Saturday, September 30
Friday, September 29
In the words of one friend, "The only ones who could make Russians romanticize the Romanovs were the Bolsheveks."
Thursday, September 28
Cusack, Side Altars, and More
A reader chez Cusack also asks, in regard to my design, whether side altars are permitted, as I've shown them, in the transepts under current liturgy regs. While I admit I was being deliberately provocative by pushing the altar against the wall (and even then, I'd be curious to see how imperative the tone is in the original text given how many church regulations are hedged round with "possibly" and "somewhat" and the like, and, yes, yes, I know freestanding altars were also the ideal in Tridentine times, even if more honored in the breech than the observance), I actually have church law on my side. Much of what I've written below is cribbed from a paper Drew of the Holy Whapping posted last May on the subject, but here's what I said:
Sayeth the old GIRM (1970 version, which is actually stricter in this regard than the current text), "267. Minor altars should be fewer in number. In new churches they should be placed in chapels separated in some way from the body of the church." It doesn't specify what "some way" they should be separated, but that they shouldn't be out in the open. This has often been interpreted in a very extreme way since 1970, but since there is a long and legitimate history of the practice, it seems sensible that one should be fairly loose in interpreting this passage.Ici voila, and keep out an eye for more on my LA Cathedral next week.
An excessive number of altars crowding out the main altar is a bad thing (Seville Cathedral, are you listening?), but transept altars are "separated in some way" from the nave in some sense. Another document, the preface to the Rite of Dedication of an Altar, throws in the modifiers, emphasis mine, "somewhat separated if possible from the body of the church." The 2003 GIRM simply specifies one altar to be "preferable" in a church, without reference to side chapels, and I think in all likelyhood refers to preferring new churches not have two "high altars" as an unintentional imitation of the old high altar and island altar of sacrifice seen in some redesigned older churches. Indeed, there are extant regulations about how saints might be depicted above new side altars, which presupposes the erection of new side altars in some context anyway.
Considering we live in an age where the Pope has freely taken upon himself to ignore the spoilsport abolition of cassock oversleeves and Cardinal Arinze says regarding the use of the maniple, essentially, "why not?" I think we can get away with a fairly loose interpretation of this law. Of course, we must perservere in holy obedience and if I have been too fast and loose with the GIRM, one can always quiet one's conscience by calling them "side shrines" and waiting to dedicate them on some happier day when we needn't worry about such unfortunate issues.
In the mean time, why not check out Andrew's fine photos of the old Police Station? It was some time ago spared the wrecking ball and lavishly refurbished as an apartment building for movie stars, supermodels and anyone skinny enough to afford Little Italy's exorbitant rents. I hear Cindy Crawford owns a penthouse in the dome. This is an amazing little gem of a building, one of the finest in Manhattan, and I have the pleasure of seeing it every day on my walk to le métro from work. It's a curiously and astonishingly advanced Baroque for the U.S., despite its Beaux Arts vintage, with a few references to Wren and Hawksmoor thrown in for good measure. Every architect has a building he (or she, I love Julia Morgan and her spiritual daughters, too) wished he'd designed--and this one's mine.
Wednesday, September 27
...which was miraculously spared from a raging fire this past August.
Situated upon the side of Bulbul Mountain (9 kilometers from the ancient Greek city of Ephesus) is the Panaya Kapulu, the “House (or Gate) of the Most Holy One,” a small, two-room structure believed to have been the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary during Her sojourn to Ephesus with St. John. The physical details of this house and its location – set on a hill, rectangular in plan with a round back wall, apse and hearth, beside which ran a small stream – correspond to descriptions of Mary’s residence in Ephesus written by the Catholic mystic, Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1820).
(I know... the Remnant... but, the story wasn't exactly availible on CNN.)
You know, it would be nice if blasphemy was avoided out of respect towards all religions, and not out of fear-for-one's-life from adherents of one particular religion.
Note, also, how BBC summarizes The Comment from a few weeks ago:
The opera furore came two weeks after Pope Benedict XVI angered many Muslims by quoting from a medieval text that criticised some teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Oh, BBC. If you and the rest of the media had shown that kind of restraint 20 days ago, perhaps a murderous international incident would have been avoided..
Is there a canonist in the room?
Milingo, erstwhile a bishop of the Catholic Church, as we all know, unfortunately ordained four married men into the episcopate.
Unless, that is, if you ask the Vatican. The Vatican's Press Office is referring to the ordinands as "supposed bishops," questioning the VALIDITY of the consecration. Now, obviously, the ceremony was ILLICIT. But, surely it was "valid" insofar as "matter, form, intent" is concerned.
Canon Law, however, is even more pondersome. It says that a man is inhibited from recieving orders by schism. What does this mean? We don't absolutely believe that, because we recognize the orders of the schismatic Eastern Churches, and we recognize the orders of the SSPX.
So, what gives?
The relevant text of canon law:
Can. 1040 Those affected by any impediment, whether perpetual, which is called an irregularity, or simple, are prevented from receiving orders. The only impediments incurred, however, are those contained in the following canons.
Can. 1041 The following are irregular for receiving orders:
1/ a person who labors under some form of amentia or other psychic illness due to which, after experts have been consulted, he is judged unqualified to fulfill the ministry properly;
2/ a person who has committed the delict of apostasy, heresy, or schism;
3/ a person who has attempted marriage, even only civilly, while either impeded personally from entering marriage by a matrimonial bond, sacred orders, or a public perpetual vow of chastity, or with a woman bound by a valid marriage or restricted by the same type of vow;
Can. 1042 The following are simply impeded from receiving orders:
1/ a man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconate;
2/ a person who exercises an office or administration forbidden to clerics according to the norm of cann. ⇒ 285 and ⇒ 286 for which he must render an account, until he becomes free by having relinquished the office or administration and rendered the account;
3/ a neophyte unless he has been proven sufficiently in the judgment of the ordinary.
Tuesday, September 26
A New Church for St. Agnes Parish, New York City
Matthew Alderman. A New Church for St. Agnes Parish, New York. Principal Elevation.
St. Agnes Parish on 43rd Street, just one block east and one block up from the great pediment of Grand Central, is one of the comparative disappointments of the new classicism. While serving as a beacon of Christ in the city, architecturally it lacks the grasp of classical ornament displayed by similar projects by the likes of a Stroik, a Smith, a Marcantonio or a Mayernik, who might have cooked up an inviting little bit of Rome in the shadow of the Chrysler Building.
St. Agnes Church, New York, opened in 1998.
Perhaps I speak too harshly. I don't intend my comments to reflect on the congregation of this notable parish, with its fine Tridentine liturgies and enjoyable bookshop, and which several good friends of mine attend. The new building is not beyond help. I believe the current pastor wants to brighten up the place. The inside could be tidied up by inserting a few columns and half-columns into the gaps, a bit of color on the walls, a hanging baldachin, and doing something about the very obvious joints along the cornice, and the outside could be refaced. The fact they were able to put up anything at all in the wake of the infamous 1992 fire is astounding.
Otto Wagner. Kirche am Steinhof, Vienna.
