Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MODERN CATHOLIC CHURCH ARCHITECTURE: LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP

As some of you may or may not know, I do like some contemporary church architecture, but certainly not all and I don't like every aspect of modern church architecture that I generally like.

Christ our Light Cathedral in Oakland and the Catholic Cathedral in San Francisco are two that I admire greatly. The Oakland Cathedral needs to be seen in person, pictures do not help sell it.

What you don't see in the pictures are the many different side chapels or shrines dedicated to various saints. These are wonder places to pray and for popular devotions.  The San Francisco Cathedral is much more open and airy. It has out in the open side shrines for popular devotion too.

At any rate enjoy this article and tell me what you think:


Melbourne, Australia, Jan 21, 2015 / 02:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).

- An upcoming symposium at 
 Australian Catholic University aims to study the relationship of liturgy and architecture, and takes the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland as a model for church architecture.

“The symposium is about making architecture and art for Catholic worship,”  a Jan. 16 release of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference press office stated.

With the theme “God is in the Detail,” The National Liturgical Architecture and Art Board (NLAAB) and Australian Catholic University, Melbourne will host the symposium on the “process of church design” at the ACU Melbourne campus Feb. 11–13, 2015.

The keynote addresses at the symposium will be delivered by the architect and liturgist who were instrumental in the design and inauguration of the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California: Craig Hartman, of Skidmore Owings & Merrill in San Francisco, and Fr. Paul Minnihan of the Diocese of Oakland.

The Australian bishop’s press office described that the symposium is intended for architects, artists, liturgists, clergy, teachers, church design consultants, theologians, academics, researchers, diocesan property officers, architecture and theology students, parishioners, and members of other Catholic communities, and all who are interested in church design today.

Organizers hope the symposium will facilitate a conversation about the essential importance and relationship between liturgy and architecture in both designing new churches and redesigning existing churches.

Fr Stephen Hackett, chair of the NLAAB, said the “Cathedral of Christ the Light is one of the great contemporary works of sacred architecture, bringing together tradition and innovation.”

Fr. Hackett added that “designed for the liturgy, the Cathedral of Christ the Light will be a key focus and point of reference during the symposium.”

Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide endorsed the importance of the symposium, saying, “I believe this is a very important moment for the whole Church in Australia to increase its understanding and competency in liturgical architecture and art.”

The event will also include the launch of “And When Churches are to be built: Preparation, Planning and Construction of Places of Worship,” a document of the Australian bishops conference on sacred architecture. The document is being prepared for publication by Liturgy Brisbane and is inspired by Sacrosanctum concilium, Vatican II's constitution on the sacred liturgy.

Fr. Tom Elich, who was on the drafting committee of the document, stated, “it will be invaluable for the Australian Church to have an accessible reference document, which can be used by clergy, parish planning teams and architects.”

“It collects together many ideas and principles necessary not only for building new churches, but also for evaluating and renovating existing liturgical spaces,” he said.

My Final Comment: I suspect this conference is kind of 1970's in scope and would like to turn traditional church architecture upside down. If so, it is ideological and narrow and does not take into account that we have moved from the narrow understanding of Liturgy prior to Summorum Pontificum to a more inclusive understanding which has ramification for church architecture and renovating exisiting buildings, especially those built in the 1970's. 

If this conference is a throw back to 1970's liturgical sensibilities, stay far, far, far away from it.

10 comments:

MR said...

I almost always dislike modern Church architecture, but I actually do like Christ the Light. I agree that it's better in person than in pictures.

Joe Potillor said...

While Modern certainly doesn't always equate to ugly, it's good when the classical principles are applied in a modern way...

quicumquevult said...

