful figurines delicately the scenes and participating in the
carved from wood and sumptu- nativity makes for a most meaning-
ously clothed in costumes of velvet, ful Christmas pastime.
silk, satin, and leather decorate the
scene in a typically Neapolitan style. W
There are over fifty angels and scores
of animals as well. The presepio Christopher Longhurst received his doc-
abounds with life and colorful details torate in Sacred Theology from the Pon-
that recreate the nativity spirit within tifical Angelicum University, Rome in
a vibrant and detailed panorama of February 2009. He has been a member
eighteenth-century Neapolitan life. It of the faculty at the Marymount Interna-
is particularly interesting to observe tional School in Rome since 2004.
here how those who visit this pre-
sepio do so in a manner similar to
going to the theater. Admiring a pre- Other famous presepî in Rome
sepio of this scale is not unlike going can be found at: San Marcello al
on a tour of Naples in the 1700s, Corso (Via del Corso); Santa Maria
viewing the craftsmen, farmers, in Via (Via S.M. in Via/Largo Chigi);
street vendors, and all the respective Santa Maria del Popolo (Piazza del
dwellings, inns, and landscapes. Of Popolo); S. Pietro in Montorio (Piazza
particular importance is the extraor- S. Pietro in Montorio); SS. Trinità dei
dinary care given by the craftsmen Monti, P. Trinità dei Monti (Spanish
who reproduce the dresses, using the Steps); SS. Apostoli (Piazza SS. Apos-
Photo: Salvatore Cossu

textiles available only at that time. toli); S. Ignazio (Piazza Sant’Ignazio);

Another precious presepio lies not and S. Andrea della Valle (Corso Vit-
too far from “caput mundi” on the torio Em. II).
Capitoline Hill. Here sits the impos-
ing basilica of Santa Maria in Ara-
coeli (Altar of Heaven) that boasts The Santo Bambino at the basilica of Santa Further reading:
of one of Rome’s most celebrated Maria in Aracoeli Clement A Miles. Christmas Customs
life-size presepi. The scene is a cul- and Traditions. New York: Dover Publi-
tural and devotional masterpiece of that the Santo Bambino was made of cations, 1976.
the central Italian tradition enriched wood from the Mount of Olives by a
with a number of ancient wooden figu- devout Minorite monk and given a Nesta De Robeck. The Christmas pre-
rines that belonged to an older Roman flesh-color by the interposition of God sepio in Italy. London: Catholic Book
nativity from the church of San Fran- Himself. Before Christmas Midnight Club, 1934.
cesco a Ripa. A particular feature of Mass the statue is taken from its chapel
this presepio is the colorfully painted and ceremoniously enthroned under Nesta De Robeck. The Christmas
three-dimensional illustration of the a veil before the basilica’s high altar. Crib. London: Catholic Book Club,
“Gloria in excelsis Deo.” Here hierar- During the Mass, upon the intonation 1937.
chies of angels descend from heaven to of the “Gloria”, the veil is lifted and
earth, “singing on high.” This basilica the Holy Child is paraded to the Nativ- Joseph F. Kelly. The Origins of Christ-
is usually crowded at Christmastime, ity crib where it is venerated until the mas. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press,
especially with children who come to Octave of the feast of the Epiphany. At 2004.

16 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

T he P eople or the S teeple ?

An Examination of Sacramental Architecture among Parishoners
Kevin C. Manning, Nicholas J. Watkins, and Kathryn H. Anthony

The People or the Steeple? Parish 1 is a traditional

esigns among Romanesque-style church
Catholic churches built in 1903. It has a lon-
in the post-Vatican gitudinal plan with a com-
II era have been diverse. position centered on the
These changes have evoked altar and Eucharist. It has
strong opinions in both many original stained-
those advocating newer glass windows depicting
styles and those desiring various saints and Eucha-
a traditional approach to ristic symbols. In addition,
church design. Objective frescoes adorn the marble-
inquiries into this issue clad sanctuary. The taber-

Photo: Kevin C. Manning

have been lacking since nacle is elevated slightly in
the council adjourned in the sanctuary and aligned
1965. Filling this data gap on the center axis of the
in the discussion requires church.
empirical studies about Constructed in 1996 in
how Catholic church design The exterior of Parish 1 features a rose window and a traditional bell accordance with Environ-
affects the faithful regarding tower, while the interior is articulated by a wooden beam roof and ment and Art in Catholic
prayer, devotion, and other traditional iconography. Worship, parish 2 lacks a
communal factors. historical style. EACW
Throughout Catholic was a postconciliar state-
history, church structures ment from the US Bishop’s
have prompted worship- Committee on Liturgy that
pers to bond with the served as a foundation for
sacred by evoking feel- many church designs in
ings of devotion, transcen- the post-Vatican II era. In
dence, and prayerfulness.1 contrast to the basilica plan
This bond can promote a of parish 1, parish 2 is laid
distinct form of place at- out in a fan shape. The
tachment; a religious place tabernacle is in a separate
attachment. However, chapel/nook detached
some congregants may say from the sanctuary. In front
that their church “doesn’t of the chapel and removed
Photo: Kevin C. Manning

feel like a church,” seems from the altar are the chairs
“too old-fashioned” or for the priest and deacon.
“doesn’t speak to me.” Ev- The choir area flanks the
idently, a strong religious other side of the sanctu-
place attachment does not ary opposite the tabernacle
appear among some con- (not in a balcony behind
gregants. Is there a measurable link churches were matched on physi- and above the worshippers as in parish
between a church’s design and the pa- cal size, congregation size, and ethnic 1). In comparison to parish 1, parish
rishioners’ worship experience? Do composition. The study examined 2 has minimal décor and iconography.
traditional churches really enhance a design features that satisfy or dissat- A baptismal font for semi-immersion
person’s prayer life as many support- isfy worshippers who attend Mass at a is located near a spacious narthex that
ers purport? Most importantly, can traditionally designed Catholic church doubles as an entry and gathering area.
congregants’ spiritual lives be influ- (parish 1) and a modern Catholic
enced—either heightened or reduced— church design (parish 2). Congregants’ The Study’s Results
by modern church design? preferences for traditional and modern Our analysis of survey data from pa-
Answers to these questions require design features, sacramental and func- rishioners at both parishes uncovered
investigations into the relationship tional design features, and communal- several fascinating findings. An ex-
between Catholic church buildings and ity were all examined. Ours is one of ploratory factor analysis revealed four
their worshippers. For this purpose, the first studies of its kind and presents factors of related design characteristics.
our study examined two Catholic a prototype for research that can be Each factor represents a group of what
parishes from central Illinois. These replicated elsewhere. parishioners believe to be interrelated
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 17
A r t i c l e s

design characteristics of a church. tabernacle area. Thus, a pa-

The first factor is “Environmen- rishioner’s sight focuses on
tal Quality.” Design characteristics the mysterious and sacramen-
that were related in this group per- tal nature of the Eucharist.
tained to the quality of the floor, wall, Parish 2 places more emphasis
ceiling, pews, and overall environ- on the meal aspect of the Eu-
mental quality of the church. Parish 2 charist and set up the altar as
parishioners were more satisfied with the main focal point of atten-
their church in this category than were tion in the nave. The design
parish 1 parishioners. This may be at- of parish 2’s altar is more ta-
tributed to parish 2’s relative newness ble-like as well. Overall, the
(only six years old at the time of the design of parish 2 encourages
study). communality among congre-
The second factor, “Spatial Quality,” gants coming together for the
contained items that pertained to the Eucharistic “meal.” However,
quality of gathering spaces, accessibil- tangible reminders of the
ity for the disabled, security, and spa- mystical community, or rather
ciousness. Parish 2 garnered the most the Communion of Saints, are
satisfaction for these characteristics. lacking in the design and ico-
Many parishioners found the rather nography of this church.
large gathering area/narthex in parish The fourth factor, “Paschal
2 was very desirable. The traditional Mystery Design Features,”
church had only a small vestibule area contained questions reflect-
that served as the narthex. Parishio- ing the appearance of Paschal

Photo: Kevin C. Manning

ners would gather outside after Mass, Mystery themes in the sanctu-
a source of dissatisfaction for several ary, tabernacle placement, and
parishioners during inclement weather. crucifix location. These char-
The third, “Preference for Sacra- acteristics were favored signif-
mental Design Features,” contained icantly by parish 1’s congrega-
items that pertained to the preference tion whose building centered The interior of Parish 2 has natural light from the
of paintings, statues, tabernacle place- more on the mystical aspect of clerestory windows above.
ment in the center of the sanctuary, and the faith. For example, parish
stained-glass windows. Parishioners at 1’s sculpted Stations of the Cross were tachment to the church building and
the traditional parish were more satis- noted by parishioners when comment- parish. Parish 1’s congregation ex-
fied with their sacramental design fea- ing on this theme. In both parishes, the pressed a deeper, more prayerful
tures than were those at the contempo- Paschal Mystery ranked in the top three con=nection to their church building
rary parish. What might account for religious concepts that a Roman Catho- than did members of parish 2. This
the higher satisfaction in parish 1 for lic Church should reflect. At parish 1 it church/religious place attachment
the sacramental design features? The ranked first. In both parishes, though, prompted worshippers to bond with
unique design characteristics of each there was clearly a desire among the the sacred by evoking feelings of de-
church provide some possible expla- faithful to see the Paschal Mystery re- votion, transcendence, and prayerful-
nations. Parish 1 sets up a hierarchy flected in the iconography and designs ness.2 Several reasons may account
of forms within the building with a of their church. At parish 2 this theme for why parishioners at parish 1 had
linear axis culminating at the altar and is best played out in the Stations of the a deeper religious place attachment
C r o s s , with their church. The visual styles
which al- of the parishes are different. Parish 1
t h o u g h consists of a traditional arrangement
a b s t r a c t and furnishings that adorned the inte-
in design, rior. By contrast, parish 2 has a stark
were still minimalism and lack of iconography
i m p o r - and sacramental architecture that may
tant to the have failed to inspire. The Christian
faithful. faith has long held that God reveals
O u r himself through sacramental architec-
study also ture, since perception limits worship-
e x p l o r e d pers to objects that they can experience
t h e p a - directly through the senses.3 Iconog-
Photo: Kevin C. Manning

rishioners’ raphy can materialize Catholic beliefs

o v e r a l l and provide a window to heaven for
c o n n e c - the believer. Several open-ended com-
t i o n o r ments from members of parish 2 indi-
religious cated that a prayerful inspiration was
The exterior of Parish 2 includes a covered entrance. place at- induced with the addition of the Sta-

18 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

tions of the Cross and a statue much as the design of parish

of the parish’s patron saint 1. Parish 2’s diffuse placement
in 2002, six years after it was of sacramental design features
built. throughout the church might
Connection among parish encourage congregants to focus
members was equivalent for on other parishioners and
both churches. This was un- not as much on the character
anticipated as it should follow of divine sacrifice and other-
that with parish 2’s explicit worldliness found in the Eu-
attention to community in its charistic celebration. Overall,
design intent, there would this study seems to indicate
have been a higher connection that traditional churches de-
between parish members. For signed to house God may well
instance, the church is more foster communion with God
accessible to the disabled and and, in turn, other congregants.
elderly, has larger interior If future empirical research
gathering spaces, and has a studies indicate similar find-
fan-shaped arrangement of ings, then leaders within the
pews and visual focus on the Roman Catholic Church could
altar consistent with “commu- benefit from a reassessment of
nal” design. But, based upon what they ultimately intend
the results of our study, these their churches to communicate
features might not inspire a and what kinds of designs may
communal feeling above and strengthen or weaken parishio-
beyond that which a tradition- ners’ religious place attachment
al pre-Vatican II church already towards their church. Seem-
offers. This finding suggests ingly harmless alterations like
that churches may not have to the placement of a tabernacle
conform to design ideas such or removal of iconography to
as those set forth by EACW in limit “distractions” could influ-
order to encourage community ence congregants’ perceptions
among parishioners. of the Eucharist, and, therefore,
the foundation of Catholic ide-
Concluding Thoughts ology and identity.
The results of this study
should cause us to reconsider W
how parishioners perceive
their churches and how archi- Kevin C. Manning is an architect
tects should design, restore, in the office of Jaeger, Nickola, &
and renovate churches. For Associates, a Chicago architecture
example, it is apparent that the firm specializing in church design.
Paschal Mystery should play Email:
a vital role in the design of a
Catholic Church. Parishioners’ Dr. Nicholas J. Watkins is Direc-
desire to reinforce community tor of Research & Innovation at
should not preclude the prayer- Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum
fulness evoked by designs re- (HOK).
flective of the Paschal Mystery.
Religious place attachment Dr. Kathryn H. Anthony is a Pro-
can foster the faithful’s prayer fessor in the School of Architec-
life and a sense of community ture at the University of Illinois at
(e.g., Baptism, First Commu- Urbana-Champaign
nion). Parish 2’s primary em- * All differences between the parishes reported in
phasis on user-friendly design this article were statistically significant (p<0.05)
and communality may have 1. Shampa Mazumdar and Sanjoy Mazumdar,
“Religion and Place Attachment: A Study of Sacred
facilitated relationships among
Plans: Kevin C. Manning

Places,” Journal of Environmental Psychology 24

church members, but not to a (Autumn 2004), 385-397.
greater extent than in parish 2. Ibid..
3.Theodor Filthaut, Church Architecture and Liturgical
1. Moreover, it appears that Reform, trans. Gregory Koettger (Baltimore:
parish 2’s church did not fa- Helicon, 1968).
cilitate a personal or communal
relationship with God and the Comparative plans of Parish 1
mystical body of the church as (above) and Parish 2 (below)

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 19

A r t i c l e s

A we for the N oble T hings

Leon Battista Alberti and The Meaning of Classical Architecture
Carroll William Westfall

hurches such as Santa Maria Roman Catholic
Maggiore in Rome that were Church, which
built by adapting pagan Roman used the new,
building practices served the early Renaissance and
Christian community, and these churches then baroque ar-
continued to guide construction south of chitecture to put
the Alps right up to the Renaissance. before the wor-
In the meantime, north of the Alps, shipper an ag-
bishops and princes who sought a larger gressive architec-
role in the Church developed Gothic tural setting with
architecture. Not surprisingly, it never decoration, paint-
took hold south of the Alps except for a ing, and sculp-
few places in northern Italy. ture that stressed
In the resurgence of the papacy that the Church as
began in 1417 following the Babylo- the recipient of
nian Captivity and the Great Schism, a miraculously

Photo: Carroll William Westfall

the Church reasserted the author- conferred author-
ity it claimed from its foundation in ity in matters of
Rome by Saints Peter and Paul. The doctrine and gov-
new buildings in Rome and elsewhere ernance reach-
in Italy, both sacred and secular, were ing back to its
aggressively ancient in their form, foundation by
their builders excoriating the Gothic saints martyred
as modern and barbarous. In 1506, to by pagans. This Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1456; Alberti completed and
make the point that the Church was architecture’s transformed an older, unfinished façade with a triumphal arch
being rebuilt on its ancient founda- enemy was the suggested on the lower story, a temple front on the upper one, and
tions, the Basilica of Saint Peter that Gothic, which a decorative, multi-colored marble portal surround.
the emperor Constantine had built was quickly fell out
torn down. During the century that of favor as the princes of Europe fell in ment with paintings and sculpture,
followed the classical basilica we know line with Rome’s position. The third they presented a visible sign of an in-
today rose in its place. combatant was a kind of anti-architec- visible grace. They taught the faithful.
The reaction to the restoration in ture used by a loosely affiliated group They fortified belief. But this capacity
Rome of the “modo antico” in architec- of Protestants. Theirs was an anti-Cath- declined during the eighteenth century,
ture was a style war that involved three olic architecture, a spare box or perhaps when the factual (to which empiricism
combatants and lasted into the eigh- a former Catholic church, Gothic or had given primacy) replaced the true
teenth century. One combatant was the classical, whitewashed and stripped of as the basis of belief. Gradually during
statues, the Cru- the nineteenth century, as Romanticism
cifix banished allowed sentiment to overwhelm doc-
a n d r e p l a c e d trine as the basis for belief, the Gothic,
by a Bible on a with its lofty heights, gloomy interiors,
w o o d e n a l t a r and enrichment with hard-to-see paint-
table. ings, sculpture, and stained glass, came
The new Cath- to be considered the right architecture
o l i c c h u r c h e s for Christian worship among Catho-
Photo: Carroll William Westfall

were classical, lics and others whose worship was li-

but they were turgically based. Sentiment nourishes
composed and moods rather than thoughts and by-
constructed as a passes the intellect on its way to the
doctrinal state- emotions. The Gothic fed moods, with
ment, just as their heavenly, lofty heights and a gloomy
Gothic predeces- darkness that promoted concern for
Florence was divided into four political wards, each represented by sors in the North man’s fallen state. The building as a
a church. This was one of them, and the sunburst in the pediment had been. Using material, architectural entity receded
served both as an emblem of the quarter and a symbol of the Divine both architecture from view, and people forgot that it too
Presence. and its enrich- conveyed meaning.