The classic cruciform plan is continually worthy of reworking and adaption, but proved less successful on the relatively shallow site. Exploring other, less conventional precedents from the late Renaissance and early Baroque era might have resulted in something quite spectacular given that era's ability to squeeze the nave into the most wonderfully improbable ovals, circles and even hotdog-shaped crescents depending on the constraints of the site. Still, in age where liturgical orthodoxy is under fire, perhaps we architects must rein in our more extravagant flights of fancy for the greater good. Still, a suitable compromise might have been that of the Greek cross plan, preserving the processional aspect but providing it with a great central dome to mark the little church's place along the street and allowing a deeper sanctuary to set off the altar.
Borromini, the Rainaldis and others. Sant' Agnese, Rome. View from Piazza Navona.
While I dislike the way the classical language was used in the existing project, some reference to seventeenth century Rome seems very apt for a church dedicated to St. Agnes. Borromini was responsible in part for the church which marks the site of the little saint's martyrdom. (The whole thing was a group effort--Borromini planned out a good bit of the facade but the Rainaldis, father and son, also played important roles in the design, and I never can quite keep straight who did what.) Sant' Agnese in Agone is also apt to consider as it occupies an equally long, shallow and amazingly awkward site. Like several New York churches, the Roman Sant' Agnese is actually broader than it is wide, a fact carefully and cleverly disguised by the baroque modulation of its forms. Furthermore, St. Agnes's odd, broad facade with its stumpy towers is strongly reminiscent of the volumes of the lower register of its Roman cousin, and could be easily beautified using lessons learned from that splendid frontage. Baroque could offer us much to learn from, even in a comparatively simple classical design.
The former church, 1877-1992, with its baffling towers.
So, naturally, I decided to sketch up a hypothetical design inspired by Viennese art nouveau, which is a whole other can of worms. I'm being slightly flip here, but that's what I did. I think a budget baroque project, either from scratch or as a redesign of the existing conditions would make perfect sense and I may someday take a stab at it myself, but so far, I'd never had the opportunity to take on Otto Wagner and his pals before, and the mixture of muscular volumes and ornamental, vegetal delicacy that marks the Sezession struck me as equally able to represent the strength of little Agnes without forgetting her essential girlishness, and without lapsing into sentimentality. She was a virginal thirteen-year-old, which makes her perserverance even more astonishing, and that is worth recalling here.
Matthew Alderman. A New Church for St. Agnes Parish, New York. Principal Elevation.
The facade freely reimagines Borromini's Sant' Agnese along the lines of two Wagner works, his chapel at the Steinhof mental hospital and a proposed cathedral for Patras in Greece. The language is a classicized Austrian Art Nouveau inspired by the bold composition of his later works and the more traditional details of his earlier projects. The narthex consists of a single-story porch with glazed bronze-and-stained-glass openings brought forward between the two low towers; by pushing the main body of the nave back between them, it enlivens the oblique view visitors experience approaching the church from either side of the street, especially the view from the steps of the side entrances to Grand Central terminal and the subway. The front elevation is principally white stone, with the cornice, metalwork balustrades, triumphal palm-leaf crowns, and the images of St. Peter and St. Paul crowning the towers of verdigrissed copper; the upper portions of the facade are colored mosaic, predominantly gold and blue on the towers and the upper portions of the arch, with lighter shades predominating on the lower part of the arch. In addition to Sts. Peter and Paul, a large medallion of the Agnus Dei surrounded by angels decorates the top of the mosaic arch. Above the narthex is St. Agnes flanked by angels in the form of a polychrome statue.
Matthew Alderman. A New Church for St. Agnes Parish, New York. Section towards Altar.
The interior is a Greek cross plan with seating for 400. Its sail-vaulted dome is decorated in martyrial red and gold Art Nouveau motives recalling the cascading hair that miraculously and modestly covered the stripped martyr Agnes, with an oculus opening up into the dome's upper shell, lit by a stained-glass skylight of the Holy Ghost at its apex. I have been even freer in my interpretation here of Wagner's style, instead choosing an adapted Baroque with Sezession elements, though eschewing columns or pilasters in favor of paneling. The high altar is partially inset into a large arched liturgical east window, allowing for a slight dramatic backlighting without dazzling priest or congregants. Two transept doors lead (left) into the sacristy and (right) into the chapel of St. Emerentiana, St. Agnes's adoptive sister.
Matthew Alderman. A New Church for St. Agnes Parish, New York. Section towards transept.
The north and south transepts are occupied by side-altars dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Agnes's chronicler, St. Ambrose, while the inward-facing tribunes flanking the sanctuary house a small choirloft and organ chamber; while not the optimum arrangement, the comparatively small size of the church and the parish choir make such an arrangement, not unknown in liturgical history, workable in this context.
Matthew Alderman. A New Church for St. Agnes Parish, New York. Plan.
Most of the church's other functions would be housed in the existing parish house, which communicates with the church interior via the sacristy. A parish hall could be fitted into the church's lower level, and within the church interior, the baptistery stands in a chapel on the liturgical north side of the church, with confessionals built into the nave walls, while the parish bookstore is accessible via the narthex.
Those familiar with my previous work will notice some parallels with my last hypothetical city church project, Chicago's Our Lady Queen of the English Martyrs, and to some degree this is a tightening-up and shrinking down of a similar liturgical and practical parish program into a much more constrained site that nonetheless shared many of the same practical defects and similar solutions. While most suburban parishes sprawl on enormous campuses at present, the problem of the city church remains a potent challenge for would-be church architects, and as the real St. Agnes in New York has shown, constitutes a parochial and architectural issue which may well be as relevant today and in the future as our cities slowly reclaim the cultural, and, dare we hope spiritual, pre-eminence that they once possessed.
Sunday, September 24
To: Jack Chick, Liberal Secularists, and Neo-Nativist Immigration Opponents..
It's true! Catholics are trying to take over the country and establish a theocracy. Behold, the new $7 bill!
(Presumably, one dollar for every gift of the Holy Spirit, Spouse of Mary.)
(Or, if you ask Jack Chick, one dollar for ever hill of Rome.)
A New Anglican Church in America?
The Anglican Archbishops of the "Global South," speaking at a meeting in Rwanda, suggest replacing the ECUSA, or at least creating a second official incarnation of the Anglican Communion in the USA:
We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA. We have asked the Global South Steering Committee to develop such a proposal in consultation with the appropriate instruments of unity of the Communion. We understand the serious implications of this determination. We believe that we would be failing in our apostolic witness if we do not make this provision for those who hold firmly to a commitment to historic Anglican faith.
MM has more
Saturday, September 23
Protestant Converts and the Eastern Rites
In the question posted at "The Shrine" concerning the selection of rites by converts. A convert is expected to enter the rite which corresponds to the dissonant group to which he or she previously belonged. So a Syro-Antiochian Orthodox would become a Melkite Catholic, a member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church would become a Ukrainian Rite Catholic. A Protestant (i.e. dissonant non-oriental of any sort) would become a Latin Rite Catholic. An unbaptized person can choose their rite.
