Monday, September 29
An Interesting Neo-Colonial Curiosity
These are some shots I took last winter of the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton down near the Battery on the extreme southern tip of Manhattan. It's an interesting curiosity as not only was it constructed in 1965, and thus represents the last, attenuated gasp of architectural normalcy within the archdiocese, but it's also a belated example of the inter- and post-war American Catholic fascination with Colonial classicism spearheaded by Cardinal Mundelein at the seminary named after him in Chicago.
While the idea of a distinctly American expression within liturgical art is certainly a laudable idea, the various experiments in the style tended to be somewhat of a mixed bag, and tended to work better as more Baroque and European classical elements were added to the mix. (In this case, the rather unusual Baroque oval plan of the nave). It is also interesting that as this style came into use, a more distinctly modern and quite uniquely American expression of liturgical art had blossomed in the form of the Gothic revivalism of Cram and Goodhue and their Catholic alter-ego Charles Maginnis.
There are a few other examples of this style in New York, the most successful interior being Corpus Christi, with its winged high altar with equal touches of medieval and Baroque, and the best exterior the pleasantly massive, simple facade of Our Lady of Victory on Wall Street, which blends Colonial with the outline of what might be called Minimalist Gesù Baroque. But that is a subject for another post.