20 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

John Paul II’s 1998 encyclical Faith ested historians more than those who beauty makes its justice visible (VI, i,
and Reason rejected sentiment in favor build.1 191). “[A] well-maintained and well-
of philosophy. He put the admoni- Alberti revised Vitruvius’s under- adorned temple [i.e., church] is obvi-
tion “Know thyself” at the center of standing of the architect. Both treatise ously the greatest and most important
the life of faith (FR 1.1). “The quest writers considered the use of the intel- ornament of a city”(VII, iii, 194):
for meaning . . . has always compelled lect to be fundamental, but the pagan
the human heart (FR 1.2).” “Through architect’s intellect does not act toward There is no doubt that a temple that
literature, music, painting, sculpture, a moral end. Both pagan and Chris- delights the mind wonderfully,
architecture, and every other work of tian architect seek fame and honor, but captivates it with grace and
their creative intelligence [men and the former does so only through the admiration, will greatly encourage
women] have declared the urgency of achievements of the patron he serves, piety...I wish the temple so beautiful
their quest. In a special way that nothing more decorous
philosophy has made this could ever be devised; I
search its own” (FR 24). In would deck it out in every
wrapping the arts within part so that anyone who
the mantel of philosophy he entered it would start with
suggested that thoughtful awe for his admiration at
arts and not emotional ex- all the noble things, and
altations, that reason-based could scarcely restrain
artistic artifacts and not himself from exclaiming
sentimental expressions, that what he saw was a
provide the nourishment place undoubtedly worthy
for faith. The Holy Father’s of God. (VII, iii, 194)
argument can be extended
to endorse buildings that Alberti is clear:
draw from the same ancient architecture conveys content.
sources and are as innova- This is not the first thing
tive in our day as Santa about a building that comes
Maria Maggiore and the to mind in the present-
Basilica of Saint Peter’s in day world. Architecture is
Rome were in theirs. immersed in modernism,
Architecture was not the religion no longer resides
only thing the pagans gave within an established
the church. Saint Augustine church, and there is no
converted pagan rhetoric systematic understanding
into a tool for the Christian of the role that the content
preacher. Augustine and of architecture can serve in
Boethius made Plato useful, nurturing religious faith.
and Saint Thomas Aquinas These circumstances do not,
Photo: Carroll William Westfall

did so with Aristotle. Con- however, invalidate Alberti’s

stantine preceded all of thoughts about the content
them by Christianizing of architectural forms. He
pagan architecture, but the still provides the best guide
conversion of pagan archi- to how a church building
tectural theory to Christian can assist in the admonition
uses had to wait until the to “Know thyself.” Alberti
fifteenth century, on the Alberti’s comments about a simple altar can be seen in this one built his ideas on traditions
very eve of the Reformation. built and decorated with an altarpiece in Brunelleschi’s Santo and learning reaching back
The Christian content that Spirito in Florence built during his lifetime. to Saint Augustine. That
Leon Battista Alberti (1404- Church Father argued that
72) gave classical architecture is the as the moon shines only from the sun’s beauty makes love visible. The beauty
subject of what follows. light. Fame and honor comes to Al- resides in the meaning of things, and it
berti’s architect from building beautiful is through things heard and seen that
*** buildings that contribute to the order we come to know truths about God that
First published in 1485, Alberti’s and beauty of cities. are matters of faith rather than merely
treatise On Building Things, notwith- Alberti’s architect is a citizen of knowledge.
standing its disarming title, trans- engaged in civic affairs, using his en- The Jewish prohibition of graven
formed its only predecessor, the trea- ergies to promote justice of which, as images and the theology signaled by
tise De Architectura by the Augustan Alberti explains, “piety is the single the opening of Saint John’s Gospel “In
architect Vitruvius (first century B.C.). most important part . . . , and who the beginning was the word [Vulgate,
Alberti’s work enjoyed early transla- would deny that justice is in itself a verbum; Greek, logos])” had invested
tion and wide dissemination, although divine gift.”2 The city’s beauty depends the word with primacy over the image
over the last two centuries it has inter- upon the architect’s works. The city’s as a means of conveying significant
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 21
A r t i c l e s

and symbolic content. Hugh of Saint Church. A symbol may also be less ex-
Victor (1096-1141) found equal stature plicitly factual, as, for example, when
for images, laying the foundations for the symbolic content of a church build-
investing Gothic buildings with sym- ing is explained by, but is not a substi-
bolic content. tute for, the theology of the Church as
A symbol is a visible thing that em- the Body of Christ and as a symbol of
bodies and makes present that which the city of God, or when its meaning is
is immaterial and invisible, generally in qualities such as its proportionality
something that is multivalent, ambigu- and light.
ous or mysterious, ungraspable in its The humanists in Alberti’s circle
totality, and not reducible to a sign or transformed these ideas. As Charles
translatable into another form of rep- Trinkaus explained, they constructed
resentation. For example, a cruciform a theory in which “[e]ither words or
church plan uses the sign of the cross things can represent or constitute sub-
(only fictively present in the church) stance, quality and action either in
to point to the Passion (invisible in speech or in actuality.”3 This transfor-
the material church) and thus, like the mation allowed a substantive, material
Passion, is a symbol of the true promise thing such as a building to make im-
of the gift of grace available through the material qualities visible and nonethe-

A basilical church based on Alberti’s

description from Cosimo Bartoli’s Italian
translation of De Re Aedificatoria in
less retain its claim to attention for its
very materiality. A beautiful building
was both a building and a symbol of
God’s love, and the building’s physical
beauty could be enjoyed because it con-
veyed that immaterial beauty.
A building, unlike a painting, must
convey its meaning without reference
to other visible things. Its content must
be embodied in forms unique to archi-
tecture, and these are quite limited. We
might put architecture’s content in four
aspects of a building, using a church as
our example:
The first aspect is a church’s plan,
which can be in the form of a cross, or
be basilical, which reinforces the sacra-
mental worship of a congregation and
invokes the prototype of (i.e., serves as
a sign of; signifies) Solomon’s Temple,
or it can be centralized, with its em-
phasis on the veneration and contem-
plation of the central element, usually
the altar, and thereby symbolize the
unity and proportionality of God’s
order and the unity of God and man
within the Church. It can also, as has
Photo: Thomas Stroka

been common since the Renaissance,

be a composite of these plan types. The
second aspect are the various forms
used for interior and exterior façades. A
The nave of Alberti's Sant' Andrea in Mantua is articulated by triumphal arches. triumphal arch symbolizes the triumph

22 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

of life over death through Grace; a may be defined

temple front signifies the triumph of as a form
Christianity over the pagan world in of auxiliary
which Christ became incarnate. The light and
third aspect is the building’s three- complement to
dimensional configuration, although beauty. From
this is less common, as when a basili- this it follows,
cal volume with an array of towers or I believe, that
a centralized building with a grouping beauty is
of five domes symbolizes the Heavenly some inherent
Jerusalem. property, to be
The fourth aspect is that these three found suffused
preceding methods have their counter- all through
parts in other media (for example, in a the body of
painting showing a triumphal arch or that which
in ornament that images the Heavenly may be called
City). But this fourth belongs to archi- beautiful;
tecture alone. It resides in the build- w h e r e a s
ing’s abstract visual elements, making ornament,

Photo: Carroll William Westfall

available a building’s immaterial r a t h e r
content by using particular, perceptible than being
proportions, geometries, and quantities inherent, has
of building components. Saint Thomas the character
acknowledged these when he defined of something
beauty as residing in integrity, propor- attached or
tionality, and luminosity, but he did not additional. (VI,
extend these ideas into a discussion of ii, E156) The exterior of the apse of Santa Maria della Consolazione in Todi,
the qualities of buildings as material begun in 1506, shows Evangelists in the capitals, this one with Ox
constructions. Alberti, with full knowl- In his second volutes symbolizing Saint Luke, and wheat and grapes from the
edge of Saint Thomas’ trilogy, did. definition of Chalice.
In Alberti’s treatise the beauty of beauty, orna-
buildings is a central theme.4 His defi- ment, and beauty’s doppelganger con- quantities were not lacking in signifi-
nition is well known: beauty resides in cinnitas take on the enlarged role of cance, as has become the case in the
giving a building its appeal: “The eyes present-day, where factuality of empiri-
a reasoned harmony of all the parts are by their nature greedy for beauty cism often holds sway. Outline refers to
within a body, so that nothing may and concinnitas, and are particularly the bounding of material by geometric
be added, taken away, or altered, but fastidious and critical in this matter.” limits. It makes designing congruent
for the worse. It is a great and holy In works that are deficient, “it is impos- with numerical reasoning, and it makes
matter, all our resources of skill and sible to explain what it is that offends available to perception the lineamenta
ingenuity will be taxed in achieving us, apart from the one fact that we that the architect manipulated when
it; and rarely is it granted even to have no means of satiating our exces- designing. Lineamenta were fundamen-
Nature herself, to produce anything sive desire to gaze at the beautiful. In tal to his procedure. He defined them
that is entirely complete and perfect view of all this,” he continues directly, as “the precise and correct outline,
in every respect. (VI, ii, 156) “surely it is our duty to strive with all conceived in the mind, made up of
enthusiasm, application, and diligence lines and angles, and perfected in the
Later on he presents beauty as the to make what we build as ornate as pos- learned intellect and imagination” (I, i,
result of the steps the architect must sible,5 especially those buildings which 7). Lineamenta as outline allow number
follow to produce it: everyone would want to be dignified. to become perceptible as proportions:
Within this group lie public works, and “The very same numbers that cause
Beauty is a form of sympathy and in particular sacred ones: since no man sounds to have that concinnitas, pleas-
consonance of the parts within a would allow them to be naked of orna- ing to the ears, can also fill the eyes and
body, according to definite number, ment” (IX, viii, 312). Alberti is clear: mind with wondrous delight.”
outline, and collocation, as dictated no beauty, no ornament; no ornament, Outline has an additional task. It
by concinnitas, the absolute and no beauty. Ornament makes beauty binds material with proportions to
fundamental rule in nature. This is visible; beauty provides scaffolding for wring from nature the actual mate-
the main object of the art of building, ornament, which is an inherent part of rial, physical elements, or what he
and the source of her dignity, charm, architectural form. had called the weights the architect
authority, and worth. (IX, v, 302) In listing and explaining number, moves and joins when massing bodies:
outline, collocation, and concinnitas, outline makes proportions and dimen-
And one more thing is called for, Alberti laid out a systematic program sions visible. The proportions reside
namely, the ornament that makes the for an architect to follow. Number in lineamenta, which are subject to the
beauty visible. In his first definition of refers to the quantity of things to be mind’s discipline and reasoning. In
beauty he had explained that ornament included in a building, although the using dimensions based on propor-

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A r t i c l e s

tions to define the outlines that bound by presenting significant and sym- constituent of beauty, which receives
the material, a person can reason about bolic content. At one level this content little explicit treatment in the treatise,
the symbolic presence in the building is available in what the church holds the usual fate of things too well known
of both transcendent and immanent or contains, particularly the altar. The to need explanation and obviously
order. divine matters, Alberti states, are most related to the Thomistic trilogy that de-
Next comes collocation, or the com- intensely present in the sacrifice of the scribed beauty.
posing of elements. To achieve proper Mass. He advised restoring its archi- Alberti’s method of design know-
collocation the architect “relies to a tectural setting: the “sacrificial altar is ingly and rationally connects the build-
large extent on the judgment nature to be set up so as to give it the great- ing to the transcendental truth and its
instilled in the minds of men” (IX, est dignity: the ideal position, surely, is visible beauty immanent in the things
vii, 309-10). That judgment resides in before the tribunal.”6 God and men make within the mate-
concinnitas, which Alberti had called The beauty of the building itself rial world. These transcendental quali-
“the absolute and fundamental rule also symbolizes God’s love. Alberti’s ties are present in the proportions that
of nature” (IX, v, 303). reveal the harmonies God
Vitruvius, Alberti’s pagan used when He created
predecessor, had entrust- the universe and provide
ed the final authority for Alberti with the propor-
a building’s appearance to tions he uses when build-
its decorum, or its role in ing. They can also be dis-
making visible the city’s covered in the form and
social and political order. figure of man, in Noah’s
So did Alberti, although Ark, and in the very fabric
with added importance. of God’s universe. They
Decorum becomes em- furnish the beauty that
bodied in concinnitas places the building within
because concinnitas is a the continuum that has
concordance between nature at one extreme
transcendental truth and and culture at the other.
its presence in the actual These beautiful things, be
facts of the material world they buildings, columnar
and in the activities of men orders, or whole cities,
living in political commu- occupy the highest rank
nities. Decorum, i.e., con- among created things. As
cinnitas, dictates the place concrete, material parts of
of each building within the world we live in, they
the hierarchy of buildings are visible forms of God’s
in a city, a hierarchy in invisible love. As symbols
which sacred is superior of that love they reach di-
to profane, and public is rectly into man’s reason
superior to private, a hi- and soul:
erarchy that encompasses
all the buildings of the city [W]hen the mind is
and that the concinnitas of reached by way of sight
the design of each build- or sound, or any other
Photo: Thomas Stroka

ing makes visible. The vis- means, concinnitas is

ibility occurs principally instantly recognized. It
in the ornament, which is our nature to desire
allows the beauty to be the best, and to cling to
seen. Church of San Sebastiano in Mantua, begun by Leon Battista Alberti. it with pleasure. Neither
Alberti exclaimed in the whole body nor in
that the “well-maintained and well- treatise provides the first explanation its parts does concinnitas flourish as
adorned temple [i.e., church] is obvi- of how to make this beauty visible much as it does in Nature herself;
ously the greatest and most important in specifically architectural qualities. thus I might call it the spouse of the
ornament of a city” (VII, iii, 194). Its The purely architectural components, soul and of reason. (IX, v, 815)
beauty can move a person to exclaim, which allow a building to imitate
“[W]hat he saw was a place undoubt- nature, constitute the fourth of the Alberti’s understanding of beauty is
edly worthy of God” (VII, iii, 194). four aspects of a building that convey intimately connected to the anthropo-
Every aspect of the church’s beauty content mentioned earlier (after the morphic analogy. Alberti’s references
was to conspire to that end. Nothing plan configuration; the forms of inte- to this staple in architectural theory are
within it should “divert the mind rior and exterior façades; and the three- few, but its role is profound. Like his
away from religious meditation toward dimensional configuration). Joining fellow humanists, he saw man as an
sensual attraction and pleasure” (VII, x, them is the treatment of the light, a active agent using his energy to serve
220). The church fulfilled its high office long-standing symbolic element and the good, as a person whose actions are