It is possible for a Protestant to become a member of a dissonant Eastern Church and then enter the Catholic Church in that rite, but the willingness to accept them as a member of that rite would be up to the bishop. In the case of clergy, the Protestant minister might become Orthodox, get ordained and then enter the Catholic Church and probably be accepted as a priest of that rite, rather than a Latin Rite priest. But that is an unusual case. As a way around the difficulty of getting a pastoral provision ordination as a married priest this starts to sound very much like wanting to have one's cake and eat it too. A conscientious bishop right wonder about the intentions of such a man and whether he wanted to have to deal with someone so determined to circumvent the canon law. But who knows.
Thursday, September 21
Church Architecture Conference at Mundelein!
You! Sitting there doing nothing! What are you waiting for? Go to Chicago and learn about building new and beautiful churches!
Muslims* Burn Nigerian Churches
The situation, sparked by a woman's alledged comments about Muhammed, has resulted in 1,000 African Christian refugees.
“It was calm during the night,” the bishop said, but was very concerned as the “police would not respond to the calls for protection from the Christians.”
According to one report the anger was said to have been “sparked off by an alleged blasphemous comment on Prophet Muhammed by a Christian woman, who reportedly spoke in reaction to a similarly irreverent statement about Jesus Christ by a male Muslim.”
*Not all Muslims, but nonetheless a few individuals who are, in fact, Muslim.
And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.
And he left all, rose up, and followed him.
And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.
But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
"You know you're a Catholic nerd if.."
...you not only own a both volumes of Peter Elliott's Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, but the priests you loan it to aren't surprised that you do.
Tuesday, September 19
Ladies and Gentlemen..
the priestie boyz!
Proelium Angelorum (St. Michael's Song) was my favorite, combining some of the best from that most awesome of papal CD's, Abba Pater.
Mother, Forgive Me suffers from the excessive textuality which plagues most of Christian rock. A song's a song, words set to music are just words set to music.
This seminary sounds awesome, though, and well-balanced. It reminds me of Fulton Sheen almost getting expelled from seminary for bowling in the hallways.
Man Builds His Own "Cathedral"
Read it here
The shell of the building is complete -- covering the 20x50 metre plot [photos]. Some 8,000m2 have been built -- or are underway. They include a complex ensemble of cloisters, offices, lodgings and a library. The cathedral already has a dome (modelled on St Peters) rising to some 40 metres, some 12 metres in diametre -- whose steel girders were raised with the aid of his six nephews using pulleys.
He has financed his work by rent from some inherited farmland -- some of which he has already sold. Donations from supporters and visitors are welcomed. Most of the construction materials used are recycled (buckets, pieces of wood, plastic tubes, etc) -- occasionally obtained from business and construction companies with excess materials for a job. Progress on the cathedral is therefore visibly marked by the nature and quality of materials that he acquires in this way. The columns are moulded using old petrol drums, the window arches carry the marks of the tires they were moulded in and bicycle wheels have been used as pulleys.
What if we all did that much work for God?
(Alpine Hat Tip to Don Jim.
Argh, Me Mateys
Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart.
Away to the cheating world go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do;
But I'll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King.
For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!
For I am a Pirate King!
ALL. You are!
Hurrah for the Pirate King!
With cat-like tread,
Upon our prey we steal;
In silence dread,
Our cautious way we feel.
No sound at all,
We never speak a word,
A fly's foot-fall
Would be distinctly heard ?
POLICE. (pianissimo) Tarantara, tarantara!
PIRATES. So stealthily the pirate creeps,
While all the household soundly sleeps.
Come, friends, who plough the sea,
Truce to navigation;
Take another station;
Let's vary piracee
With a little burglaree!
POLICE. (pianissimo) Tarantara, tarantara!
SAM. (distributing implements to various members of the gang)
Here's your crowbar and your centrebit,
Your life-preserver...you may want to hit!
Your silent matches, your dark lantern seize,
Take your file and your skeletonic keys.
We at the Shrine, of course, do not endorse pillaging, looting, rooting, tooting or the like, piracy on the high or low seas, though honestly we could care less about the East River.
Monday, September 18
Religion in Germany
A Baroque Student Project from Another Recent ND Alum
This project is for a Baroque Benedictine monastery outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. While perhaps a little fancy for Oklahoma, the High Baroque is a natural choice to express the Benedictine order. One can find similar examples of rural exuberance at that order's monastery in Melk, Austria.I think it is important to readers to realize than my championing of the Baroque is not an isolated oddity and that other people have come to see its power to express the joy and beauty of God's glory. Matt is one of those of my generation, while there are several of the generation of classical architects who preceded us who have similar interests, David Mayernik coming to mind particularly. There are also a fair number of other in-training architects of my generation, and several worthy of note who will graduate soon from ND, many of whom come to their love of this style out of their love of the faith. Perhaps Baroque, with its bold message and joyous awe has more relevance to today than some might think at first glance.
Matthew Enquist. Front elevation of Our Lady of the Assumption, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The church proper is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. One finds her adorning the arch above the entry door on the front façade. Sculptures of Peter and Paul are located on the upper right and left of the façade guarding the entrance into God’s House. A sculpture of Christ with the cross is placed at the pinnacle moment on the front façade, above Our Lady of the Assumption. A large fountain is located in the center of the piazza in front of the church, symbolizing our baptism, cleansing symbolically before one enters the church.
Matthew Enquist. Section of Our Lady of the Assumption, with surrounding Monastic Complex, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The interior of the church has a prominent baldachino located beneath the dome at the crossing. Sacramentally and architecturally, this it is the source and summit of the pilgrim’s experience of the church. It is the sacrificial altar of Christ and the source of our salvation. The altar is visually set apart to mark it as an otherworldly space where man most intimately encounters God. This altar has been given the care and dignity that one expects of the place where God makes Himself present to Man in the Eucharist.
Matthew Enquist. Perspective of Monastic Complex, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
These are only a few of the images of this project. If you have any comments or questions about it please feel free to e-mail me at: email@example.com, and I would be happy to further discuss any questions or comments about this design.
Gregorian Chant Mass on Notre Dame Campus!
I wanted to mention that I have started a Gregorian chant schola that will be singing at a mass in the Alumni Hall Chapel on Thursday, September 21st, at 5:15 pm. I hope you will be able to attend if you are interested. We will be singing the propers for the feast of St. Matthew, as well as the common chants of the mass. Please feel free to mention this to anyone who you think might be interested.This is an expansion and formalization of the work of an ad-hoc group that has been singing the 9 AM Saturday mass at Alumni Hall for the past three years, and of which I have extremely fond memories. I think we are likely to go from strength to strength in this regard. So, anyone on campus, come on down!
Sunday, September 17
Allah is not Akbhar
Three times, in the back, at a Children's Hospital.
It wasn't by animists.
It occurred to me the other day that the Christian God is not "Great." To say that God is Great ("Allahu Akbhar") is NOT, as it is in Islam, the central tenet of our religion.
The Christian God is **Good**. He is the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, as it were. God is not "Great," however; not great in that solely transcendant, utterly inscrutible, and stainlessly reverenced manner of greatness which Islam claims for Allah.
