Skip to comments.Great cathedrals are 'catechism in stone', says architect
Posted on 03/17/2007 4:00:13 PM PDT by NYer
Madison, WI, Mar 16, 2007 / 10:41 am (CNA).- Cathedrals should be a "catechism in stone that represents the whole diocese," said architect Duncan Stroik at a recent lecture on church architecture.
The associate professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame spoke at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center in Madison March 8th, as part of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series.
His talk addressed an imminent concern for the diocese. St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison was destroyed by fire in March 2005 and the diocese is currently discussing plans for a new cathedral.
According to the Catholic Herald, Stroik said great cathedrals around the world are symbols of their cities and form part of each citys identity.
He recounted the story of the 12th-century construction of the magnificent cathedral in the small French town of Chartres. It is one of the worlds finest cathedrals and examples of Gothic architecture, he said. The cathedral was rebuilt twice after being destroyed by fire.
Fires have scourged other important churches as well, including St. Paul Outside the Wall and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, he said.
Stroik said the "sacredness of the site" must be taken into account in the location of a cathedral. The site of St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison, whose cornerstone was laid in 1854, is sacred, he said. "There's a strong argument for rebuilding on the same site," Stroik emphasized.
He added that temples are usually the greatest work of architecture in a city. Historically it's been the temple, not the office building, apartments, or condos," he said.
According to St. Augustine, Stroik recalled, there are two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. The two must "talk" with each other, he said.
"The cathedral in the city should be salt and light. We look for architecture that can preach, be seen from the streets. Its placement and size has a conversation with the city architecture. The goal is to bring us all to the City of God."
The professor said he prefers cathedrals to be in the city, rather than in the suburbs, so that they can be in "dialogue" with the buildings of state and academia, providing a "living room" in the public square.
He is an advocate of providing a piazza, a garden or atrium with the cathedral open to public gatherings. Other elements of a great cathedral, he said, include a dome, towers or spires, a more private cloister garden, a baptistry (which used to be a separate building in earlier times), a prominent tabernacle, and smaller chapels.
It also needs a generous-sized sanctuary for large liturgical events, office space, meeting rooms, a rectory, as well as for the mission of charity, he added.
Stroik admitted that people may question spending money on "bricks and mortar" when the Church needs to serve the needy. But he said it is important to have a cathedral with the mission of charity to the poor. "Among the poorest must be counted those without faith or hope," he said.
Stroik's designs reflect his commitment to the principles of classical architecture. His involvement in the new renaissance of sacred architecture has led to the formation of the Society for Catholic Liturgy and the Sacred Architecture Journal, of which he is editor.
I had the most fortunate blessing to visit this Cathedral. Driving south on the Autoroute, the steeples of Chartres Cathedral gradually rise from the wheat fields until it encompasses the entire horizon.
The central tympanum illustrates the Apocalypse with a central Christ surrounded by four beasts (Revelations 4-5); the twenty-four Elders and angels are in the voussoirs. The tympanum to the left depicts Christ's Incarnation, the one to the right, his Ascension; thus the three tympana read together present a unified theme: Christ's entry into human history, his departure, and the end of time. This kind of unity, much more complex than suggested here, is typical of Gothic sculptural programs.
And then there is Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles (photo intentionally not posted).
Isn't that the one that looks like an apartment complex?
I'd love to hear what Duncan Stroik thinks of "The Taj Mahony" in
I'm not Catholic, but I do join the numerous LA Catholics that are
left cold by "The Big Box Cathedral". The interior does have some nice
touches...but it sure ain't what comes to mind when you hear the
Gothic makes sense if you visualize a mob of farmers chiselling away at stone each putting his own imaginative design into reality as best he can and without close supervision.
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel at St. Thomas Aquinas College.
He is in very good company, including Archbishop Chaput, at the Institute for Sacred Architecture.
Surprisingly young man.