24 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

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* This text is based on a longer, completely documented paper,

motivated by virtù, that is, by his ca- dition in philosophy and reason and “Making Man’s Dignity Visible in Buildings: The Foundations in
pacity to allow his will to do the good make it useful to serve the Christinani- Leon Battista Alberti’s de re aedificatoria,” in Human Nature in its
Wholeness: A Roman Catholic Perspective, ed. Daniel N. Robinson,
to direct his actions in the world. This ty. He and his colleagues took as a given Gladys M. Sweeney, and Richard Gill (Washington, D.C.:
is perhaps the fullest meaning of the that a building should be beautiful and Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 144-59.
analogy sanctioned by Genesis 1:26 therefore a partner with the good and 1. The translations here are based on the translation of Joseph
Rykwert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor (Cambridge, Mass.,
that tells us that we are made in the the true. Like the good and the true, the and London: MIT, 1988). The citations will be to book, chapter,
image and likeness of God. The simili- qualities that make a building beautiful and page.
tude for Alberti is lodged less in the are accessible to reason, which opens 2. VII, i, 190. Compare the comment about the Declaration
on Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae from 1965 in Russell
image and more profoundly in the like- to the inquiring mind the route to Hittinger, The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-
ness to God as creator of a universe ac- knowledge of the source of beauty, God Christian World (Wilmington: ISI, 2003), p. 228: “Before the state
imposes its laws and sanctions, men are already moved by God
cessible through inspection and reason himself. What better basis than this can through the causality of their own nature to seek and adhere to
and a world available as a stage for his there be in our own day and age for ar- religious truth.”
actions. chitecture to respond to John Paul II’s 3. “Lorenzo Valla Instaurator of the Theory of Humanism,”
Hellas: A Journal of Poetry and the Humanities 7 (1996), 75-101;
The most visible sign of the anthro- admonition, “Know thyself”? reprinted in Renaissance Transformations of Late Medieval Thought
pomorphic analogy has always been (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), VI; quoting p. 81.
the group of columnar orders. Alberti W 4. It is important to note that his word for beauty is pulchritudo,
a word that carries a moral dimension missing in Vitruvius’s
declares that these ornament the venustas.
temple, the same building that orna- Carroll William Westfall is the Frank 5. He surely means by this, as ornate as decorum allows or
ments the city, the city that provides the Montana Professor at the University of 6. VII, xiii, 227. He uses the word tribunal to refer to apses, side
well-ordered arena wherein men exer- Notre Dame’s School of Architecture. He chapels, and transept arms which, “sometimes many, sometimes
cise their virtù. The linkages between has written extensively on the history of few,” are added to the cella, or nave. Elsewhere, at VII, v, 196, he
assumes the longitudinal plan as normative.
the beauty extant in these three differ- the city with particular attention to the 7. Summa Theologica, Q 94, 1st article, reply o. 2. The habit is
ent scales of man-made things (orders, reciprocity between the political life and the innate, one of the “three things in the soul,” along with power
temple, city) are more fundamental urban and architectural elements that serve and passion; Q 94, 1st article 1, o. 1.

than their mere formal qualities reveal. the needs of citizens. Email: Westfall.2@
Alberti’s profound anthropomorphism
arises from the judgments made about
the reasons of things as these can be
known in the intellect wherein lies the
analogy between beauty and justice, an
analogy that beauty makes visible. For
he who has eyes that see, architecture
opens the way for justice to enter the
public square and piety to enter the
soul of the faithful.
In this life virtue as an active direc-
tion of the will joins truth as a quality
that unites man with God. In the city
of man that is built in accord with what
Alberti offers in his architectural trea-
tise, the reason of nature permits the
architect to investigate nature (includ-
ing the acts of men acting in nature)
and become equipped to produce
buildings. Central to those activities
is the ability to perceive and apply
concinnitas, which Alberti had called
the “spouse and soul of reason” and
had described as the linkage between
nature as the source and the art of ar-
chitecture as the application of the
law embedded in nature. This bridge
between man and created things that
consists of reason and concinnitas
seems very much to be for the archi-
tect what Saint Thomas said synderesis
is for the individual, namely, “the law
of our mind, because it is a habit con-
taining the precepts of the natural law,
which are the first principles of human
Alberti was the first to immerse ar-
chitecture based on the classical tra-

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 25

A r t i c l e s

C alled to B eauty through I conograpy

Sacred Images in the Christian Tradition
Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J.

conography proclaims the Christian fact of the Incarnation. Because Jesus, passion, death, and Resurrection of the
faith in color and form. It is visual the “image of the invisible God” (Col Lord. Symbols are meant not so much
theology capable of moving people 1:15), entered into the human condi- to question suffering but to offer Chris-
at their very core. Icons give pleasure tion, he could be depicted in his human tian hope as a response to suffering. If
and deep satisfaction, but by their very nature. The Creator of matter became iconography and other sacred arts are
nature, they have been designed to matter for us and, through matter, re- intended to put us in touch with the
mediate the presence of God and to call deemed us. In the mystery of the Incar- Transcendent, they do so from within
the Church to worship. nation, the formless becomes a visible their specific disciplines.
Icons of the Trinity and of Jesus form. Eventually the iconoclast contro- Our language limps when it tries
Christ, of the Mother of God and the versy was resolved in favor of the ven- to affirm the sacred or any attribute of
saints, invite us to imagine ourselves as eration of icons. God. To say something about God’s ho-
“God’s works of art” (Eph 2:10). They The Christian East best sums liness, we normally observe the sacred
ask us to imagine our lives of “faith up the Incarnation in the words di- in our own experience: in nature, in
made powerful through love” (Gal 5:6). vinization, deification, or theosis: human beings, and in their activity.
The call to participate in God’s beauty “God became one of us that we might From this limited knowledge, we come
was already anticipated in the Old Tes- become like God.” Eastern fathers to know something about the sacred,
tament verses, “let us make man and such as Saints Irenaeus (died ca. 202), even while acknowledging that God’s
woman in our image, according to our Athanasius (died 373), Gregory Na- holiness far surpasses our capability
likeness” (Gen 1:26) and “yet you have zianzen (died 390) and Gregory of to understand it. In order to identify
made them a little lower than God and Nyssa (died ca. 395) developed the it as sacred, an icon must pass through
crowned them with glory and honor” doctrine of “image and likeness” and three steps: similarity, dissimilarity,
(Ps 8:5). For the and the thrust or
Lord, the God of leap toward
Israel, the Israel- Transcendence. 2
ite nation was ex- How then can the
ceedingly beau- mind and heart
tiful as “with make their ascent
the dignity of a to God through
queen” because iconography?
of the divine
splendor be- (1) Similarity: the
stowed on them Familiar
(Ez 16:14). The Sarcophagus of Domatilla (Roman catacombs, mid-fourth century) displays scenes of When ico-
Without the Christ's Passion flanking the Cross and Chi-Rho in the center panel. nographers craft
experience of their materials
love, which includes beauty, truth, and wrote extensively on this theme. In the for worship and prayer, they use what
goodness, people of faith and those of West, its parallel phrase is: “Through is universally familiar as their starting
no faith wither and die like a branch God’s gifts, you will be able to share point. Visuals first attract the senses;
detached from its vine. Icons are a the divine nature and to escape corrup- iconic human figures can readily be
powerful guide to inner beauty. Today, tion” (2 Pet 1:4). Saint Paul describes identified as human. Still, icons depict
we gasp for such loveliness. our transformation into Christ as the not primarily the aspects of the person
ascent “from glory to glory” (2 Cor that are physical, emotional, or psy-
The Incarnation: the Historical and 4:18). chological but the graced, divinized
Doctrinal Basis for Veneration of Icons person. When the eye first notices an
In 1987 the Eastern Churches cel- A n O v e r a l l U n d e r s t a n d i n g o f icon, it sees not only what is familiar
ebrated the twelve hundredth anni- Iconography but also what is unfamiliar. The latter
versary of the Seventh Ecumenical The theology of the icon is linked to is the purified component appealing to
Council, which met in Nicaea to affirm the theology of symbol. When a reality, the sublime in man and woman. Why
the value of venerating icons. Eighth- interior and spiritual, is expressed in are both needed? Because we are em-
century opponents, iconoclasts, argued the external and material, it is called a bodied spirits. In iconography, the ho-
that God could not be depicted in symbol.1 liness of the graced person lives in the
human terms. Advocates, known as Early Christian symbols, like the body, but the body takes on the aura
iconodules, and in particular Saint John cross, the Chi-Rho, or the fish, became of holiness. With other sacred arts, ico-
Damascene, taught that the doctrinal shortcuts for teaching the various nography is a complete art form.
basis for venerating icons lies in the aspects of the Paschal mystery, the To create color, iconographers

26 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

select natural rather than synthetic to it. The oversized eyes, large and toward Transcendence.9 Through the
products. All elements of creation are expansive, see everything through the dynamism inherent in the negation of
part of the iconic process—animal, veg- vision of faith. Curiously enough, the step 2, this religious work can stimulate
etable, and mineral.3 Primary colors, es- eyes remain fixed on the viewers re- the leap toward the Infinite.10 God’s
pecially gold, red, blue, and green, each gardless of where they are in a room. grace activates the mind, heart, and
with its own symbolism, are brilliant. The mouth, small and pinched, sug- will to leap beyond itself heavenward
If less distinct colors are used, there is gests a decided reserve. These figures to transcendent Mystery. In this step,
a reason for it. Moreover, iconogra- speak little; they are more attuned to the holiness of the image has been de-
phers make skillful use of symmetry God than to worldly taste. The noses picted. This graced figure expresses
and balance as well as geometric forms, are elongated and thin, as are the the belief that God’s life is at work dei-
especially the circle. These patterns hands, whose fingers are long, nimble, fying man and woman and the world
express peace, unity and harmony. and graceful. Wide foreheads symbol- in which we live. Let us apply these
steps to three icons, Jesus the Teacher
(2) Dissimilarity; Remotion, or (Jesus the Pantocrator), the Vladimir
Negation Mother of God, and Rublev’s Old
In this step, iconographers make Testament Trinity.
a transition from the familiar to the
less familiar. They introduce a note Jesus the Teacher, Jesus the
of strangeness to the figure in order Pantocrator
to suggest “the Beyond they are From the beginning of the third
trying to express through the icon.”4 century, Jesus has been depicted
They change, remove, or exagger- in several guises, for example, as a
ate some of the similarity to indicate young shepherd dressed in a simple
that “the goal is far different and tunic, as Jesus the Teacher, and as
higher than the original familiar and Christ the majestic Ruler of the
sensible springboard” from which world (the Pantocrator). Jesus is the
they started in step one.5 manifestation of the hidden God,
If a work of art, though referred whom he has shown to humanity.
to as religious, remains stuck in the One of the earliest and most beloved
first step, the likeness to the human, icons of the Christian East is that of
it is disqualified from meriting the Jesus the Teacher, located in Saint
title sacred art.6 It remains absorbed Catherine’s monastery at the base
in the natural. It is too earthbound. of Mount Sinai. It is the oldest still-
In the stylized iconic form, artists inhabited monastery in the world.11
bring about dissimilarity—a kind Dating perhaps as early as the reign
of negation—to elevate the viewer of Justinian (527-65), this icon is
toward the heavenly. 7 How does painted with heated wax colors, en-
the iconographer introduce a note caustic pressed into wood. Its ico-
of dissimilarity or strangeness when nographer is unknown.
writing (painting) an icon? A bearded Christ wears a
To begin with, no real person brownish-purple imperial tunic and
has modeled for the iconic figure. a dark blue cloak. His head is en-
Iconographers have committed to circled by a mandorla or halo. His
memory set patterns that have been oval face, emphasized by the cir-
handed down through the cen- cular contour of a well-trimmed
turies. The figures appear other- and full head of hair, radiates quiet
worldly and less earthbound, more strength. The light of God’s glory
removed, more remote than realis- Jesus the Teacher from Saint Catherine's illumines his face and is depicted by
tic. There is no ostentation or the- Monastery at Mount Sinai. a warm copper glow with a touch of
atrical pose except insofar as theo- rose. His penetrating eyes, in direct
logical meaning calls for it. The body is ize wisdom. contact with the viewer, are highlighted
slender to suggest an abstemious way Through change, negation, or ex- by short white lines above and below
of life. Icons are conspicuous more for aggeration, the icon is intentionally set them. The same white lines highlight
exacting craftsmanship than for artistic apart from the familiar, though it is not his forehead and nose. Not surpris-
innovation. devoid of it. The importance of this ingly, his nose and mouth are small and
How are the facial features second step cannot be overstated. Dis- pinched.
changed to convey the quality of holi- similarity distinguishes iconography The left hand holds a jeweled book,
ness? The straightforward pose, dis- from western forms of painting and the Book of the Gospels. If it is opened,
ciplined and reserved, conveys moral portraiture.8 a consoling and didactic scripture verse
authority. There is no substitute for is printed across its pages: “I am the
eye-to-eye contact. To represent God’s (3) The Leap toward Transcendence light of the world,” or “Learn of me for
glory shining forth to the exterior, the Dissimilarity can trigger the élan of I am meek and humble of heart.” His
complexion has a copper or rosy sheen the spirit to soar beyond the familiar right hand is strong and secure. The