And Goodness can take on the form of Good Friday and a death on the Cross. The Crucifixion, and the theology and spirituality of the Cross, is what Islam so desperately needs. Because Allah is "Great" and can suffer no dishonor, no harm, Allah's prophets, likewise, can suffer no dishonor. This is why the Muslims are uber-sensitive about Mohammed. It is also why the Muslims abhor the idea that Jesus Christ was Crucified: they believe Jesus Christ existed as some manner of prophet, and because Christ was a prophet, could absolutely not have suffered the ignomity of the Cross.
However, we "lift high the Cross," promclaming "Christ crucified, foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block for the Jews." (1 Cor 1:23) In Jesus Christ, we see that God is Love (Deus Est Caritas), for in Jesus Christ the Divine Son is absolutely poured out for us, as an icon of the inner life of the Trinity (that the Son proceeds from the Father in the love of the Holy Spirit, One God), and also as a testimony of God's absolute love for us.
The Christian God can, and does, suffer ignomity, dishonor, and shame for the sake of love in the person of Jesus Christ. Muslims, rather, are quite insistent that God is not Love; Allah is Great, and if in Allah's determination Allah saves some human souls, it is less out of love than mercy. Whatever the motive, Allah is not constituted by love. But the Christian God IS, in His essence, Love: that is what the doctrine of the Trinity summarizes, that the One God fully exists (the Father), fully knows Himself (Logos or the Son), and fully loves His Infinite Goodness (the Holy Spirit). The Christian God IS love, not simply "loving," and therefore can relate to humanity only through Love. The Christian God not only can therefore, when He takes on human flesh, suffer dishonor and shame, but for the sake of loving a human race which does not respect love, God must suffer the ignomity of unrequited love.
Just as the Muslim prophet is expected to share in the fundamental greatness of God, the Christian can hope to share in the fundamental love of God. This means that, while the Muslim cannot suffer offence for his religion, the Christian life is constituted in a large part by suffering the misunderstanding and the love which Christ Himself, as God-Man, endured because of His Sacred Love. Christ's fate is our fate.
Yet, again, Christ's fate is our fate. Christ was crucified, but in this death the people of the world saw not only that He was God, but that He loved. Once put to death, Christ destroyed by the witness of His strength and love the lie of human hatred, the rejection which human hearts had of God's love. It cannot be doubted, then, that Christians, that the Church itself, will also be crucified by those who cannot understand the humility of Divine Love, but rather mock and reject it. However, once put to death, that very same death destroys the lie of God's remote, untarnished, indifferent Greatness: God is not Great, God is love.
I cannot but believe that the degree to which our Church continues to be burned and put to death will, ultimately, by the degree to which Islam realizes its vision of God's "Greatness" is empty, and instead--just as were the Romans--be converted to God's Love. To what degree Divine Providence wishes to crucify His Church to achieve this conversion of heart from the Muslim world, only time will tell; though, of course, God is hardly stingy when it comes to love.
No One Believes That Islam Is A Religion of Peace
Inside of a Greek Orthodox church in Tulkarm this Sunday
Show someone this picture the next time you're told that Islam respects Jesus Christ or other religions.
Archdiocese of Boston continues to hate on Trinity German
The Archdiocese's apparently systematic persecution of this parish is impressive. First they funnelled money out of the parish account to make the parish seem financially untenable. Are they now destroying its liturgical community and distinctiveness to drive the congregation away...?
Saturday, September 16
Continuing the Fawlty Towers Meme
~Manuel, The Builders
An Aside on Alice Rosenbaum
Still, as the exemplar of rampant western selfishness, the kind John Paul II presciently warned us about once we didn't have the communists to keep us on our toes, she has some role as a negative moral example. I did slog my way through Anthem once; I think it was a case of someone shoving it in my face and saying, "read this and tell me how wonderful you think it is." I skimmed, and I made some tactful small-talk afterwards. Yawn.
If you don't know it, don't bother. It's a tediously cautionary tale about the dangers of collectivism that puts the absurdum in reductio ad, and exemplifies the danger of trying to philosophize up a response to Marx without Mother Church's guiding hand. I read it, and even without knowing Ayn Rand's background, which I later found out, I couldn't help feeling something was somehow off in her argument, even if I wasn't sure what it was. I thought it subtly wrong, though I was moved by the plight of the characters--though I mistook the whole thing as an indictment of scientific dogmatism, which says more about me than Rand, I suppose. I think it probably made a better story that way.
What I find interesting is everyone brings up The Fountainhead whenever they hear I'm an architect, as if Howard Roark (not to be confused with Ricardo Montalban) could last five minutes at a Notre Dame Career Fair without going postal. No wonder the man in the street thinks we architects are egomaniacs. The funny thing is, speaking from experience, we're mostly a pretty mild-mannered and quiet lot, even if we do like fancy hors-d'oeuvres at parties.
I somehow doubt Ayn would like classicism, preferring glass and steel behemoths to the elegant ballet of precedent and compromise, of working within the rules, of bending them or breaking them with reason, as the unusual and the unique needs a background of normalcy to stand out against; invention can only be admired moving against the background of stars that is the canon of proportion or the examples of history; and while one may shine brighter than the other, they are all stars, and worthy of our respect.
Look at Roark: the man blows up a building at the end because of some balconies. We architects have to live every day with compromise, and as a consequence we learn to make the best of a situation--not in a suck-it-up sort of way, but in a way of making something beautiful out of the materials we've been dealt, whether it be by way of Michelangelo or MacGyver. (Though I'd avoid trying to make David out of two wads of chewing gum and a plastic shopping bag.) Occasionally clients make inconvenient requests (Mad Ludwig once drove a craftsman mad trying to find the right shade of blue for a lamp), but rather than resorting to dynamite, there's always the much less dangerous tool of people skills.
And that can mean anything. Sometimes it does mean backing down. More often than not, it results in a situation where both the client and the architect win--either quietly showing them they're mistaken, with careful examples and a lot of tact, or actually doing as you're told, however strange they may seem, and, much to your own surprise, coming up with something quite wonderful because of it. Challenges have to have boundaries and handicaps to make them really worth the trouble. Pity Roark didn't have the patience.
(You do know I'm trying very hard not to shout out, Da Plane, da Plane, right?)
So, they're going to slap balconies on your building? Pre-empt them, and design a building with balconies that looks like it doesn't have 'em! I mean, if the builder of Munich Cathedral could come up with what looks like at one trick spot like a church nave with no windows--the result of a bet with the Devil, which is not so different than working, like Roark did, with government agencies--surely a few measly patios are hardly worth breaking a sweat over!
The San Gennaro Festival, New York City
Though I do have to wonder--why does one festival require ten identical sausage-and-zeppole stands, two identical perfume-selling booths? Or, more to the point, are there any funnel-cake sellers left east of the Hudson who are not at Mulberry Street right now?
The Madonna in the forecourt of Precious Blood Church.
The saint of the day.
The properly Catholic way to celebrate.
Catholics love shiny things.
The aftermath on Lex of the annual German-American Day Parade today.
(St. Mary's Church, somewhere, U.S.A., by Blythe Design, which has a uniquely unfortunate websit
Friday, September 15
The Pope and the Byzantine Emperor's Quote about Islam
And... cue the angry bearded men...