An excellent example of a tasteful yet modern church is the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa in Honolulu. It is generally...austere, with one large crucifix behind the altar (an altar of sizable dimensions, and made of marble, not a tiny wooden box); it has a statue/shrine of the Blessed Virgin to the left of the altar, and another to Vietnamese martyrs to the right of the altar. The sanctuary area is slightly elevated above everything else, and there is a large stained-glass window of St Theresa adorning the front of the church (front from the outside--back from the inside. So it's centered with the choir loft). The architecture of the building is definitively modern and simple, yet it adheres well to traditional principles and feels, through and through, like a Catholic church. I believe the church was built in 1963.

Marie said...

In the 1970's-80's, the Cathedral in San Francisco was often called "the giant washing machine agitator." My late husband referred to it as "the heavenly launching pad." It was "first among many" of the "buildings you love to hate" back then.

It now appears that with the passage of time, people have started to love it.

It may have something to do with how liberal or conservative its archbishop is at a given period.

Abp. Quinn was viewed as liberal in the 1970's. So was Abp. [now Cdl.] Levada, until he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as prefect of CDF, when he suddenly turned orthodox.

The current archbishop, Abp. Cordileone, is seen as heroic in his stand against homosexual sex practices in that shark-infested archdiocese.

I must go and take another look at the Cathedral.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Marie - The hyperbolic paraboloid that is the roof of the San Francisco cathedral is, at first sight, rather odd. It takes getting used to, to be sure.

The interior, on the other hand, is very attractive with far more space than expected and a brick floor. The SOARING ceiling is touched with just a bit of stained glass color and uplifting, to say the least.

John Nolan said...

It's perhaps unfair to judge a building without visiting it, but Christ the Light suffers from the main fault of modern architecture, particularly ecclesiastical architecture, in that the symbolism is too self-conscious and contrived. Some of the side chapels are attractive, but the main auditorium is vast, colourless and strangely alienating. The ceiling is supposed to symbolize a fish, but some observers have claimed it resembles the female pudenda (and once this is implanted in your mind it won't go away).

The 'sanctuary' is quite frankly a mess; the eye is drawn less to the cuboid altar than to the prominent crucifix which is set above the oversized ambo. (Why? It's surely unliturgical even in modern terms.)

Why is the font like a Jacuzzi? And why make it double as a water feature? Overdone and all-too-self-conscious symbolism. The crypt should have an altar but instead has something which is called a catafalque but resembles a mortuary slab or autopsy table.

I might come here for an organ recital and the reverberant acoustic would suit the performance of a Bruckner symphony, but I wouldn't want to hear Mass (17 languages, apparently, and I'll wager one of them isn't Latin).

Finally, the dedication seems decidedly non-Catholic; new Protestant churches tend to be called Christ the Something-or-other. Two near me are respectively Christ the Sower and Christ the Cornerstone.

Daniel said...

What we think of as "classic" and "traditional" church architecture is just a phase in history. The church of Europe's Middle Ages were unlike those that came before -- and certainly nothing like the catacombs that the humble early Christians worshipped in. Why should we be chained to that period of architecture. Why forever mimic the period when the church supported slavery and persecuted Jews and corrupt Popes grasped for worldly power? Christ the Light looks like a beautiful building, by the way.

George said...

Check out the design of this church:



New Miami Catholic Church

George said...

Christ the Light observations

I would have preferred that the cross on the exterior had been placed on top of the roof of the church and that the crucifix was larger and had greater prominence in the interior.
Also,wouldn't stain glass windows depicting events in the life of Christ been more "enlightening"?

The great churches of Christendom were not designed by those who were working solely from architectural inspiration and design principles.

It is possible to design a church interior to enhance the experience of the liturgy. Where is the modern day Christopher Wren?

Gene said...

"…when the Church supported slavery, persecuted jews, etc." What in the Hell does that have to do with architecture and building Churches to the glory of God? You liberal whiners think that just because something happened when there was slavery means it just awful, terrible (wring hands and run in circles) and must be rejected. Wake up…any age has horrible sins. There are terrible acts of inhumanity at any time in history. You fools just home in on slavery because you feel guilty about being white and having some money or means. There are many things in history far, far worse than slavery. Get a life...