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A r t i c l e s

fingers, elongated and thin, are ar- stretches toward his mother. The
ranged in a stylistic way: the thumb, high sheen of the royal garment, with
fourth and fifth fingers touch and are its shadows and fine lines, looks ma-
curved inward toward the palm. The jestic. Who cannot be moved by the
index and middle fingers are raised icon’s tender expressions of human
and symbolize the two natures of feeling. This beloved icon of elegant
Jesus, the human and divine. With yet simple beauty is located in the
this pose, he blesses the viewer.12 Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
Christ the Teacher may also
be depicted in a Deesis, a triptych, Rublev’s Old Testament Trinity
sometimes of mosaic, with the The icon of the Old Testament
Mother of God and Saint John the Trinity was painted by the Russian
Baptist on either side of him.13 An monk Andrei Rublev (1370-1430).
exceedingly attractive man, Jesus is Anticipating persons and events in
“as handsome as a man can be,” an the New Testament, he depicts the
apt commentary on Ps 45:2, “you are mystery of the Trinity through the
the fairest of the sons of men; grace is Old Testament story of the hospital-
poured out upon your lips; therefore ity of Abraham and Sarah (Gen 18).18
God has blessed you for ever.” This In the narrative, the couple hosts the
man who is God is on a mission. three angel-visitors at Mamre who
If the figure of an iconic Christ will foretell the birth of Isaac to the
is enthroned on the ceiling in the elderly couple. The angels are seated
apse of a church, it is called Christ at a table on which stands a cup with
the Pantocrator, the majestic ruler of a sacrifice offering. The angels hold
all things. The throne is symbolic of traveling staffs. Abraham and Sarah
the final coming; Christ is the God are not in the icon.
of judgment. The icon is expressive The basic form of this icon
of Saint Matthew’s verse: “Unto me The Vladimir Mother of God emphasizes the representing the Trinity is a circle.
all power is given in heaven and love between a mother and child rather than It is seen in the bowed figure of the
on earth” (Matt. 28:18). The icon is Christ's divinity and Mary's majesty angels deferring to one another.
seen as the image and glory of God. Their wings touch each other as a tri-
A famous example of Christ the Pan- of rose blush, suggests God’s light unity, while the hands of the two outer
tocrator is located in the Church of the shining forth on her face. angels lean toward the center angel
Cefalù in Sicily.15 Mary’s dark, almond-shaped eyes who clearly attracts attention. The cir-
gaze into space with sorrowful concen- cular shape of the picture encompasses
The Vladimir Mother of God tration. The shadows cast by her eye- and calls attention to the cup on the
The Vladimir Mother of God belongs brows and lashes intensify her sadness. table, the symbol of the Eucharist.
to that class of icons called “loving- Her nose is curved, long, and slender, The angels wear a common blue
kindness.” This icon depicts the and the corners of her mouth are slight- and green in varying degrees of inten-
mutual tenderness of the Mother and ly lowered. She is mindful of Old Tes- sity to symbolize unity in color. The
her Child in contrast to other icons in tament prophesies that foresee the suf- center angel is Jesus, clothed in strong,
which the primary emphasis is on the ferings her Son will have to undergo. clear colors because of his coming in
divinity of the Child and the majesty There is, of course, Simeon’s own pre- history. He wears a magenta tunic
of the Mother.16 In 1155, Luke Chryso- diction that a sword would “pierce her with a gold ribbon draped over the
berges, patriarch of Constantinople, soul” (Lk 2:34-35) . Mystically, she shoulder under the cloak of solid blue-
presented the icon as a gift to the Rus ponders without brooding. green. Because the Father has never
prince George Dolgorukhy. Subtitled The Christ-Child is depicted not been seen by human eyes, Rublev has
“A Miraculous Icon,” the icon re- like a typical babe in arms. Instead, chosen indistinct hues of pale orange
mained intact during a raging fire in the Child assumes the weight of the colored with a tint of blue-green for his
the Cathedral of the Assumption.17 The God-Man. In pressing his face against clothing. Wearing a green cloak over a
iconographer is unknown. his mother’s cheek, the Child takes the tunic of azure blue, the Consoler-Spirit
We notice that Mary is depicted as a initiative and offers solace to her. The symbolizes life and sanctification. With
slender, middle-aged Oriental woman. artist has painted the Child’s complex- the other two figures, Jesus blesses the
Not surprisingly, her head is covered ion in tints, lighter and brighter than cup with the stylized Eastern blessing.
with a black veil that contrasts with the his mother’s to offer hope to her. Lov- The facial features of the three figures
Child’s bright garment. The golden- ingly, she tilts her head toward him. suggest a set of identical triplets of
edged border, falling symmetrically, His left hand has slipped behind his dignity and rare beauty. The raised eyes
encircles her face like a mandorla, mother's head to clasp her neck, and of the Father appear anxious because of
highlighting her delicate features. The he presses his left cheek to hers. As the sacrifice his Son will accept.
prominent star on her veil suggests no- his lips approach hers, he stretches The unity brought about by the
bility of thought as does a similar star his right hand toward her left shoul- clothing and circular form and motif of
that covers her heart. The copper flesh ders to embrace and kiss her. Strength the composition reveals Rublev’s mas-
tones of her complexion, with a touch from his small but powerful right hand terful insight into the mystery of the

28 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

unity of the Godhead in three Divine in many sectors of sacred art because of Sister Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J., writes
Persons.19 The icon offers deep satis- the sacrality inherent in it. from New York City. Her scholarly re-
faction because through color, form, search focuses on the relationship between
and symbol, we grasp with delight the Beauty and Catholic Faith the arts, faith, and culture. She holds PhDs
truth of the central mystery of Catholic Finally, beauty and the Catholic faith in musicology and in liturgical studies.
Christian faith. Its loveliness has cap- belong together. The sacred arts in all Email:
tured the admiration of the Christian their beauty proclaim the great Chris-
West, thereby surpassing abstract Trini- tian truths in non-discursive ways and W
tarian symbols. The beauty, truth, and for their pleasure, delight, and deep
formal goodness of the icon invite one’s satisfaction they offer to the beholder. 1. The word symbol comes from the Greek syn (together or with)
contemplation and a resolve to live in More importantly, beauty is a stepping and ballo (to throw or put). A symbol puts together the exterior
the presence of the life-giving Trinity, stone to contemplation that Saint Ire- and the interior.
W. Norris Clarke, “Metaphysics of Religious Art,” in Graceful
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One way naeus of Lyons (died second century) 2.Reason: Essays in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Presented to
to do this is carry about in our imagina- expressed in his dictum: “The glory Joseph Owens, C.S.S.R., ed. Lloyd P. Gerson, Papers in Medieval
tion this work of art that serves the life of God is man and woman fully alive, Studies 4 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies,
1983), 308.
of prayer. but the glory of man and woman is the 3. Natural and organic products are used—egg tempera, water,
contemplation of God.”23 vinegar, fig juice, or beer, linen, alabaster or chalk glue of gelatin,
The Icon Screen linseed oil, resin.
4. Clarke, “Metaphysics of Religious Art,” 308.
The most noticeable ex- 5. Ibid.
ternal difference between 6. Ibid., 309.
7. The same holds in African and Indian art and
Eastern and Western Church- music. In Eastern and Western chant, what is
es lies in the presence of an missing in the music is as important as what is
icon screen which separates present in it.
8. In Western portraiture, models pose for a
the apse from the nave of the picture. A portrait entitled Madonna and Child may
church. Also referred to as an in fact be any woman and child who have posed
iconostasis, it is a piece of fur- for the painting. Raphael’s Madonna and Child, for
example, though beautiful and whose subject is
niture measuring several feet religious, is not, strictly speaking, a sacred work of
high and often reaching to the art because it is too earthbound. The mother and
child could be taken for any mother and child and
ceiling. The icon screen may not for the Mother of God and the Christ-Child.
be viewed either as a link or 9. Clarke, “Metaphysics of Religious Art,” 310.
as a separation. It is the place 10. Ibid.
11. Saint Catherine’s, a Greek Orthodox monastery,
where heaven and earth meet. was built between 527-65 during the reign of
The heavenly mysteries are Emperor Justinian. Today it is a UNESCO World
enacted on earth where the Heritage site.
12. Priests of the Eastern Churches also
Church lives and struggles. use this stylistic blessing during liturgical
Used mainly in Byzantine services.
13. One such Deesis is located in the Hagia Sophia
Churches, the icon screen in Istanbul; the other, in the Metropolitan Museum
comprises several panels and of Art, New York City.
three doors: the Royal Doors 14. L. P. Siger and L. A. Leite, s.v. “Jesus Christ,
Iconography of,” in The New Catholic Encyclopedia,
in the center, the Deacon's 7:961.
Door on the south side, and 15. Variations of this icon are located in the
the Server's Door on the north. eleventh-century mosaic at Daphni, Greece,
“Christ in Glory,” in Saint Vitale, Ravenna, and the
It is decorated with icons of twelfth-century fresco, “Christ in Majesty,” located
Jesus, the Mother of God, and in the apse in Catalonia.
16. P. A. Mailleux, S.J., E. S. Stanton, S.J., rev. Joan
the saints.20 L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J., The Vladimir Mother of God
(Scranton: PA: The Center for Easter Christian
Breathing Again with Two Rublev's depiction of the Holy Trinity as the three angels who Studies, 1998), 12.
17. Ibid., 3-6.
Lungs21 visited Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament narrative. 18. M. Helen Weir, Festal Icons of the Lord
In 1985, John Paul II stated (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1977), 50.
in a striking metaphor, first used by The Church’s last three pontiffs 19. Ibid., 51.
20. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J., The Eastern Catholic Churches
Yves Congar: “The Church needs to have urged artists and the faithful (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992), 21, 52.
learn to breathe again with its two about the need for a beautiful faith. 21. Mailleux, The Vladimir Mother of God, 19.
lungs—its Eastern one and its Western Artists have performed at the Vatican, 22. Congar’s exact quotation is: “I have more than once wished
that the church would begin to breathe through its two lungs.”
one.” 22
He wrote the apostolic letter a place where the Church’s patron- It was printed in Chrétiens en dialogue (1966), p. 287, and then in
“Light from the East” (Orientale Lumen) age of the arts is frequently celebrated. Congar’s Diversity and Communion (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third
Publications, 1982, 1985), 89.
to mark the centenary of Pope Leo XIII's Paul VI reminded them: “Remember 23. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Ad. Haereses, 4:20,7.
apostolic letter. Both documents were you are the guardians of beauty in the 24. Paul VI, “Letter to Artists at Rome,” Documents of Vatican II,
intent on safeguarding the significance world,”24 while John Paul II stated that translated from the Latin by Walter M. Abbot, S.J., p. 732. “May
that suffice to free you from tastes which are passing and have
of the Eastern traditions for the entire the Church needs art and that art needs no genuine value, to free you from the search after strange and
Church. As if to confirm the equal the church.25 Benedict XVI continues unbecoming expressions. Be always and everywhere worthy of
dignity of the Churches of the East and to plead for restoring beauty to her your ideals, and you will be worthy of the Church.”
25. John Paul II, “Letter to Artists,” para. 12-13.
the West, iconography has assumed its rightful place in the Church’s theology, 26. Benedict XVI, “Address to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred
proper role, and even priority of place, worship, and mission.26 Music” (October 15, 2007).

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 29

A r t i c l e s

D epicting the W hole C hrist

Hans Urs von Balthasar and Sacred Architecture
Philip Nielsen

he theological work of twentieth- with an imprimatur of the highest principles of
century theologian Hans Urs von rank. At Balthasar’s funeral, Henri the drama of
Balthasar has only recently begun Cardinal de Lubac described him as prayer, and
to take its proper place in Catholic “probably the most cultured man in only out of
theology. In his lifetime he certainly the Western world.” Indeed, when one these princi-
took a back seat to contemporaries such looks at the cultural topics that Balthasar ples can his
as Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, and those treated, Cardinal de Lubac’s statement understand-
men who were known as the theological becomes hard to refute: Balthasar wrote ing of sacred
architects of Vatican II. Balthasar never his doctoral dissertation on German art and ar-
attended Vatican II, unlike so many of literature; his first major work was chitecture
his fellow theologians and friends. This on music; he was one of the foremost be gleaned.
absence, combined with the difficulty patristic scholars of his time; and, Above all,
inherent in classifying such a diverse thanks to his father’s practice of church his under-
corpus as his, has slowed his acceptance architecture in Switzerland, he loved the standing
as a theological authority in the Church. visual arts and architecture. of prayer
But for the past thirty years—since the It is due to his expansive cul- begins by Portrait of Hans Urs von
election of John Paul II to the Holy tural awareness that Hans Urs von placing Balthasar.
See—Balthasar’s star has risen as one Balthasar's corpus does not describe a silent con-
of the great theologians after Trent, a program or system for sacred art; for a templation at the core. Only through
status that the election of Balthasar’s system would too greatly limit both the this silent contemplation can we
close personal friend and theological workings of the Spirit and the creative hear God’s Word to us and enter into
sympathizer Joseph Ratzinger to the freedom of the artist. Rather, Balthasar union with his Word. This study of
Chair of Saint Peter seemingly stamped persistently meditates upon the first Balthasar’s view of architecture sug-
gests an approach to sacred architec-
ture in the modern world based upon
how the drama of prayer inhabits the
form of sacred art and architecture.
The natural place to begin a
study of Balthasar's understanding
of contemplation is the same place
he believes all theology must begin,
namely, with the creatureliness of man.
Balthasar repeatedly quotes the famous
passage of the Fourth Lateran Council
that states: "As great as may be the sim-
ilarity, so much greater must the dis-
similarity between creator and creature
be preserved." The distance between
God and his creatures should not be
brushed aside or taken for granted,
because it is the first key to under-
standing the glory of God. Not surpris-
ingly, Balthasar emphasizes the prin-
ciple of creatureliness in the writings of
the Fathers of the Church. In Presence
and Thought, his groundbreaking work
on Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Balthasar
begins by describing the saint’s habit of
beginning his theological works with
“spacing,” that is, with an emphasis
on the dissimilarity between God and
man: "Every time he undertakes a de-
velopment of the fundamentals of his
The Franciscan Church in Lucerne, Switzerland, was the church Hans Urs von metaphysics, Gregory begins from the
Balthasar attended when he was a child. irreducible opposition between God