The Pope speaks about the need for rationality in religion; he condemns violence in the promotion of religion; and Muslims respond by burning him in effigy.
Islam: Not so good at PR.
Knowing the treatment the Church usually gets on BBC comment boards, I logged onto their comment board about the Pope's quotation of that Byzantine emperor with some trepidation.
Actually, I was surprised that many people are actually recognizing
(1) It was a quotation
(2) The speech itself was promoting PEACE AND RELIGION
(2) The "offended" routine is getting a really, really old
(3) JUST BECAUSE IT'S HOLY TO YOU, DOESN'T MEAN ITS HOLY TO ME
That last bit is something I would ask muslims to say five times a day, as it were.
Of course, although it was a quotation and not His Holiness's own words, it's worth pointing out that he obviously did choose an unusually vivid and obscure quotation. Had any of us heard of this emperor before, besides Matthew? In thinking about this, I think we see again that now, 1 1/2 years after his election, just as in the case with the upcoming liturgical documents, Benedict is returning to the themes of his opening homily. He said at that time that we lived in a dictatorship of relativism. I honestly wouldn't have thought to employ the example which Benedict did, but it has certainly caused a stir: secularists are outraged that Benedict dare argue that Christianity is better or true, muslims are outraged that the Pope --the Pope-- didn't affirm that Islam is better or true. Is there a dictatorship of relativism? Benedict may very well have purposely let this vivid quote fly, just to prove precisely this point.
Still no one else is talking about the fact that a Turkish Muslim killed a German Catholic priest the very day that Benedict critized violence in the name of religion...
John Singer Sargent, Our Lady of Sorrows, 1916. Oil on canvas with wood and metal reliefs. 310 x 136 cm, part of his Triumph of Religion series at the Boston Public Library.
Is a New Style of Architecture Possible?
The Nebraska State Capitol: stylistic originality within the bounds of tradition
Taken in that context, a "low-style" church, not dependent necessarily on the classical orders or one particular traditional style but reflecting some aspect of its ultimate form, would be appropriate in some contexts. Certainly a small parish church in a country location would be ideal for such a manner of design. However, the rustic nature inherent in vernacular style would more likely than not be prohibitive for a monumental structure, or even a fairly large church. The high level of detail and refinement required by a large city church, a cathedral or a basilica, suggests that a traditional form of classicism (in all its variant and wide-ranging forms--for I'd include the whole western tradition, and a good bit of the East and Mesoamerica inasmuch as they possess a high-style architecture, a sort of "natural law" classicism if you will) would be more appropriate than the simpler vernacular style.
Or, and this is an important distinction, what would also be appropriate would be something in a "new" style, but articulated and decorated in a manner equal in quality and level of detail, to the work of the past. The work of Louis Sullivan and the later designs of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, both equally brilliant in both their articulation of massing and structure, and their differing but splendid sense of ornament, comes to mind in this regard. That sort of "vernacular" would be wholly appropriate. What it would look like is an open question, of course. It would be something, more likely than not, to evolved out of a pre-existing style as leaps into (or out of) the dark in matters of culture have been far rarer than people commonly suppose.
The emergence of such a post-postmodern non-classical style would not signal that the book was closed on classicism, as by its very nature, the classical tradition (and I include Gothic under that very large umbrella) is polyphonic. Indeed, I would view such a style as another permutation of the greater tradition, as the only way such a style could really emerge would be the careful study of past forms in some organic sense, in the same way that Gothic grew gradually from Romanesque, transmuted and attenuated through the lens of Dionysiac light-theology, or Art Nouveau from a mingling of natural forms and 19th century eclecticism.
Matt also made the comment asking whether the debate was between modernism/postmodernism (two very different things, but still dominated by a hermeneutic of rupture either in their rejection of classical modes or their ironic use of the same) and the organic classical tradition, or between the auditorium and more traditional models of church design. This is a good question, and one which might have had a slightly different answer before the Council. There were a few halting experiments combining Tridentine liturgical norms with a "modern" if not necessarily quite "modernistic" aesthetic. The results are interesting, even tolerable, if not approaching the brilliance of a Borromini or a Suger.
But the context was a bit different, too: the risks of modernity were lower then somewhat by the comparative standardization and hierarchical movements of the Tridentine liturgy would have made such a stark simplicity not nearly as damaging as such a parish church might be today. Some of these were stark and cold; some were merely ridiculous, such as Corbu's kitschy Rondschamp, while a very small number were rather appealing, in a semi-Cistercian sort of way.
However, unlike most modern churches, these are recognizably ecclesiastical in their shape and design. Often the small lessons they provide, though, might be better served when plugged back into the larger classical tradition--their individual sparks of genius were hindered somewhat by the crushing burden of having to be original throughout the whole design--the modern tendency to "try too hard," so to speak, and overstretch. Much recent work really isn't that original, when you get down to it--the entire oeuvre of Richard Meier is mostly '50s Corbusianism reheated in an unplugged microwave, for instance, while Zaha Hadid, Eisenman and the rest derive their pseudo-originality by going back, quite uncessarily, to square one, and can only take their stark visions so far without some sort of framework, no matter how vague or reworked.
Most great buildings have one or two good new ideas at their heart, supported by a framework of the tried and true which has been tweaked and tuned and subtly shifted to accomodate this single shining stroke of genius. Often they're very good ideas--but never before has it been demanded that the architect dream up every single good idea he puts into a building, in a spirit of false originality, which boils down to a frantic, bare and often featureless novelty. The opposite of trying to escape from history is not being in archaelogical thrall to it, but loving it, perhaps ignoring it occasionally, but always learning to live with it as an organic and growing presence.
Thursday, September 14
Instaurare omnia in Blogger
Islam, Violence, and Silence
...but THIS doesn't...
But Islam, it's the religion of peace.* Really. It is. What?
*Aside from the fact that it's also translated as "submission," not "peace"...
To think, despite Cardinal Ratzinger's onetime dispute of the premise, the Holy Spirit knew what he was up to on 19 April last year... it just took the world a bit to catch up, but what's new?
I think it is ironic. But, also, beautiful. One of Rocco's points is that "the grace of (papal) election" seems to have re-energized Joseph Ratzinger. I've actually commented a couple times that, when I see pictures of Benedict today, and recall the Shrine's breif visit with Card. Ratzinger in 2003, he looks younger, more active, more resolute. But God certainly grants the graces needed to fulfill His call.
On a Technical Note
We suspect that this deletion is either retribution for spreading Marian devotion amongst Protestants or because the account hosting that image expired...
I'm Going to France
Wednesday, September 13
Tuesday, September 12
They sell vesture for papal knights, really cool episcopal rings, the saturno...
Joannes III, Dei Gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniae, Russie, Prussiae, Masoviae, Samogitiae, Livoniae, Smolenscie, Kijoviae, Volhyniae, Podlachiae, Severiae, Czernichoviaeque, etc.
