Monday, January 22


St. John the Unfinished

Another Cram-related trawl through the Time archives reveals the twists and turns of the continuing saga of the most peculiar cathedral in Christendom, St. John the Divine. Some highlights:

In New York: Mortar and the Cathedral. In which we hear about the historic decision to start up work again, using appropriately medieval methods, on the cathedral's towers and facade in 1981, despite the usual noises being made by the usual persons.

A Dome for the Divine. Detailing one of a series of surreal stopgap proposals, this 1966 article mentions a proposal to replace Cram's putative spire with "a dome made of concrete louvers alternating with panels of colored glass." The mind reels. I suppose it's not a bad idea in and of itself, but first, I'd take the precaution of bringing Gaudi back to life just in case.

Modern Divine. Another neurotically modern attempt to complete the cathedral, this one from 1955, included a proposal to build a spire "of open metalwork, echoing the George Washington Bridge towers up the river. It might be a ring of tall masts from which the crossing roof could be suspended." Totally wrong for the site, but once again intriguing in a Gaudi-esque sort of way. However, I have a feeling what I'm imagining and what the author was proposing are about as different as the Victor Horta House and an I.M. Pei monstrosity.

The Unfinished Cathedral. And one from 1945, which pinpoints the moment when the reredos got torn out, one of the most aesthetically disastrous choices that has been inflicted on the unfinished structure.

Grandest Vista. The opening of the nave--on December 7, 1941. Little did they know...

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