30 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

and creature."1 Balthasar’s description In John, Jesus summarizes his whole God because he is God, the visible me-
of his model Saint Gregory could justly mission in the "high-priestly prayer" diator of the invisible Creator. For this
be applied to Balthasar himself. Oppo- (ch. 17) in which he commends all reason, when Balthasar asks the ques-
sition, however, is not something that his work, from his going forth from tion whether contemplation should
keeps man from communion with God; the Father to his return to him, into be “Image-filled” or “image-less”
rather, it is only through an under- his Father's hands. Even in his dying he is able to answer simply: “In this
standing of God as incomprehensible words he is still in dialogue with much—discussed matter all depends
that the drama can begin to unfold. As God. Christians of all ages, including on whether the contemplator is a Chris-
Balthasar explains: “‘Incomprehensibil- now are drawn into this prayer. tian or not. If he is not a Christian, he
ity’ does not mean a negative determi- There is no excuse; no evasion will will from the beginning strive for im-
nation of what one does not know, but be permitted. Nor may refuge be ageless contemplation. ... For the Chris-
rather a positive and almost tian all is different.”6 He goes
‘seen’ and understood prop- on to explain that that, in this
erty of him whom one knows. sense, Christianity is unique
The more a great work of art is in the world, in that it is based
known and grasped, the more upon Christ who is the “Son,
concretely are we dazzled by radiance, reflection, Word,
its “ungraspable' genius.”2 Image.” Not only is Christ the
The distance between God Image of the Father, he sur-
and his creatures properly si- rounds himself with images
lences the worshipping par- of himself in the form of para-
ticipant. Awe-inspired silence bles. Christ, in his parables de-
becomes the starting point of scribes common things, rocks,
the liturgy: "prayer, we can wheat, sheep, and his use of
now see, is communication, them causes “even the rocks to
in which God's word has the cry out.” These stories provide
initiative and we, at first, are a key part of the Image of the
simply listeners."3 Neither is Father that Christ presents.
this task of silence too difficult The Church too, as the body
for man. On the contrary, it is of Christ, acts as an image of
that for which he was created: Christ. Parables, Christian art,
"Since God himself has made even the lives of the saints,
us such that, to be truly our- are thus, images of the Image
selves, we have to listen to his Christ. For Balthasar, a Church
word, he must, for that reason, totally devoid of images is
have endowed us with the not something that could con-
Photo: Wikimedia

ability to do so."4 The danger centrate the eyes of the con-

at the initial stage of the gregation purely on Christ
liturgy is all too clear: that the (as many Protestant and even
participants may drown out Saint Joseph with the Infant by Guido Reni, 1635. some Catholic thinkers would
the Word with their chatter, assert), but is rather much
with their opinions, with their noise— sought in mere action, nor simply more akin to a Gospel in which half the
with a one-sided conversation originat- in the liturgy. parables of Christ were removed. It is
ing and ending in man. Not even com- against the justification of iconoclasm
munal liturgy can substitute for per- God does not simply speak down to that Balthasar writes: “If a people were
sonal silent prayer. Balthasar exclaims: man, leaving him in his earthly state; to be incapable of creating genuine reli-
through Christ, he catches the con- gious images or statues for the church-
As if a break of two minutes after templator up with him into heaven. es, it should not say that empty walls
the sermon or after communion Balthasar's anatomy of prayer consists, concentrate the spirit more effectively
could satisfy man’s elementary need therefore, in three parts: first, the partic- upon what is essential. If we have
of silence in God, of communion ipant is silent; second, God speaks the become a small people we should not
from heart with him! And who Word to man in his silence; third, God seek to reduce the mystery we celebrate
can, as he swallows the Host, catches man up into the divine con- to our dimensions.”8 We should make
“realize” what Holy Communion versation. The liturgy does not replace no mistake, however; the incapacity of
means? Does he not need for that the personal prayer of the Church, but “creating genuine religious art” would
the unfunctional, silent “adoration rather it flows out of it. For Balthasar, be a huge loss in Balthasar’s mind. The
of the holy of holies”? Or silent, action and liturgy ground and manifest Church would lose in art one of the
personal meditation on the Holy the fruits of personal prayer, but they fundamental images of Christ. And
Scriptures?5 never replace it. yet, if the image were to become ugly,
The Word God speaks to man is then they would no longer be a truth-
God speaks to man in his silence, the Logos of Scripture—Jesus Christ ful image of Christ. Guido Reni’s Saint
and then man is caught up into the himself. As the Word spoken by God Joseph with the Infant, for example, il-
heavenly conversation of the Trinity: to Man, Christ is the perfect “image” of lustrates the image of Christ in a way

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 31

A r t i c l e s

that adds depth to the sonal prayer beyond the

story alone. A blank scope of the public litur-
canvas represents a loss gies. God brings himself
for the Church, but an near to man through
ugly painting would these encounters even
have conflicted with as distance creates awe.
the image of Christ and Sacred architecture must
been worse than a blank accommodate these per-
canvas. Christ is the sonal devotions if it is
Word, and sacred archi- to fulfill Balthasar’s ex-
tecture, Sacred Scripture, pectations. The danger
and the liturgy reveal of an architecture that
the Image of Christ in does not accommodate
their unique ways, so personal prayer and de-
that they must all work votion, or Eucharistic
in unison to provide a adoration, is not, within
fuller image. Balthasar’s drama of
In the wake of prayer, one that fails in
Balthasar’s expres- merely a “secondary”
sion of the principals of purpose. For, though
prayer, especially dis- Balthasar would certain-
tance, silence, dialogue, ly not deny the centrality
and image, the direction of the Mass, the spiritual
that sacred architecture benefits for the person
should take becomes attending Mass depend
clearer and its pitfalls upon one’s own person-
less hidden. First, sacred al devotion. To deepen
art and architecture the public prayer of the
should avoid taking on Church, architecture
merely human dimen- must accommodate per-
sions, seeking rather to sonal devotions as well.

Photo: Brother Lawrence Lew, OP

preserve the “dissimilar- F o r a
ity” between God and Balthasarian Church to
his creatures. Sacred witness both to the dis-
architecture’s first duty tance between God and
is to create a sense of man, and accommo-
“spacing” between God date the personal devo-
and man. The church, tions of the participants,
but especially its sanctu- Saint Giles Catholic Church rood screen in Cheadle, Staffordshire, its guiding principle
ary, must clearly depict designed by August Welby Pugin in 1841. must be the silence and
a distance between God rest that are the begin-
and his creatures. A church that looks but are able to encounter that glory of ning of prayer. A double danger exists
like a living room makes an awareness God.”9 Architecture, just like sacred here: first the architect might create a
of the difference between Creator and music or art, must fulfill its highest space that is silent, not with a living
creature more difficult to perceive—it calling, aiding the participant in seeing silence, but with the silence of the tomb
makes it an act of near heroic virtue. the glory of God. where there is nothing to inspire awe,
“Spacing” can be achieved first and An architecture that is ordered to longing, or the understanding that the
foremost by scale, ornamentation, art, fulfill only its human, or even liturgi- repose should lead to prayer. Secondly,
and architectural cues such as rails, cal use, fails its higher purpose: "For the architect might create a loud archi-
screens, stairs, or curtains. All of these good reason the people of the Middle tecture that wars with contemplation.
elements, insofar as they make the Ages built cathedrals larger than a The architect might create the neces-
glory of God more clear to the par- liturgy could fill. Only in an age when sary “spacing” between God and man
ticipant, express true beauty. This one gives up personal prayer in order through a wholly unique and even
beauty must lead to God, however, not to be simply a communal animal in strange church without accompanying
simply to an aesthetic experience. “The the church can one design churches this distance with the necessary repose.
awareness of inherent glory,” writes which are determined purely function- This “spacing” without repose might,
Balthasar, “gave inspiration to works ally by the services of the congrega- for example, occur in a poorly executed
of incomparable earthly beauty in the tion."10 Balthasar’s “good reason” is baroque church, a non-tectonic church,
great tradition of the Church. But these twofold: the medieval cathedrals were an anti-symmetrical church, or any
works become suitable for today’s built on a grand scale to glorify God sacred architecture that disregards the
liturgy only if, in and beyond their and preserve distance—but they were principles that allow the architecture to
beauty, those who take part are not also built to accommodate personal rest.
merely moved to aesthetic sentiments devotions, reverence of relics, and per- A war on silence could include

32 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

either agitated architecture designed God, but it is called a rood screen barrier. When the icons are removed,
only to excite or unsettle, a merely com- because it is surmounted by an image the iconostasis becomes a wall.
munal architecture that does not allow of Christ on the “rood,” or cross. The The nature of these images must,
for any places in which personal de- altar rail divides men from God, but ultimately, depict the “whole” Christ,
votions may be practiced in solitude, that is exactly where Christ meets them not simply a part of him. Thus, sacred
or an architecture that is constantly in in his own Body and Blood. When art and architecture must not reflect
flux with renovation and fuss. On this iconoclasts destroyed the images and only a few sides of Christ’s nature
final point Balthasar acknowledges whitewashed the cathedrals (whether and mission. Balthasar writes, “Every
that renewal may element calls for the
sometimes be neces- other, and the more
sary, but that it can penetrating the gaze
fall into change for of the beholder, the
the sake of change: more he will discov-
“What a welcome er harmony on all
alibi it provides for sides. If one essen-
a new clerical diri- tial element should
gisme, for a busy cler- be broken off … all
ical activity which the proportions will
never stop moving be distorted and
the altar around, fu- falsified.” 12 Christ
migating churches, must be depicted
buying new vest- in a vision that is as
ments for the servers whole and multisid-
and a thousand other ed as possible, and
oddments, while all a church that makes
the time it is putting reference to only a
the emphases in the part of Christ neces-
wrong place.”11 sarily presents a dis-
If bustle and torted view of Christ:
noise are the wrong “The eschatological
place, what is the theme, taken on its
right place? An own, is incompre-
ideal Balthasarian hensible without the
church building has cadence of Christ’s
shown the distance suffering. The verti-
between God and cal form of the Son of
his creatures. It has God who descends
awed and silenced from the Father and
the faithful. It has goes back to him il-
enfolded them in legible without the
its side chapels to horizontal form of
await the Word from historical fulfillment
God, the Logos. But and the mission en-
where in the architec- trusted to the apos-
ture is the image of tles.” 13 The goal of
Christ to be found? an art or architec-
Balthasar answers— ture that strives to
everywhere— every depict the “whole of
image of the life of Christ” summarizes
Photo: Ian Kaminski

Christ, every station Balthasar’s under-

of the cross, every standing of appropri-
statue of a saint, ate forms of sacred
every stained-glass architecture.
window works as an Salisbury Cathedral, consecrated in 1258, is an example of a church stripped of its No architectural
image of Christ. The images in an attempt to focus the congregation upon God. form or program can
architecture must depict the “whole” of
orchestrate as much imagery as it can the Protestant iconoclasts of the six- Christ. Clearly some sacred buildings
without destroying the “repose” of the teenth century or the modernist icono- do not live up to Balthasar’s expecta-
building. These images are the image clasts of the twentieth), they preserved tions of a church, but not even the best
of Christ who bridges that “spacing” the question in the stones and mortar, church can perfectly fulfill the mission
or gap that first brought the faithful but hid the answer that existed in the of sacred architecture. Some church-
into awareness of their need for God. images. When the crucifix is removed es are more silent than others (many
The rood screen separates man from the rood screen does become simply a Cistercian monasteries for example),
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 33
A r t i c l e s

and some churches needing to “breathe

inspire more awe with both lungs” as
(Saint Peter’s and regards the East, for
Chartres), but no example, he did not
single church per- mean that the West
fectly expresses the should somehow
glory of Christ. A become quasi-East-
program for perfect ern, but that both
architecture is always should work in
attractive: some have concert with a dis-
claimed that deco- tinctive timbre, ex-
rating the sanctuary pressing the oneness
with the scenes of the of God’s truth
Wedding Feast of the through their unique
Lamb constitutes the traditions. Architec-
proper backdrop to ture, like creation, is
the mysteries being a facet of the doctrine
celebrated; or that of plenitude: the dis-
the saints should tance between God
never find their way and his creation, of
into the images of the goodness of his
the sanctuary; others The University of Basel, where Von Balthasar served as chaplain. creation, and even
have suggested more of His good-
that every church should be built in theology or art—not because these ness in coming to his creation through
a Gothic, classical, or Romanesque fields are not full of truth, or because Christ, the Image of the Father: “In
manner. But as John Henry Cardinal this truth is unintelligible, but because the Symphony … all the instruments
Newman, a particular hero of Balthasar, systems tend to reduce that which they are integrated into one sound.”16 The
put it, “There is no one aspect deep study to their dimensions. breadth of sacred architecture constant-
enough to exhaust the contents of a real In Truth is Symphonic: Aspects of ly grows, just as theology grows; but
idea, no one term or proposition which Christian Pluralism, Balthasar returns to art and architecture cannot lose contact
will serve to define it; though of course Newman’s concept of the many-sided with the reality of silence, creatureli-
one representation of it is more just nature of an idea. Balthasar develops ness, beauty—or the Word.
and exact than another.”14 Balthasar the idea of a symphony as an analogy
opposed “systematic” studies of either for Christian doctrine: “The difference W
between the in-
struments must
be as striking as Philip Nielsen has studied both theology
possible. Each and architecture at the graduate level at the
one keeps its University of Notre Dame. He has written
utterly distinc- on aesthetics for various journals, the In-
tive timbre, and tercollegiate Studies Institute and Ignatius
t h e c o m p o s e r Press. Email:
must write for 1. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Presence and Thought: Essay on the
Quick & easy install of each part in a Religious Philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa, trans. Marc Sebanc (San
pre-assembled mosaic for way that this Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 27.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological
a Perpetual Eucharistic timbre achieves 2.Aesthetics, vol. 1, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, ed. Joseph
Adoration Chapel Raredos.
its f u l l e s t Fessio and John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 186.
effect.” 15 This 3. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Prayer, trans. Graham Harrison (San
STUDIO D’ORO LLC analogy can be 4. Ibid.
Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 23.

applied to archi- 5. Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Elucidations, trans. John Riches (San
timeless art, today tectural styles Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 177.
Custom Sacred Images & Furnishings in Mosaic, Mural, & Gold Leaf 6. Hans Urs von Balthasar, You Have the Words of Eternal Life (San
for environments & surfaces inside & out with ease: Byz- Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 11.
antine Church 7. Balthasar, You Have the Words of Eternal Life, 11.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, New Elucidations, trans. Mary
architecture, in 8.Thereslide Skerry (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 138.
order to achieve 9. Balthasar, New Elucidations, 136.
its full effect, 10. Balthasar, Elucidations, 177.
11. Ibid.
m u s t b e c o m e 12. Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, vol. 1, 513.
even more dis- 13. Ibid.
tinct from other 14. John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of
Christian Doctrine (London: Longmans, Green, 1890), 35.
Contact: Greg Haas styles, not less. 15. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Truth is Symphonic: Aspects of When John Paul Christian Pluralism, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco:
281-772-2130 II spoke of the Ignatius Press, 1972), 7.
16. Balthasar, Truth is Symphonic, 7.
1415 S. Voss Rd., Suite 110-213, Houston, TX 77057
Western Church

34 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

T he L uminosity of P eruvian C hurches

Hans S. B. Roegele

n November of 2008 I went space has been made liturgi-
up into the mountains of cally complex.
Peru for a month. There Twin, plain-plastered
I saw over fifteen towns stone towers flank a central
and villages, traveling by a square composition. This
combination of train, bus, composition consists of three
minivan, station wagon, levels of orders: composite at
motorcycle, and my own two base with a triumphal arch
feet. Much of my transportation motif; above it a plain attic
was older than I am, and had level; and at top a heavy,
a disturbing tendency to stall. Romanesque Corinthian in
Yet even as I watched the an open, roofed loggia. The
miles go by, it seemed as if proportions and profiles of
time as well were slipping by. many of the classical ele-
In those areas of desperate ments seem odd: a result of

Photo: Hans S.B. Roegele

poverty, I saw houses built Andean builders interpreting
from adobe mud without a style they had only seen in
windows or doors, streets with line drawings.
no paving, and people pulling Inside the space is simple:
plows in fields. Men with a rectangle about as wide as
typewriters set up business Exterior and interior views of the Chuch of Santiago Apostol in it is tall (27 feet), and about
in the streets to produce Corporaque, Peru. 100 feet deep, with an open
letters, and knife sharpeners wood roof structure. The
wandered with their wheels final 20 feet of the space is
on their backs. At the center separated into a sanctuary
of almost every village, and by a step and a frescoed arch.
often enough the village life, There is a modern pulpit and
was a Catholic church, usually altar, while the baptismal font
from the colonial period, is in a chapel by the narthex.
with its original altarpieces, Thirteen altars crowd the
pulpits, and decorations. As space by the sanctuary, six on
the weeks went by, I noticed each wall, plus the high altar.
extraordinary similarities Each is roughly six to eight
between them on several feet wide, and projecting on
levels. While at first glance, average three feet, with one
they seemed similar to Spanish niche for a sculptural figure
churches, I quickly saw I was or group. Some have columns
wrong, and that these were with capitals on the base and
Photo: Hans S.B. Roegele