Culinary Legends connected with the Battle of Vienna, 1683
One legend is that the croissant was invented in Vienna, either in 1683 or in an earlier siege in 1529, to celebrate the defeat of the Turkish siege of the city, as a reference to the crescents on the Turkish flags. Although this version is supported by the fact that croissants in French Language are referred to as Viennoiserie and the French popular belief that Vienna born Marie Antoinette introduced the pastry to France in 1770, there is no evidence that croissants existed before the 19th century.For Blessed Marco d'Aviano, a Capuchin military chaplain, and the subject of a fair amount of controversy himself, see here.
Another legend from Vienna has the first bagel as being a gift to King Jan Sobieski to commemorate the King's victory over the Turks that year. The baked-good was fashioned in the form of a stirrup, to commemorate the victorious charge by the Polish cavalry. The truth of this legend is very uncertain, as there is a reference in 1610 to a similar-sounding bread, which may or may not have been the bagel.
After the battle, the Austrians discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Turkish encampment. Using this captured stock, Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki opened the third coffeehouse in Europe and the first in Vienna, where, according to legend, Kulczycki himself or Marco d'Aviano, the Capuchin friar and confidant of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, added milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee, thereby inventing cappuccino.
Surrender of Boabdil of Granada to the Catholic Monarchs, January 2, 1492.
One of our loyal readers suggested yesterday would be a good day to re-read Chesterton's Lepanto. Today, incidentally, would be an even better one, being the feast of the Holy Name of Mary and the anniversary of the historical event it commemorates, the conclusion of the Battle of Vienna (İkinci Viyana Kuşatması in Turkish) in 1683, where the forces of the great Jan III Sobieski, elected King of Poland and Lion of Lehistan, confounded the machinations of the Grand Turk himself and his general, vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha.
I am, however, reminded of the defeat of Abu 'abd Allah Muhammad XII, otherwise known as "the little," or el zogoybi, "the unfortunate," by the Catholic Sovereigns Fernando and Ysabel of Aragon and Castile on January 2, 1492, a day which marks the end of Spain's reconquest of the peninsula and the threshhold of her entry into the New World, a day full of the vivid red blood and red gold that is so characteristic of the Iberian Catholic character--gallant, visceral, direct, honorable to the point of touchiness, magnaminity and mercy to the defeated, and even a certain chivalric respect for their foes (when their conduct deserved it, of course), but not incapable of the controlled melancholy of reflection, aspects we find in one of Spain's more famous sons, that of Ignatius Loyola. It is good to recall the words of a popular song of the day, amid our own mourning here after September 11:
Levanta, Pascual, levanta
Aballemos a Granada
Que se suena qu'es tomada.
Lenata toste priado
Toma tu perro y currón,
Tu samarra y samarón,
Tus albogues y cayado
Vamos ver el gasajado
de aquella ciudad nombrada
Que se suena qu'es tomada.
Déxate desso, carillo,
Curemos bien del ganado,
No se meta en lo vedado,
Que nos prenda algún morillo,
Tañamos el caramillo,
Porque todo lo otro no es nada,
Que se suena qu'es tomada.
Yo te diré comó fue:
Que nuestra reina y el rey
Luzeros de nuestra ley,
Partieron de Santafé
Y partieron, soncas,
Que dizen que esta madrugada,
Que se suena qu'es tomada.
Luego allá estarán ya todos
Metidos en la ciudad
Con muy gran solemnidad
Con dulces cantos y modos
!O claridad de los godos,
Reyes de gloria nombrada!
Que se suena qu'es tomada.
¡Que consuelo y qué conhorte
Ver por torres y garitas
Alcar las cruces benditas!
¡O qué plazer y deporte!
Y entraba toda la crote a milagro atavida
Que se suena qu'es tomada.
Por vencer con tal victoria
Los reyes nuestros señores
Demos gracias y lores
Al eterno Rey de Gloria
Que jamás quedó memoria
De reyes tan acabada:
Que se suena qu'es tomada.
Get up, Pascual, get up,
Let's go with our flock to Granada,
They say the city's been taken!
Get up, hurry, make haste,
Get your dog and sack,
Your sheepskin and your apron,
Your shawm and shepherd's crook,
Let's go see the revels,
In that great city of renown:
They say the city's been taken!
I trow you think you've fooled me,
You're pulling my leg, I bet!
I tell you, even more than you,
I wish it were so,
But really, I see no proof
That what you say is true,
They say the city's been taken!
Don't talk such nonsense, my friend,
We had better tend our flocks
Lest they stray into hostile land,
Caught in a Moorish trap.
Let's pipe up a merry tune
For the rest is idle gossip,
They say the city's been taken!
I'll tell you how it came to pass:
Our queen and the kind,
The shining stars of our faith,
Rode out from Santafé
And truly, they both set out
Before the break of day:
They say the city's been taken!
The city with our assembled hosts
Must at this hour be teeming
With solemn celebrations
and manners sweet and singing.
O fairest of the Gothic line,
Our sovereigns of glorious name!
They say the city's been taken!
What comfort and what solace,
To see on every turret high
The blessed cross displayed!
What pleasure and what sport!
And all the Court pass through the gates,
Most splendidly arrayed:
They say the city's been taken!
For this victory of our lord and lady,
Our victorious kind and queen
Let us now give thanks and praise
To the eternal King of Glory
For never so perfect
A king was known to history:
They say the city's been taken!
~Juan del Enzina,
on the fall of the City of Granada to their Catholic Majesties, 2 January 1492
Doesn't it make you want to be Bavarian?
Monday, September 11
September 11 Concert
Readers in Central Illinois might be interested in a concert tonight commemorating the fifth anniversary of 9/11. It will be at 7:15pm in the Peoria Cathedral, and is free of charge. Several choirs are combining to perform Mozart's Requiem.
V. Domine, Jesu Christe, Rex gloriæ, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu. Libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum; sed signifer sanctus Michael repræsentet eas in lucem sanctam, quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus.
V. Hostias et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus; tu suscipe pro animabus illis, quarum hodie memoriam facimus. Fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam. Quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus.
Sunday, September 10
Watching JP II Play Baseball is Oddly Soothing
Sadly, however, the reforms of 1969 abolished the special adapted triregno with extra padding for slides into home plate (which was donated by Paul VI to the poor of Cooperstown, who took one look at it and wouldn't have anything to do with it), as well as abolishing the watered-silk lining on the catcher's mitts of the prelates di fichietti and the priveledge of the apostolic subdeacon to play shortstop. It is told, however, that Benedict would like to re-instate the custom of a minor cleric proceeding the Pope at the inaugural game of the season with a tripod holding a burning baseball while calling out, "Holy Father, thus passes the Infield Fly Rule."
Saturday, September 9
Baptist Speaks on Catholic Conversions
Here is a very thoughtful reflection by a Baptist on a recent splurge of Baptist-to-Catholic conversions.
While the gathering of Christ's faithful into a single fold brings joy to the hearts of all true Christians, certainly, this trend does contain an important critique of the Catholic Church: the people who enter the Church are usually, as alluded to by the referenced artile and your own personal experience, Protestant intellectuals--those who really know their faith. People who are ignorant of Christ almost never enter the Catholic Church immediately, and that is a serious and biting critique of the American Catholic Church and a failing which reflects extremely negatively on our ability to share faith in Jesus Christ with others.