Chartres is amazing. 4,000 to 6,000 individual sculptures. 120 major stainedglass windows and many smaller ones. And the view? Pay the minor fee imposed by the French government and climb up the long corkscrew steps...and look over the whole valley for 20 or 30 miles on a clear day. Just amazing.
But gee, people in the Middle Ages were all stupid, right? Man's greatest architecture was built centuries ago.
I live in St. Augustine, FL where we have a cathedral-basilica that is truly wonderful. It's small by European standards, and young (first part of the building dates to 1779), but it has been restored (after a fire in the 19th century) and reformed (in 1965 for the 400th anniversary of the city), and it's still beautiful. We were very fortunate that our renovation was done in 1965: before the bad guys took over, but too close to that time to permit or justify another renovation. Other churches and cathedrals were either destroyed or totally stripped at that time.
Someday, we're going to look back at 1970 and say, that was the year Satan almost overtook the Church. His spawn, such as Mahony, is still out there trying it. But it's too late and once again Satan has lost.
When my home archdiocesse cathredral, St. Joseph was distroyed by fire, ( the old gothic one ) back in the 50's, the new one which was built was modernistic.
Not at all!
Thank you both for bringing this Cathedral to life with your pictures and posts! It is truly magnificent.
But gee, people in the Middle Ages were all stupid, right?
Back then, Bibles were few in number. The common people were 'educated' by the Church through its architecture. The stained glass windows and sculptures each told the story of Christ and the Salvation He brought to mankind.
I work in the NYS Capitol which was constructed more than 100 years ago. One of its most magnificent details is the "Million Dollar" staircase.
To complete this complex staircase, 600 stone carvers were employed to carve the structure by hand. There are approximately 77 famous faces carved into the pillars. Among those are: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Generals Grant, Sherman and Sheridan, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Christopher Columbus, Walt Whitman, Susan B. Anthony and Clara Barton. Once all the famous faces were carved, the stone carvers were then allowed to carve faces of anyone they chose, including friends, family members and people off the street. These less famous faces are known as the "Capitol Unknowns." Along with faces, many animals, birds and fruits were carved into the banisters of the staircase.
The Great Western Staircase, also known as the "Million Dollar Staircase," was designed by architect Isaac Perry and took 13 years to complete.This staircase, made of Corsehill freestone from Scotland, is 119 feet high with a 3000 square foot skylight at the top. During World War II the skylight was covered to protect the building from possible air raids. After 60 years of darkness, the skylight was uncovered in August of 2002, once again revealing the full beauty of this great staircase. The pictures here show the domed glass laylight above the staircase. This laylight is then covered by an angled skylight on the Capitol roof.
These photos do not do it justice. The handrails, columns, and finials are filled with beautiful carvings of the famous, along with eagles, state flowers, and cherished family members (not identified). I was there for the restoration of the staircase and its unveiling. There are many cherubs carved into the staircase and one of them is the face of the grandmother of someone invited to be present for this unveiling.
Shortly after it was constructed, a fire broke out in the 3rd floor library. Soot and ash were imbeded into the soft sandstone of the staircase. Over the years, various cleaning agents were tested until finally, last year, the entire staircase was finally restored to its original magnificance. It stands in tribute to all those men, many of whom were immigrants, who carved it. Should you ever plan a visit to Albany NY, please let me know and I will give you a personal tour of the NYS Capitol. It is the oldest in the US AND, the only one without a dome. (The footing was built but could not support the dome).
And EXTREMELY expensive, not that any of this even mattered because only a small percentage of the population could even read. Literacy had no real bearing with the general public until the invention of the printing press in the mid-15th Century. The sola scriptura crowd has NEVER been able to put forward an explanation as to why God's plan of Salvation would necessitate cultural and technological advances that He knew would not occur for almost fifteen centuries.
Cool. Oklahoma used to be the other one without a dome, but they built one 5-6 years ago.
I thought it was better without!