Andean churches: particular top, or entablatures without

products of convulsive shifts cornices, or pediments that
in Christianity, architecture, angle at almost forty-five
global balances of power, and degrees. Behind them at eye
Andean building traditions level a fresco runs along parts
and religious customs. of the wall. At first glance
The white church of Santiago raque and Santiago Apostol. I wanted it seems almost rococo with its light
Apostol sits high on a score of steps, to see the church because Santiago colors and lines, but a repeating pattern
at the top of a sloping plaza. Around Apostol is one of the oldest churches of condors and local fruits is discern-
it are earth colored one and two story in Peru. When it was built, the last Inca able between the urns. The fresco runs
houses; mountains and volcanoes emperor was still holding out against to the narthex, where it shows Christ
frame it in the distance. Starting at 6 Spanish soldiers in the jungles. I would on the cross, surrounded by Seraphim.
a.m., my bus had climbed five thousand see that the church captures a transi- This motif is repeated at the arch and
feet up single-lane switch-backed dirt tional moment. While recognizably narthex, and is almost a local signature
roads, before I transferred to a minivan a late Renaissance church, the classi- by the builders.
that sputtered and jerked along the cal detailing and ornament has subtly The high altar is taller than even the
canyon’s edge to the town of Corpo- morphed, and a simple architectural masonry walls and seems as though it

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 35

A r t i c l e s

tion of the com-

plete sacred
work; figures as
diverse as Abbot
Suger and Saint
Charles Borro-
meo had identi-
fied light with
divine qualities,
and those mate-
rials that reflect-
ed it were pre-
sumed to add to
that effect. Thus
some altarpieces
also incorporat-
ed mirrors.
While the
European Catho-
lic Church was
concerning itself
with existing

Photo: Hans S.B. Roegele

and wavering
Catholics, the
Church in Peru
was trying to
reach a popula-
The High Altar at Santa Rosa in Arequippa tion unfamiliar
with Christianity.
would like to burst through the roof. happening in Europe. The Church would soon insert images
Like most of the side altars, it is fash- By the early sixteenth century, Prot- in the retablo done by an indigenous
ioned from masonry, finished with estant theologians were challenging school of artists depicting Christian
plaster, and painted a mix of light blue traditional church design on many figures in Peruvian contexts. Com-
and white. The altar has two levels of levels. Theologically, they questioned bined with the side altars that were
Corinthian columns, with three bays the validity of most of the sacraments, also typical, the high altar would form
on each level. These columns are more and aesthetically they rejected use of a unified presentation of the order of
classically correct than the side altars. most artwork. At the Council of Trent the universe, the panoply of the saints,
While the high altar’s bottom center in 1563, the Catholic Church reaffirmed and on an aesthetic level, a glimpse of
bay houses the tabernacle, raised 10 its positions, just as Santiago Apostol heaven.
feet from the sanctuary floor on a zig- was being built. The Council directed Painting and sculpture were crucial
gurat-like pedestal, the five other bays that visual images were to be used to this unified presentation. Early on
have niches for sculptural figures (due as aids for instruction, devotion, and in the conquest, European masters
to current restoration work, some art- evangelization. Thus the Real Pres- arrived in Peru who took on appren-
works have been removed). Most un- ence, the priest’s active role in tran- tices. Apprentices in the Cusco opened
usually, steps rise from either side of substantiation, the intercession of the their own shops and formed a school
the high altar and curve behind it. This saints, the efficacy of good works, and of religious painting that lasted until
is the only way to reach the tabernacle. all of the other sacraments were to be the nineteenth century, known for
Behind the high altar, at the level of the stressed rather than denied. The pres- its clarity and simplicity. Saints were
tabernacle, and not visible from any- ence of the crucified and risen Christ always shown with the symbols they
where else, are the ruined remnants of was indicated by artwork. Framework were known by: the Virgin Mary fre-
another, possibly older, altar. for the imagery already existed. Under quently appeared as Marie Regina, or
Consider the effect: the worship- common Habsburg rule, Flemish and the Queen in her Glory, with gold leaf
per is surrounded and dwarfed by North German freestanding carved al- applied to the painting. Sometimes
holy images in powerful architectural tarpieces (retablo and reredos) made allegorical, cartoon-like paintings
frames. From above, light pours down, their way to Spain. Among others, El were produced to illustrate a theme.
and is reflected from the white walls. Greco adapted the retablo as a frame- One such allegorical painting shows
The Holy Family is at eye level to the work for his artwork, but expanded the doctors and fathers of the church
right but dressed as local potentates. and gilded. Where the Flemish retablo rowing the ship of the Church, while the
This is a church designed to fill the eyes was a triptych with doors that could pope steers, and the angels are engaged
with sacred imagery. Yet theological be closed, the Spanish retablo was a in battle with Turks and devils. Many
concerns rather than aesthetic drove permanent altarpiece with multiple of the figures spout captions, and some
this emphasis on images, and those bays for carved figures and paintings. hold books that they wrote. These were
came directly from the seismic events Gilding was important to the concep- all useful pictorial aids for instruction

36 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

A r t i c l e s

in the faith, especially for those con- parish churches, and is the familiar and altars) and as flat compositional
cepts that were difficult to grasp. This Latin Cross plan, with side aisles. This elements on the main façade. The ar-
tendency toward clarity occasionally usually does not have side chapels, chitectural spirit remained a sober late
overreached. For a time, the Cusque- other than two in the transept common- Renaissance. There are practical expla-
na School produced portraits of God ly dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament nations (frequent earthquakes limited
the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy and the Virgin Mary. The final type is the ability to construct elaborate vault-
Spirit as three identical bearded men in generally reserved for cathedrals and is ing characteristic of the baroque), but
heaven, seated side by side. The motif common throughout Spanish America. these are at best partial reasons. The
was declared heretical, and the painters It is a three-aisle plan, with the side austere classicism of Phillip II’s time,
reverted to showing God the Father as aisles lined with shallow chapels. The which vanished in Spain, found solid
a Mosaic figure, Christ a younger man dimensions of the main and side aisles roots in Peru and set the tone for future
seated to this right, and the Holy Spirit are generally consistent with the other design. Even more so than in Spain,
a Dove above. Culturally, the Cusque- plan types; conceptually it is almost Peruvian churches expressed mate-
na School also represented an extraor- as though the cathedral at Andahuay- rials and structure clearly. Coupled
dinary integration of Indians into las has had a Santiago Apostol added with the Andean influence on orna-
Spanish culture: some historians esti- on both sides, and the common walls ment, this contrast between ornate
mate up to 90 percent of the artists pro- broken through with arcades. Volu- and gilded elements, and the simple
ducing paintings and sculptures in the metrically, the buildings generally had architecture give Peruvian churches
Cusquena School
were Indian or
developed with
art. Consider
later examples
from the nearby
town of Yanque,
and the façade of
the Jesuit Church
in Arequippa,
where tradi-
tional Andean
flat relief carving
with stylized
figures and plant
motifs have been
integrated into a
baroque façade.
Within that time
period four basic

Photo: Franco Cericola

types developed,
some common
to Spanish
America. Within
Peru, churches
had the same La Compania, the Jesuit Church in Arequippa
siting, approach,
scale of altarpieces, and Andean influ- one or two simple towers flanking an much of their distinctiveness. Behind
ence on ornament and details. Santiago elaborate central composition. Reflect- this lie the decisions of many patrons,
Apostol represents the simplest and ing frequent earthquakes, proportions and their reasons are beyond the scope
smallest type. The next type simply in- tended toward low. The remainder of of this article. However, we can see
creased the nave, and added two side the exterior was simple. These plan one church that embodies many of the
chapels, such as the cathedral at Anda- types and the disposition of elements conflicting pulls of design. We leave
huaylas. It has essentially the same in- within them would remain consistent the mountains for Lima, and a church
terior design as Santiago Apostol, but in Peru—and arguably still form the Pizarro himself founded..
wider (40 feet) and about 160 feet deep. template for churches built today. Even Lima today has seen more than a
Just as at Santiago Apostol, the walls when builders experimented with the decade since the last terrorist bombs
are roughly as tall as the nave is wide, Gothic style in the nineteenth century, went off, and now the main problem
covered by an exposed roof structure. they used one of these four types. in the streets is an overabundance
Close to the altar are small side chapels, At least in Peru, the adoption of the of cars, from new black government
facing each other. The third type is baroque and rococo was limited to the sedans to the rickshaw-like mototaxis.
commonly found in wealthier urban liturgical elements (such as pulpits Those taxis usually deposit modern

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 37

A r t i c l e s

ed—such as at choir sat in the middle of the nave,

a crossing—it matching Cusco’s, and keeping with
was very notice- the medieval tradition of Spanish ca-
able. Similarly, thedrals. Since choirs typically had a
the cathedral at stone outer wall that was between 10 to
Lima has two 15 feet tall, the altar would have been
broader bays just difficult to see for most people in the
before the sanc- church.
tuary, where the In the early nineteenth century a
pulpits and the major renovation was undertaken.
steps up to the The choir stalls were moved from the
sanctuary are. nave and installed in the sanctuary. A
The vertical ele- new altar was installed. It is an elegant

Photo: Hans S.B. Roegele

ments are not silver-plated columnar screen, almost
as simple as at reaching the bottom of the vaulting,
the Escorial or with two graceful curved stairs ascend-
Valladolid: thin, ing from the sanctuary. Whereas the
p a i n t e d , a n d wooden side altars glow from over-
The Cathedral in Lima, it is dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist gilded ionic plas- head light, the main altar reflects the
ters stack against light back toward the visitor. This ar-
visitors on the far side of the Plaza each other, to support a reduced entab- chitectural element is clearly scaled to
des Armas, and once passed the shoe- lature, from which spring Gothic ribs the entire church. Were the high altar
shine boys and riot police, the ca- over sail vaults. The plan also deviated finished in plaster and had its bays
thedral is reached. Upon entering, it significantly from Herrera’s model to filled in, it would bear a striking re-
seems as though one is in a luminous return to the medieval: originally the semblance to the high altar of Santiago
and large mosque. Light filters in in-
directly from windows above, and the
massive 10-foot-square piers block
any visual end to the space. Lanterns
produce all other optical effects; one is
placed in each side chapel, and others
appear at points along the main aisle.
However, move to the left, and the
visitor finds himself or herself at the
end of the 200-foot-long nave, looking
directly at the high altar and able to
comprehend the entire space of the
cathedral. That space is divided into
three parallel aisles, the center aisle
about 35 foot wide and a similar height
to the top of the main order and side
aisles about 22 foot wide, each of those
flanked by a continuous row of deep
side chapels. The sanctuary is simply
a raised portion of the last two bays of
the center aisle, with no apse or ambu-
latory behind it. In plan the church is
almost two squares, with one of them
given over to the sanctuary area.
While the first impression is of
serene space, closer inspection, and
a bit of historical knowledge, reveals
a design that was caught between
Photo: Amy Allcock,

several periods. The Lima cathedral

was begun in 1582, likely from plans
of a student of Juan de Herrera, known
for the austere late Renaissance chapel
at the Escorial. Herrera’s plans for the
cathedral of Valladolid show a striking
similarity to the plan for the cathedral
at Lima. The geometric rationalism of
Herrera’s plans meant that wherever
the rhythm of the bays was interrupt- Nave of Lima's Cathedral
38 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009
A r t i c l e s

by other holy images. As in all of the

modern churches I saw, the images are
done in traditional, representational
styles, and are painted and sometimes
clothed, just as in colonial churches.
The church has a gated plaza before its
entry and the front elevation is stressed
by the placing of a small bell tower at
the gable. Intentionally or not, the ar-
chitect has used light, images, space,
and procession to point us back to 1563
and Trent.
This article has spoken of the con-
tinuity of church design in Peru. One
could also interpret it as a stagnation
of ideas to match the absolutism, and

Photo: Hans S.B. Roegele

often brutality, of the colonial and re-
publican regimes. However, travel-
ing through Peru, I was continually
surprised by its churches. Within the
framework outlined here, they manage
Church of the Virgen Peregrina to be unique, inspiring, and despite
their massive size, luminous. Herein
Apostol. Thus we have the irony of co- nacle and crucifix (at the center) and may lie the answer for the long sur-
lonial cathedral design in Peru: holding sculptures of four saints. Figures and vival of the Peruvian Catholic church.
on to medieval layouts and elements, prints of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Simple (and cheaper to build), yet
they obscured the clarity of the spaces, and Child Jesus are mounted to the capable of containing much complex-
and the overwhelming impact of the walls along the side aisles with racks ity, these buildings reflected the culture
images. Nineteenth-century cathedrals for candles before them. While the plan that imposed them and the culture that
completed Herrera’s work and remade is square, the architect has chosen to adopted them, while satisfying the the-
their spaces along the lines of the other stress the linearity of its central aisle. ology. This grand compromise seems
three church types in Peru. The church itself is about 35 feet wide, to have been satisfying to all. Today
Many modern Peruvian churches similar to Andahuaylas. Even though 89 percent of Peruvians identify them-
have largely abandoned the colonial the high altar has been much reduced, selves as Catholics, and two thirds of
style of architecture and the colonial the congregation is still facing a promi- those actively participate. Personal
rectangular plan. Modern churches nently placed tabernacle, crucifix, and observation bears out the extent to
tend to be square in plan, with low images of the saints, while surrounded which worshippers pray before all the
ceilings. However, many of the char- altars, often making a round before the
acteristics we first saw at Santiago daily Mass. At any time of day, I never
Apostol remain. One example will found an open church that was empty.
serve. The church of Virgen Per- Since life in Peru is still urban rather
egrina sits in a fairly grim middle- to than suburban, the colonial churches
working-class area south of the his- are still important parish centers, and
toric center of Lima. In the middle of many have up to four well-attended
concrete apartment blocks rising five daily Masses. Whatever the opinions
and six stories, the parish has carved of liturgical consultants, architects, and
out a green block. The church itself is modern theologians, the people may
a delicate looking timber frame struc- still be demanding churches that they
ture, with an exposed metal roof and know and that have inspired them
polished concrete floor. The outer during the last few centuries.
timber posts are filled in with brick.
One suspects the architect had a small
budget. However, much has been ac- W
complished within that. The walls stop
Photo: Hans S.B. Roegele

short of the roof the entire perimeter,

and resting on the glow of natural Hans Roegele graduated from the Univer-
light, the roof seems to float. The posts sity of Virginia with a Bachelor of Science
are laid out to form three aisles, and in History and Architecture. He received
the central aisle is stressed by the roof a Masters in Architecture from the Uni-
being raised another two feet above it. A statue for veneration dressed in versity of Notre Dame, where he wrote his
The remnants of a high altar may be traditional attire in the Church of the thesis on the development of town plan-
seen in the green sanctuary wall that Virgen Peregrina continues the practice ning and ecclesiastical architecture in New
has gilded borders framing the taber- began in colonial churches. England. Email:

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 39

D o c u m e n t a t i o n

S eeking the L ight of T rue F aith

Homily from the Reopening of the Pauline Chapel
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Your Eminences, 
 occurred when he was about 30 years his communities on his apostolic jour-
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and old. The artistic choice takes us outside neys, with the maturity of one who has
in the Priesthood, 
 pure realism; it makes us go beyond the aged not in years, but spiritually, a gift
Dear Brothers and Sisters, simple narration of events to introduce from the Lord himself. Therefore, in
us to a deeper level. The face of Saul- Paul's face we can already perceive the

oday, a few days after the Solemnity Paul which is that of the artist himself, heart of the spiritual message of this
of Saints Peter and Paul and the who by then was old, troubled and in Chapel: the wonder, that is, of Christ's
conclusion of the Pauline Year, search of the light of truth represents grace which transforms and renews
my wish to reopen the Pauline Chapel the human being in need of a greater mankind through the light of his truth
for worship is fulfilled. We have taken light. It is the light of divine grace, in- and his love. This is what constitutes
part in solemn celebrations in honour of dispensable in order to gain a new per- the newness of conversion, the call to
the two Apostles in the Papal Basilicas of spective from which to perceive reality, faith which finds its fulfilment in the
Saint Paul and Saint Peter. This evening, oriented towards the "hope laid up for mystery of the Cross.
to complete them, as it were, we gather you in heaven", as the Apostle writes in From Paul's face let us pass to that of
in the heart of the Apostolic Palace, in the initial greeting of the Letter to the Peter, depicted at the moment when his
the Chapel desired by Pope Paul III and Colossians which we have just heard inverted cross is being hoisted up and
designed by Antonio da Sangallo the (1: 5). he turns to look at the onlooker. This
Younger, the place of prayer reserved for The face of Saul fallen to the ground face too surprises us. Here the age rep-
the Pope and the resented is the
Pontifical Family. correct one, but
The paintings it is the expres-
and decorations sion that amazes
a d o r n i n g and questions us.
this chapel Why this expres-
particularly the sion? It is not an
two large frescoes image of suffer-
by Michelangelo ing, and Peter's
Buonarotti which body communi-
were the last cates a surprising
works of his long degree of physi-
life are especially cal vigour. The
effective in face, especially
encouraging the forehead
meditation and eyes, seems
Photo: L'Osservatore Romano

and prayer. to express the

They depict the state of mind of
conversion of a man confront-
Paul and the ing death and
crucifixion of evil. There is a
Peter. bewilderment, a
The eye is first sharp, projected
drawn to the gaze that seems
faces of the two Apostles. It is evident is lit from above, by the light of the almost to search for something or
from their placement alone that these Risen One and, despite its dramatic someone in the final hour. And the eyes
two faces play a central role in the nature, the figure inspires peace and also stand out also in the faces of those
iconographic message of the Chapel. instils a sense of security. It expresses surrounding him. Agitated glances
But, aside from their positioning, they the maturity of a man illuminated emerge, some even frightened or con-
immediately attract us "beyond" the from within by Christ the Lord, while fused. What does all of this mean?
image: they call us to question and lead around him a flurry of events occurs It is what Jesus had predicted to his
us to reflect. First of all, let us dwell a in which all of the figures seem to be Apostle: "When you are old, you will
moment on Paul: why is he portrayed within a vortex. The grace and peace stretch out your hands, and another
with such an elderly face? It is the face of God have enveloped Saul, they have will gird you and carry you where you
of an old man, whereas we know and internally conquered and transformed do not want to go". And the Lord had
Michelangelo also knew it well that the him. It is the same "grace" and the same added: "Follow me" (John 21: 18,19). In
calling of Saul on the road to Damascus "peace" that he was to announce to all this precise moment the culmination

40 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

D o c u m e n t a t i o n

of the sequel is reached: the disciple Eucharist. Prof. Arnold Nesselrath, worked on
is no longer with his Master, and now The Eucharist is the Sacrament in the frescoes and on the rest of the Cha-
tastes the bitterness of the cross, of the which the whole work of Redemption pel's decorations and, in particular, the
consequences of sin that separates from is concentrated: in Jesus as Eucharist Master Inspector Maurizio de Luca and
God, of all the absurdity of violence we can contemplate the transformation his assistant, Maria Pustka, who direct-
and falsehood. If one comes to this of death into life, of violence into love. ed the work and themselves worked on
chapel to meditate, one cannot escape Hidden beneath the veils of the bread the two murals of Michelangelo, avail-
the radicalism of the question posed by and the wine, we recognize through ing themselves of the consultation of an
the cross: the Cross of Christ, Head of the eyes of faith the same glory that international commission composed of
the Church, and the cross of Peter, his was manifested to the Apostles after scholars of notable fame. My recogni-
Vicar on earth. the Resurrection. It is the same glory tion goes likewise to Cardinal Giovanni
The two faces on which our gaze that Peter, James and John contem- Lajolo and his collaborators at the
rests are op- Governorate,
posite each who devoted
other. One special atten-
might therefore tion to the work.
imagine that And naturally I
Peter's face is extend a warm
actually turned and dutiful
towards the face "thank you" to
of Paul, who in the praisewor-
turn does not thy Catholic
see but bears patrons, Ameri-
within him the cans and others,
light of the Risen as well as to the
Christ. It is as Patrons of the
though Peter, Arts, generously
in the hour of committed to

Photo: L'Osservatore Romano

supreme trial, the protection
were seeking and appraisal of
that light which the cultural pat-
gave true faith to rimony of the
Paul. It is in this Vatican, who
sense, then, that made possible
the two images the result we
can become the admire today.
two acts of a single drama, the drama plated as a foretaste on the mountain, May the expression of my most cordial
of the Paschal Mystery: Cross and Res- when Jesus was transfigured before gratitude reach each and every one of
urrection, death and life, sin and grace. them: a mysterious event, the Trans- you.
The chronological order of the events figuration, which the large painting in We shall shortly be singing the Mag-
portrayed might be inverted, neverthe- this Chapel by Simone Cantarini pres- nificat. May Mary Most Holy, Teacher
less the plan of salvation emerges, the ents anew with unique force. In fact, of prayer and of adoration, together
plan that Christ realized in himself by however, the entire chapel the fres- with Saints Peter and Paul, obtain
bringing it to fruition, as we have just coes of Lorenzo Sabatini and Federico abundant graces for those who are
sung in the hymn of the Letter to the Zuccari, the decorations of numerous gathered in faith within this Chapel.
Philippians. For those who come to other artists brought here on another And this evening, thankful to God for
pray in this chapel, and above all for the occasion by Pope Gregory XIII all of his wonders, and especially for the
Pope, Peter and Paul become teachers it flows together into a single, unique Death and Resurrection of his Son, may
of faith. With their witness they invite hymn of the triumph of life and grace we lift up to him our praise also for this
us to go deeper, to meditate in silence over death and sin, in a symphony of work that reaches its completion today.
upon the mystery of the Cross, which worship and of love for Christ the Re- "To him who by the power at work
accompanies the Church until the end deemer that is highly evocative. within us is able to do far more abun-
of time, and to absorb the light of the Dear friends, at the end of this brief dantly than all that we ask or think, to
faith. It is thanks to this light that the meditation, I would like to thank all him be the glory in the Church and in
apostolic Community can extend to the those who have cooperated so that we Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever
ends of the earth the missionary and may once again enjoy this completely and ever! Amen" (Eph 3: 20-21).
evangelizing action entrusted to it by restored sacred place: Prof. Antonio
the Risen Christ. Solemn celebrations Paolucci and his predecessor Dr Fran- W
with the people are not held here. This cesco Buranelli, who, as Directors of
is where the Successor of Peter and his the Vatican Museums, have always On July 4, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI deliv-
collaborators meditate in silence and had this extremely important restora- ered the above homily during Vespers on
adore the living Christ, present above tion at heart; the various specialists the occasion of the reopening of the restored
all in the Most Holy Sacrament of the who, under the artistic direction of Pauline Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 41
B o o k R e v i e w

M onumental A ssembly H alls

Temples for Protestants: Studies the overall con- reader on an extensive tour of the most
in the Architectural Milieu of the ception of the important Reformed churches of cos-
Early Reformed Church and of the fortified Hu- mopolitan Amsterdam (including the
Lutheran Church, by Per Gustaf guenot town Suiderkerk and the Westerkerk) and
Hamberg, 1955. Trans. Nancy and the place of also details the adaptation of Catholic
Adler. Gothenberg, Sweden: the Protestant churches by Reformed congregations.
Department of Art History and temple within In Saint Bavo, Haarlem, for example,
Visual Studies, Gothenberg it—a simple although Protestants cleared the church
University, 2002. 272 pp. ISBN “monumental of Catholic art and stripped the altars,
9173464252. assembly hall” the center of preaching remained
potentially for where it was, and the congregation
Reviewed by Gretchen Buggeln both religious crowded into the east end of the nave
and secular under the medieval pulpit. This sort

n 1955, Per Gustaf Hamberg purposes, de- of continuity was not uncommon in
published in Swedish his signed to seat Dutch churches, leading to an inter-
Temples for Protestants, nearly ten thou- esting mix of old and new. Interiors
an extraordinarily well-researched, sand. Perret’s designs for rural church- retained some arrangements of older
nuanced study of the early (sixteenth- es are remarkably like the unadorned liturgical practices, and the style of ar-
and seventeenth-century) Reformed auditory spaces of early New England. chitecture was throughout this period a
and Lutheran Churches of Northern Hamberg contrasts Perret’s designs mix of a surprisingly persistent medi-
Europe and Scandinavia. Now, finally, with a utopian work by the German eval Gothic, Renaissance, and classical,
this illuminating and useful book is Johann Valentin Andrae, Republicae often mixed together in the same build-
available in English. As a scholar of Christianopolitanae, published in 1619 in ings. In sum, Hamberg writes, “official
early American Protestant architecture, Strasbourg. In the center of Andrae’s Calvinism, with its doctrine of predes-
I found myself wishing I had had access modest and practical city, the temple is tination and its often open hostility to
to this book years ago. It contains a magnificent round structure, full of art, did not prevent the development
numerous, thorough descriptions of light and beauty and hosting a central of a monumental church architecture.”
churches and fascinating discussions of crucifix. A true liturgy takes place at a Meanwhile, “there also emerged a
important relevant primary texts of the central altar, the walls are adorned with Free Church tabernacle environment
period, many of which are unavailable in pictures, and there is even a sculpted of Spartan simplicity … [that] came to
English. The translation is fluid, despite statue of Christ. Clearly Andrae was serve such different persuasions as the
minor inaccuracies. Lengthy quotes in rejecting iconoclasm, and Hamberg Arminian Calvinists who were some-
Latin, German, French, and Italian are argues that his design presages later thing of a cultural elite, the Lutherans
not translated, which is a bit frustrating eighteenth-century Lutheran church with their appreciation of art and love
for the provincial. Nonetheless, this is a architecture. Another important text of music, and the puritanically self-
necessary book for anyone interested in Hamberg discusses is Joseph Furt- denying Anabaptists with their total
the religious architecture of this period tenbach the Younger’s Kirchen Gebau, rejection of any kind of beauty” (149).
and its influence on later buildings. a pamphlet printed in Augsburg in Hamberg’s final chapters on Norwe-
In the first three chapters, Hamberg 1649 to instruct the designers of new, gian and Swedish churches show a
mines period texts to clarify the dif- small churches for war-torn regions. similar, if more conservative, develop-
ferent emphases of Catholic, Calvin- Hamberg calls this “the first real hand- ment, with regional characteristics such
ist, and Lutheran churches regarding book on the art of German Evangeli- as the common use of wood as primary
the architecture of worship. For in- cal church building,” a text that estab- building material. In his final chapter,
stance, he compares the Jesuit Cardinal lished common principles, such as the Hamberg describes the Swedish pro-
Roberto Bellarmino’s reaction to Prot- separation of the sexes in worship, and gression from “a long, late-flowering
estant views on art and architecture, promoted the combination altar-pulpit- Gothic survival of [indeterminate] con-
as stated in his Disputationes (ca. 1576), font-organ, as well as the use of a sec- fessional affiliation to an architecture
to the De Templis of Swiss Reformer ondary, “lay” altar. classical in form but pronouncedly
Rudolf Hospinianus (1587), the “most The final four chapters describe Protestant in spirit” (234).
important Protestant contributor to the in wonderful detail the churches of W
controversy.” Although the buildings Dutch Reformed and Dutch Free con-
of French Huguenots largely disap- gregations, the churches of Denmark- Gretchen Buggeln holds the Phyllis and
peared after the revocation of the Edict Norway and Sweden-Finland. For the Richard Duesenberg Chair of Christian-
of Nantes in 1685, Hamberg demon- scholar interested in the wider impact ity and the Arts at Valparaiso Univer-
strates the influence of the work of ar- of these churches, the two chapters on sity. She is the author of Temples of
chitects such as Jacques Perret through- the Dutch “Golden Age” buildings, Grace: The Material Transfomation
out northern Europe. His careful study with their “strange mix of traditional of Connecticut's Churches, 1790-1840
of Des Fortifications et Artifices, Architec- residua and radical innovation” are (New England, 2003). Email: Gretchen.
ture et Perspective de Jacques Perret shows most illuminating. Hamberg takes the