The Mass with Fulton Sheen
I don't want the name "Bugnini" uttered in my presence for the next week.
Day in the Life of a Bavarian Priest
Bavarians Welcome the Pope!
The Pope arrives...
... and I am renewed in my resolve to get an Alpine hat.
At Marienplatz, where the roaring of helicopters flying above was already mixing with the first “Be-ne-detto” chants, the most devoted pope admirers had already secured a space near St. Mary’s column by noon to get as close as possible inside the high-security area. The pope wasn’t expected to arrive before 5:30 p.m.
“I’ve been here since 8:30 a.m. – I just wanted to take in some of the atmosphere,” said Sister Raphaela of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity order, who had come from the neighboring state of Baden-Württemberg, adding that she had become an admirer of the pope only recently.
“Before, I was neutral,” said the 43-year-old nun, sitting on the ground just behind the bars set up before the column. “My opinion changed once I started reading his books. I really like his language. He speaks directly to the heart.”
Read his books. They are brilliant.
That is why I am especially excited about Pope Benedict's travels: even if people come to see him simply out of curiousity, he will speak to their hearts about the heart of the Gospel. That in itself is an opportunity that merits all the preparation and all the pizzazz.
A Filling Station and Garage in the Style of the Roman Barochetto, with Spanish Elements. Matthew Alderman. Elevation of the garage. August 2006.
A Filling Station and Garage in the Style of the Roman Barochetto, with Spanish Elements. Matthew Alderman. Elevation of convenience store and diner, with pumps. August 2006.
Alert reader Ed sends me this singular item from the June issue of the magazine ID, a bit of (cough) "conceptual art" entitled Personal Church:
...it received an honorable mention. I'm wondering whether it might be the first item of "religious" nature to garner one of their awards since the depths of 1970s church design. Definitely NOT POD, if you ask me.It has the potential to PODdity, though--just imagine a version which is printed with images of a Gothic cathedral interior on the inside. That way the next time you're at, say, the Taj Mahoney, you can pretend you're at Chartres!
The Pope's off to Bavaria!
This is Cool
It would be even cooler, though, if they linked to us.. 0:)
Friday, September 8
Incidentally, while Hanacpachap is supposed to be the oldest piece of polyphonic music written in the Americas, there's several runners-up, such as a number of Nahuatl motets written by an Aztec aristocrat under the pen name of an actual Spanish composer of the era, Herrando Franco, which are also worth looking up, even if they're harder to find.
The Debauch'd Sloth, Recover'd by Dr. Stephen Maturin, FRS, RN, at San Roque in Brazil. Matthew Alderman. 8" x 10." Ink on Vellum, September 2006. A birthday gift for my father.
'In this bucket,' said Stephen, walking into the cabin, 'in this small half-bucket, now, I have the population of Dublin, London, and Paris combined: these animalculae--what is the matter with the sloth?' It was curled on Jack's knee, breathing heavily: its bowl and Jack's glass stood empty on the table. Stephen picked it up, peered into its affable bleary face, shook it, and hung it upon its rope. It seized hold with one fore and one hind foot, letting the others dangle limp, and went to sleep.
Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, 'Jack, you have debauched my sloth.'
~Patrick O'Brian, H.M.S. Surprise.
Alert reader Jordan sent me the above image, of a Catholic chaplain of Civil War vintage (also known, since I know one of you will bring this up, as the War between the States) in front of his field altar. I don't have much in the way of particulars, but the image stands for itself, for sure. I'm reminded, in our own time, of a number of re-enactors I've heard about who interpret men of the cloth; there was a Jonathan Edwards impersonator at Williamsburg some time ago--admittedly, a little far afield from his usual haunts--who did a traditionally ranting and long Great Awakening-style sermon, while I know of at least one fellow whose character is, like the authentic photo above, a Catholic army chaplain. Though the most unusual--and surely most ecumenical--re-enactor I can think of was a former-Lutheran convert Greek Orthodox priest who played the part of a Spanish missionary friar at a Florida historic site!
Thursday, September 7
Millions for Catholic Schools
Stressing Catholic identity:
Stollenwerk also mentioned that his vision of Catholic schools would ideally be to journey to what schools were like in the 1930s and 1940s, stressing Catholic identity, family involvement, discipline and the pastor’s involvement in the school.
Mr. Stollenwerk will give between $5-$100 million dollars, depending, I presume, on how responsive the Archdiocese is to his vision and how effective the spending proves to be.
Wednesday, September 6
Movie Luther on Chocolat and Babette's Feast
I agree with his general assessment of Babette's Feast, though I'd say that his logic behind casting the movie as Lutheran really marks it more as a Catholic film; at the very least, if it is Lutheran, it is of a high-church and distinctly sacramental Lutheranism (which is not unknown, of course) dominated by a viewpoint historically more associated with Catholicism rather than the American varieties of Protestantism. But then, I would say that.
The Hero's Dressed in White
Monday, September 4
From the Mouth of Luther
The tagline for this thing was: "We don't all believe the same things, but we believe in God and in each other."
Think about that, my Lutherans—they believe in God AND in each other. God and the jackanapes who is stealing from the collection plate in order to feed his nasal spray habit! And is Our Lord's name mentioned anywhere? Heaven forbid—that would be too parochial!
A Few Remarks on Classical Architecture Today
But there's always a precedent, somewhere, and the past's constant self-referentiality and building upon itself, provides a solution to each problem--a solution which, by its very referencing, is transformed by the situation to become something quite new. As one architectural historian put it, "If nothing is original, then much originality is possible." The classical tradition, defined at its broadest extent to include everything up to the traumatic break with the past that marks some aspects of Gropius and Corbu's work, and even a few bits after that break, includes a good deal of humbler, astylar work, not high-style or even strictly speaking classical in the sense understood by the American public.
Before I go on, I will admit that some will criticize my audaciously vague definition of "classicism" as essentially everything before, say, 1925, and everything after as some sort of modernism. However, it's hard to avoid the fact that the schism wrought by the Bauhaus and all its empty works was deeper and far more traumatic than anything before it. There was always some appeal to historic authority--whether or not you agree it was well-conceived or not--in the innovations of Alberti, of Bernini's gilding and Laugier's primitivism, or even Gottfried Semper's fanciful theories of carpet architecture. Now, an unyielding archaeologism or primitivism never really satisfies, but neither does mere whim: we need both dour Vitruvius and that wonderful exhibitionist Dinocrates in his leopard-skin. (Dinocrates is famous for oiling himself up like an athlete, putting on a Hercules costume and waltzing into Alexander the Great's camp with his wildly imaginative but technically misbegotten plans to terraform Mount Athos into a giant statue of the conqueror, incidentally). The key is balance.
I'm focusing on modernism of the Bauhaus variety simply because it's easy to define and has evident rules and ideals, and because many of its unconscious principles, translated into bottom-line accountancy, still rule the building trades; and their universality in the postwar universe also accounts for much of the death of craft. Postmodernism is more of an elaborate practical joke on the consumer, and I wouldn't even know where to begin with the likes of Zaha Hadid, whose projects resemble nothing so much as a crashed Millenium Falcon. Though the Bauhaus shares with these more contemporary projects an equal desire to constantly re-invent the wheel and a certain ignorance or indifference to ornament.