Tennessee, New Mexico, Hawaii, North Dakota and Alaska also do not have domes. There may be more, but that is all I can think of at the moment.
No. There used to be about a dozen without domes. Oklahoma recently added a dome; a quick search indicates conflicting info as to whether the current number is 10 or 11.
Louisiana is one.
A 'for what it's worth' Wikipedia entry said that there are 13, Virginia, Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee.
It's too late at night to verify that, but I clicked on a picture of North Dakota, and am inspired to want to put up a contest thread for the ugliest state capitol building.
Thanks for doing the legwork. I'm not shocked that Wikipedia is wrong; In any event, it looks like we've documented that NY isn't the only one.
Ohio looks more like a turret than a rotunda.
Pinging NYer to post 17.
In 1899, after 32 years and three teams of architects, construction of the most expensive government building of its time, the New York State Capitol, was finally complete. In 1867, British architect Thomas Fuller initiated the design of the Capitol building. Eight years and three stories later, Fuller was replaced by two prominent American architects, Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson.
The decision to change architects midstream led to an unusual blend of Italian Renaissance and Romanesque architecture that many historians refer to as "The Battle of the Styles." Today, it is considered one of the most architecturally interesting government buildings in the United States.
Over the past 100 years, the Capitol Building has been plagued by a string of catastrophic events. In 1911, a fire devoured 450,000 books and 270,000 manuscripts in the State Library. It was one of the greatest library disasters of modern times. In 1887, a seven-pound chunk of stone dropped from the arched Assembly chamber ceiling, missing an assemblyman by inches. Years later, water seeped through the ceiling and discolored two murals on the upper walls. A new, flat wooden ceiling was built 20 feet below the previous one, forever sealing the original murals from public view. Even today, the Capitol Building suffers from a stubborn roof leak.Fast Facts:
It's quite the adventure working in this setting. Four years ago, when Lt. Gov. Betsy McCoy Ross did not run for re-election, the historians swooped down on her 2nd floor offices with the intent of restoring them. Over the years, they had been refashioned with drop ceilings and phony wood wallboard. The rooms were sealed off as they dismounted the 20th century additions. Underneath, they discovered a magnificent carved wood staircase, bookcases and a beautiful stone fireplace, all of which had been painted over the years. The paint was removed, the asbestos tossed and the original rooms restored to their magnificent glory. Adjacent to these rooms is another with carved wood ceilings. It had originally served as the state's Court of Appeals, until it outgrew its space. It turns out the the current Lt. Governor's office space was once the library that served the original Court of Appeals. The offices are 2 stories in height, filled with bookcases that once housed the reference material for the court.
The restoration of the NYS Capitol is an ongoing work. Just last month, the office where I work discovered a door that had been sealed up for more thatn 25 years. Over the weekend, workers took down the cement and stucco wall that once closed this door, revealing a new entrance to existing office space. Geraldo Rivera was not present nor were the bones of Jimmy Hoffa found in the concrete. There are no records to indicate just why that entrance had been covered up.
This Spring, historians will concentrate their efforts on the two stairwells that lead to the NYS Senate and Assembly. They have discovered that concealed skylights that once illuminated those spaces.
It is a fascinating building that includes one ghost and the carving of a devil, attributed to a carver fired from his job.
Should any of you decide to visit Albany NY, let me know and I will give you a personally guided tour of the State Capitol.
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Chartres Cathedral is, in the words of the British resident guide, Malcolm Miller, "the Bible in stone and glass".
His twice daily talks, deciphering the majestic stained glass windows, were different every day, and in twenty years,never repeated.
His message "The Old Testament is the New Testament veiled; the New Testament,the Old Testament unveiled" was demonstrated time and time again in his talks.
I just might take you up on that offer. My grandson is celebrating his 1st Communion in Rexford, NY April 14 and we plan to drive back for the occasion.
That looks like anything but a cathedral.