42 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

B o o k R e v i e w

N ew M exico R egionalism
Churches for the Southwest: The Ecclesias- buildings as well as Mexican. Meem’s
tical Architecture of John Gaw Meem, by residences during his work reflects each of
Stanford Lehmberg. W.W. Norton & career, but it is likely these styles, or archi-
Co., 2005. 128 pp. ISBN 0393731820. that his early experi- tectural modalities,
$50.00. ence with the restora- both for his churches
tion of churches had and for his secular
Reviewed by Norman Crowe a profound influence architecture—having
on his approach to defined the respec-

ohn Gaw Meem, while relatively architectural design. tive details, appro-
unknown outside New Mexico, is The humility Meem priate materials, and
regarded among New Mexicans felt from working expressive qualities
as their most significant interpreter on those great and of each. Perhaps
of regional forces in architecture. sacred buildings, I because Lehmberg
Lehmberg's book, the first to focus on believe, instilled in War Memorial Chapel at U.N.M. is a historian but not
the architect’s ecclesiastical designs, him a sense of hu- an architectural his-
provides a careful account of Meem’s mility toward architecture in general, torian, he shied away from more in-
engagement with church commissions which may be responsible for his focus depth descriptions of Meem's architec-
from about 1920 until his last church on traditional architecture and building tural theory and the way it manifested
design in 1949. Meem began his career methods across all his work. itself in his churches. To have done so
not by designing, but by restoring Particularly informative in this might have taken the book to a more
churches, especially very venerable book are the snippets of correspon- profound level, although at the same
ones—such as the San Estevan del Rey dence between Meem and building time it might have discouraged some
Mission, the only surviving church built committees, bishops, ministers, and readers who would find such discus-
prior to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and priests for whom he worked. These sions exclusive to the province of ar-
Saint Francis Cathedral of Santa Fe, communications demonstrate the chitects. But it is here that Meem's sig-
erected by Bishop Lamy in the 1860s. strong mutual respect Meem and nificance as an architect beyond New
It is likely that this early involvement his ecclesiastical clients had for one Mexico resides. Many skilled architects
in restoration set Meem's approach to another. Further, Lehmberg points out who worked during the same period
both sacred and secular architecture evidence of the importance of religion also designed works of significance
throughout his career. to Meem. He often contributed his own and beauty, but the added dimension
Born in Brazil, Meem came to the funds to special features of the church- of thoughtful attention to regional and
United States in pursuit of an education es he designed or reduced his commis- historical circumstances developed by
in engineering. When he was told he sions as an expression of his regard for Meem places him in the forefront of a
had tuberculosis and should find a san- the parishes, congregations, and clergy particularly noteworthy intellectual
atorium in the Southwest, he opted to he served. It is obvious that his church tradition. Lehmberg does point out
travel to Santa Fe, inspired by a poster commissions were more than just proj- however that Meem “possessed an
of its architecture he had seen in the ects of professional importance. exceptional understanding of the rela-
window of a New York travel agency. Implicit as one progresses through tionship between liturgy and space, the
He was encouraged to consider a career this book is Meem's keen sensitivity to intersection between religion, art, and
in architecture by a newfound friend, a liturgical requirements and traditions, history.”
Portuguese architect working in Cali- all the while carefully reflecting region- I would recommend this book to
fornia. After study and apprenticeship, al architectural attributes. His com- church building committee members
he began his practice by working on missions included designs for Presby- and clergy approaching the daunt-
the restoration of churches. terian, Lutheran, and Baptist churches, ing task of selecting an architect and
Lehmberg's book provides us with as well as the Roman Catholic and setting requirements for a new church
a step-by-step account of Meem's eccle- Episcopal churches that are among or the renovation and restoration of
siastical commissions and the develop- his better-known works. Lehmberg existing ecclesiastical architecture in
ment and refinement of his approach touches upon, but does not elaborate, their charge. This book provides a
to the design of churches. It is illus- Meem’s especially sensitive attention vital overview of the experience and
trated with excellent recent color pho- to the differing liturgical requirements engagement of a conscientious and
tographs throughout, accompanied by and specific historical settings of each knowledgeable architect in the design
earlier black and white photographs church. Additionally, the author does and renovation of churches.
and architectural drawings from the not delve very far into Meem’s lifelong W
Meem Archives at the University of involvement with theories of region-
New Mexico in Albuquerque, where alism in New Mexico architecture. In Norman Crowe is Professor Emeritus at
Meem was campus architect during the fact, it is Meem’s attention to regional the the University of Notre Dame's School
critical formative years of the U.N.M. precedents that led him to articulate of Architecture. He is the author of Nature
campus. Meem was architect of nu- an almost canonical clarification of and the Idea of a Man-Made World
merous university and commercial “styles” considered to be uniquely New (MIT Press, 1995). Email:

Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 43

B o o k R e v i e w

H ow S acred A rt F its into the D evotional L ife

The Art of the Sublime: Principles of connoisseurs, and cultural elitists who
Christian Art and Architecture, by Roger cherish the idea that museums have
Homan. Aldershot: Ashgate. 2006. 213 become the new temples to Beauty,
pp. ISBN 0754650731. 14 black-and- even as historic churches survive only
white illustrations. $99.00 on the tourist trade. The author dares
to state that kitsch holds a powerful
Reviewed by Michael Morris, op place in devotion and to ignore this fact
is to cut out a large portion of Christian
The author of this book, Roger art. He relies on many contemporary
Homan, is professor of religious Protestant theorists in his argumen-
studies at the University of Brighton tation (Margaret Miles, Frank Burch
in England. For Anglophiles the slim Brown, David Morgan) and rightly so,
volume will prove to be an absolute for Catholics have fallen comparatively
treat, for Professor Homan casts new behind in their appreciation and under-
light on English figures and subject standing of sacred art since Vatican II,
matter seldom treated in general not by the Council’s intent but by the
surveys of Christian art and archi- irrational surge of Catholic iconoclasm
tecture. This is done, however, at the that erupted afterward.
expense of omitting major figures and Perhaps Professor Homan’s book
monuments from the modern move- would have a more ecumenical appeal
ment on the Continent and in America, had he included some modern Catholic
thus rendering the book either ex- theorists in the mix. He mentions the
tremely chauvinistic or the right book his diaries for her 1989 biography of Protestant Tillich and yet ignores the
with the wrong title. the artist, she found accounts of pedo- Catholic thinkers who grappled with
At the very beginning of his work, philia, incest, and bestiality sprinkled the ideas that preceded the aesthetic
Professor Homan laments the loss of throughout. This caused some to re- malaise in which we now find our-
the beautiful language found in the appraise his work and even demand selves: Maurice Denis, Père Couturier,
Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and that Gill’s Stations of the Cross be Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, and
he abhors its replacement by the Alter- taken down from Westminster Cathe- Hans Urs von Balthasar are all missing.
native Service Book of 1980. The former dral in London. Knowing how an art- While Professor Homan’s discussion of
carried with it the encoded phrasing ist’s private life can influence the way Pugin is nothing short of delectable, he
and tradition of generations of believ- we look at his public art, the question leaves out major artists who have left
ers, while its modern replacement arises: How moral must an artist be in their mark on modern sacred art like
de-flowered the original, producing a order for his work to be embraced by Le Corbusier, Henri Matisse, Wassily
functional but dull offspring. the Christian community? Professor Kandinsky, Georges Rouault, and the
Ignoring the supportive work on Homan’s strongest chapter, “Morality abstract expressionists. Their work has
natural symbols that Mary Douglas ad- and Christian Art,” admits that too few now morphed down to the bargain
vanced in this area, Professor Homan artists can measure up to the fabled basement catalogues of contemporary
also fails to mention and compare Dominican painter Fra Angelico, who ecclesial architecture and parish church
the struggle found in contemporary allegedly fell on his knees while paint- decoration. An analysis of that begs
Roman Catholicism, where advocates ing and was overcome with tears as he scholarly attention. This is not the book
for a more beautiful translation of the formulated scenes of the Crucifixion. to address that subject, but for Anglo-
Mass align with those who would When the viewer is given information philes and Protestants wishing to con-
return to Latin itself in an effort to re- that Michelangelo had a boyfriend, that tinue the discourse on how sacred art
capture the sublime beauty of a ritual the model for Caravaggio’s Madonna fits into the devotional life of all Chris-
supported by cultic language. Profes- was a prostitute, and that the Carmel- tians, Professor Homan’s book is well
sor Homan’s concerns and arguments ite Fra Filippo Lippi impregnated the worth purchasing.
may be frustratingly parochial, but nun posing for him, does it make one
they are far from uninteresting. He is look at the excellence of their art in
a skillful writer who incorporates fas- a different way? Professor Homan W
cinating detail into his argumentation. deftly handles this issue and draws the
And the issues he raises are not small reader’s attention to ultimate questions
ones, but rather problems that have like: “Does a work of sacred art lead a Michael Morris, op, is a Dominican priest
plagued Christian art for centuries. For viewer to prayer?” If prayer is the ul- with a PhD. in art history. He teaches at
instance, Eric Gill had long been con- timate purpose for Christian art, then the Dominican School of Philosophy and
sidered England’s foremost engraver its ability to connect the human to God Theology in Berkeley, CA and writes reg-
of the twentieth century and a designer can be equally accomplished through ularly for Magnificat. Email: mmorris@
and sculptor of the highest rank. Yet high art and low. This becomes a prov-
when Fiona MacCarthy investigated ocation for old-school art historians,

44 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

B o o k R e v i e w

F rom the P ublishing H ouses

A S election of R ecent B ooks

Virginio life. Robin Jensen considers here a

Vespignani: broad range of topics relevant to Chris-
Architetto tian faith and culture, including the
tra Statto construction of sacred space, the use of
Pontificio art in worship and spiritual formation,
e Regno the way that visual art interprets sacred
d’Italia, by texts, and the power and danger of art
Clementi- from a historical and contemporary
na Barucci. perspective.
R o m e , W
I t a l y :
A r g o s The Medieval Cloister in England and
Edizioni, Wales, edited by Martin Henig and
2006. 382 John McNeill. London, UK: Journal of
pp. ISBN the British Archaeological Association,
8888690069 €75,00. 2006. 333pp. ISBN 978 1905981359.
Protagonist of the artistic scene
and Roman culture in the years of the This dedicated volume of the Journal
Pontificate of Pope Pius IX and of the of the British Archaeological Associa-
first decade of the united capital, archi-tion draws together ten papers which
tect Virginio Verspignani is a leading explore something of the art and archi-
figure of Italian architecture in the tecture, styles and uses, of the medieval
19th century. His work stretches from cloister in England and Wales. Contrib-
sacred edifices to social and commercial utors consider the continental context,
buildings, to the restoration and main- cloisters in English palaces, Benedictine
tenance of the gates and walls of Rome. and Augustinian cloister arcades in the W
Verspignani was active in the Pontifical 12th and 13th centuries, architecture
State where he designed many palazzi and meaning in Cistercian east ranges, The Holy Place: Architecture, Ideology,
for rising families, and he completed late medieval vaulted cloisters in the and History in Russia, by Konstantin
theaters in Orvieto and Viterbo. The West Country, cloisters at the cathedrals Akinsha and Grigorij Kozlov, with
text, in Italian, is a well-illustrated book
of Old Sarum, Canterbury, and Lincoln, Sylvia Hochfield. New Haven, CT:
with photos, plan and elevation draw- and assess the extent to which the clois- Yale University Press, 2007. 224 pp.
ings, and a few sketches. ter bosses at Norwich cathedral priory ISBN 9780300110272. $38.00.
reflect contemporary religious politics.
W The volume also contains an extended This book surveys two centuries
consideration and gazetteer of all Cis- of Russian history through a succes-
The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, tercian cloisters in England and Wales. sion of ambitious architectural proj-
and the Christian Community, by Robin ects designed for a single construc-
M. Jensen. Grand Rapids, MI: William W tion site in central Moscow. Czars,
B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Bolshevik rulers, and contemporary
2004. 164 pp. ISBN 9780802827968. Russian leaders alike have dreamed
$19.00. of glorious monuments to themselves
and their ideologies on this site. The
The Substance of Things Seen explores history of their efforts reflects the story
the intersection of art and faith, offer- of the nation itself and its repeated at-
ing thoughtful reflections on the way tempts to construct or reconstruct its
art functions in Christian life and prac- identity and to repudiate or resusci-
tice. Readable and featuring instruc- tate emblems of the past. The Holy
tive illustrations, this book is meant Place explores each project intended
to engage church leaders as well as for this ideologically-charged site and
artists in constructive conversation documents with 60 illustrations the
about the critical role that art can play grand projects—many of which were
in the renewal of Christian education, designed to be the world’s largest or
worship, and study. It also challenges tallest structure of their kind—that
anyone who thinks the arts are only of were built as well as those that were
marginal importance to the religious only dreamed.
Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009 45
B o o k R e v i e w

F rom the P ublishing H ouses

A S election of R ecent B ooks

The Architectural Drawings of Sir and Sacrament: Scottish Church Interiors

Christopher Wren at All Souls College, 1560-1860. Emphasizing the historical
Oxford: A Complete Catalogue, by and liturgical developments in the Scot-
Anthony Geraghty. Burlington, VT: tish Church and their effects on church
Lund Humphries, 2007. 296 pp. ISBN architecture, Yates offers the “most ac-
9780754640714. $135.00 curate and up-to-date list of ‘substan-
tially unaltered’ pre-1860 church inte-
This book describes one of the great riors available.” He includes a helpful
sources of British architectural history: chapter contrasting the Presbyterian
the collection of nearly five hundred churches with Roman Catholic and
drawings from the office of Sir Chris- Episcopal churches of the same period,
topher Wren, today housed at All Souls and a final chapter that takes these
College, Oxford. 

The collection reveals buildings to the present. Extensive ap-
how Wren went about designing one of pendices contribute to the book’s value
the largest buildings in Christendom as a research tool.
– St Paul's Cathedral; how he rebuilt
fifty parish churches after the Great W
Fire of London; and how he furnished W
England with some of its best-loved Henry Wilson: Practical Idealist, by
public buildings, including Hampton Anglican Church-Building in London Cyndy Manton. Cambridge, UK: The
Court Palace, the Royal Naval Hospital 1915-1945, by Michael Yelton & John Lutterworth Press, 2009. 284 pp. ISBN
at Greenwich, and the Library at Trinity Salmon. Reading, UK: Spire Books Ltd., 9780718830977. $105.00
College, Cambridge. 

The drawings 2007. 164 pp. ISBN 9781904965138.
also shed light on the internal work- $49.95, £24.95. Henry Wilson (1864 - 1934) worked
ings of Wren's office. Geraghty intro- in a highly individual style, uniting in-
duces us to Wren's team of assistants This is a comprehensive, illustrated fluences from the Arts & Crafts Move-
and draughtsmen, including the young record of London's inter-war church- ment and Art Nouveau with his own
Nicholas Hawksmoor, who spent the building activity. It shows the rich interpretation of traditional forms,
first twenty years of his career in Wren's variety of Anglican churches erected symbols and nature. Drawing on origi-

This is the first catalogue of the for the capital's expanding population, nal archives, biographical details and
All Souls drawings in sixty years, and some by famous and distinguished ar- insights from family members, this
the first to reproduce the whole of the chitects such as N.F. Cachmaille-Day, is the first published study devoted
collection in colour. It will be an indis- Sir Edward Maufe, Sir Charles Nichol- wholly to Wilson and his work. This
pensable work of reference for students son and A.E. Wiseman. This period of book discusses examples of his work
of British architectural history. church-building is neither popular nor throughout the UK and in North
much discussed, yet this study shows America, where he designed the bronze
W how many of the churches are of real entrance doors for a leading Boston tea
importance and quality. It offers an il- importer and the great West doors of
luminating introduction to the era, an the Cathedral of St. John the Divine,
entry for every church erected between New York. Of equal impact were his
1915 and 1945, a table of the architects exhibition designs, and his influential
responsible, and both interior and ex- teaching at the Royal College of Art,
terior photographs for almost every a t the
building. Central
School of
W Arts and
Preaching, Word, and Sacrament: Scot- a n d at
tish Church Interiors 1560-1860, by Nigel the Vitto-
Yates. London: T&T Clark, 2009. 224 ria Street
pp. ISBN 9780567031419. $130.00. School
for Sil-
Reviewed by Gretchen Buggeln versmiths
and Jew-
Published posthumously, Profes- ellers in
sor Nigel Yates’ final work is his me- Birming-
ticulously researched Preaching, Word ham.

46 Sacred Architecture Issue 16 2009

Sacred Architecture

Reliquary of St John Vianney, the Cure of Ars

“In Austria we carry on a constant struggle to keep our churches open,

accessible to the faithful and to others who are seeking, as it is a grave
wound to the Body of Christ that churches have their doors closed.”
~Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna
in Ars, France on September 30, 2009

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