One needn't slather a facade with Manueline corkscrews and rocaille for it to have ornament--but some sort of meditation, incarnation, expression of the building's inner, unseen self, is necessary. It's not my place here to mediate between the different interpretations of that ornament, which some say is an expression of the building's techtonics, and others call iconographic, and still others say is some blend of both. But the notion of mediation remains; even old Corbu couldn't get away with it in spite of himself. You can't escape history. The more we consider Modernism, the less original it seems in this regard, and the more it becomes just another passing movement no different from the rest, and a rather lackluster one at that. Walter C. Kidney, in his curious, sometimes wrongheaded but also intriguing book The Architecture of Choice, detailing what he terms the "eclectic architecture" of the turn of the last century, points out that "structural honesty" in the modern sense, is largely a chimera:
The modernists, of course, affected to believe that the new constructinal methods and materials should be used "frankly," and regarded any attempt to cover or coax them into conformity with the Styles [sic] as dishonest... As we have seen, though, engineering is indifferent to geometrical elegance; and expedient balance of performance, time and money is what counts... For that matter, not all machinery surfaces were presentable, around 1930, at the Museum of Modern Art. Functional beauty, then, is an occasional coindicence in modern engineering (and often due to the hand of the industrial designer) rather than the necessary result of letting the engineer have his own way. To obtain that beauty infallibly, artistic judgment, not severe practicality, is needed. Moreover, architecture--including that admired by and produced by the modernists--has always presented an edited version of constructional facts. Japanese frame architecture, seemingly so straightforward, abounds in small shams introduced for the sake of finish. The Gothic cathedral dramatizes its structure with shafts, clustered around the piers, that support absolutely nothing and ribs that are often totally unnecessary.Kidney goes on to mention several modernist "shams" of sorts, none of which are particularly shocking to an old classicist such as myself, but seem to put the lie to the tiresome prayerwheeling of modernist principles, which are really more aesthetic choices than constructional principles, and rather shallow ones at that.
In today's world of insulation, wiring and more, even the remote possibility of modernist "structural honesty" is utterly gone. Sadly, however, while history could have tolerated such adolescent posturing as just another silly fad, Mies, Gropius and co. effectively were not satisfied with shutting out the past, but the universality of their faintly ridiculous idea also ensured the death of craft. It was possible to build a grand and well-detailed structure on par with the productions of the American Renaissance as late as 1959, the date of the construction of Our Saviour's in Manhattan with its extravagant woodwork and monolithic sanctuary columns. (Even the modern churches built then aren't so bad due to that high residual use of craftsmanship, good materials, precious materials, in fact, and also the retention of the orthodox Tridentine liturgical structure of the altar.) Now, it's virtually unthinkable except with an unlimited budget and limitless time. This can change. There's nothing to say we can't undo this cultural hecatomb.
What is needed is a revival of good craftsmanship and handywork, which exists in other countries and even in small isolated pockets here and there. What is needed is to push the envelope, and demand better from contractors, plasterers and the like. Even then, more can be done than we think if we are clever about our design. I am notorious for my extravagant architectural concoctions, but I've also boiled down my hypothetical designs to more manageable productions before. Simplicity is only possible after exploring the complete package of the complex.
It is simply a matter of prioritizing detail on the places where it can't be skimped, or using good materials simply, or using a style--Romanesque, Low Baroque, art deco, or a clever but budgeted classicism--which is suited to a plain interpretation. There are simple baroque doorframes and simple baroque shapes that can enliven an otherwise very austere facade and give a bit more zip to it. Borromini, the ultimate cheapskate master builder, excelled with such projects. The assumption need not be that whole historical eras should be cordoned off because of their budgets. There were poor churchmen in Baroque Rome, too.
A reappraisal of our materials today is also crucial. What makes most of the budget-Bauhaus buildings or botched pseudo-traditional churches even more awful than their predecessors is a simple inability to use good, permanent materials. Many building practices today are designed with a twenty-year lifespan for our buildings, and new buildings get older far quicker than ancient ones do. Good materials are often not cheap, but sometimes building cheap doesn't entail using rotten stopgaps. There may also be new materials worth developing in labs and test facilities which may have the best of old and new alike.
There are also the possibilities inherent in laser-cutting, three-dimensional computer sculpting and other industrial technologies which may place good ornament, even custom-made ornament, within the reach of Everyman, or every parish. I can't speak from experience, but I know such technologies exist out there somewhere, and remain unmined by the classicist. The problem is, the right people aren't talking and putting their heads together. The average builder has very little interest in classical theory, while the high-budget nature of most classical buildings today makes such experiments unnecessary in the current state of things. I'm not complaining--it's just the way things work. But someone somewhere needs to think about such things and get the ball rolling if we're going to make the classical--or the Gothic, or Romanesque, or some new style equal in beauty if not quite the same, for that matter--as hip, as popular, and as ubiquitous as it used to be.
"Oh, not that Index..."
Sunday, September 3
I randomly googled "catholic church architect," and this was among the results. The interiors are uniformly awful, but--interestingly--most all of the exteriors attempt to look like Churches.
Perhaps it suggests that even those dedicated to innovative Church architecture are feeling too much pressure from their clients for "Churches that look like churches" to avoid giving them at least decent exteriors? Thoughts?
(NB: Don't look at what they did to Immaculate Conception. You don't want to know.)
Does anyone know where I can find it online??
Saturday, September 2
It Does Exist!
I think we should 'defy' the theologians - as the Synod has - by going ahead and helping parish priests better prepare their homilies, to make people sense the presence of the Word: the Lord speaks to us today, not only in the past.
I have been reading in recent days the draft for the post-
Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. I have seen with satisfaction that this 'defiance' is kept in the models prepared for homilies. Ultimately, the parish priest must prepare his homily in his context, speaking to his parish. But he may need some help to understand and make others understand the actual 'present-ness' of the Word of God, which is never a Word of the past, but always a Word for today.
So, whatever else it says, at least it will help priests (1) write better homilies (2) with a presumably Patristic, but at very least not historical-critical, method of exegesis.
Vatican Photo Archives
Photos from the Holy Year of Pius XI, I assume in 1925.
Question for our Readers
That being the case, can't the Eastern Catholic Churches provide a sort of alternative to the "Pastoral Provision"--which is to say, can't a Protestant interested in being in communion with Pope Benedict XVI, gloriously reigning, become an Eastern Catholic priest, retain his family, and not suffer the constant culture shock of going against the celibate grain in the Roman Rite?
Obviously, such a person would surrender his Western liturgical patrimony.. But it seems to me that such a thing should, in theory, be possible. If it is, how come we don't hear about it actually.. happening?
One of my aunts gave me this picture recently. It's really cool: it's a picture of our family crest, taken by our cousin's house in the old country.
Until a few years ago, I didn't know we even had one. Then I saw a description of it, but didn't know the colors. But this picture shows both the colors and some authentic ornamentation around the crest, which is really cool.
The blocked out information includes the year "1302," which is even more cool. Hurray, Christendom!