Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An Unfortunate New Project: Saskatoon Cathedral

The inherent conservatism of the Church, oftentimes a boon, sometimes manifests itself in the oddest ways. Usually it is merely picturesque--the seldom-seen praegustatio of a pontifical mass, priests called Dominus in Latin texts, the catacomb-age custom in most rites of the Extraordinary Form of reciting the Pater Noster silently lest any catechumens or pagans be listening in.

Unfortunately, this also leaves us with music and vestments, churches and convents all designed with the sensitivity of cutting-age 1970s design. Though the tide has been turning for the past decade and a sort of trickle-down traditionalism has started to coat even the more radical designs. Los Angeles Cathedral had its sanctoral tapestries and its massive stone altar, while the disappointing new cathedral in Houston had a certain classicism to it, even if it was the classicism of 1956 Yugoslavia rather than anywhere else.

However, I was recently alerted to the existence of a proposed new cathedral in Saskatoon, a tediously hip project that might have been moderately innovative sometime during the early 1980s, but seems almost quaint at present. Indeed, I remember, while in grade-school, running across a similar church with an identical two-way tabernacle and Eucharistic broom-cupboard stuffed to one side, the net result of which is at least half the congregation has turned their backs on the reserved Lord.

As far as I know, this is the first time the project's renderings have been shown on the Internet. I would be curious to see if anyone knows anything else.

I will limit myself, in matters aesthetic, to commenting that even in terms of modernistic architecture, it is distinctly antiquated and rather unimaginative. At the very least Frank Gehry can be flashily interesting if chaotic, Richard Meier luminous if sterile, and Our Lady of the Angels was at the very least made of solid, dignified materials. This, on the other hand, is St. Jetson and All Rockets, or Our Lady of the Crashed Millenium Falcon.

Most of our readers will be able to point to the numerous functional difficulties posed by the design and perhaps some sort of letter-writing campaign might be in order. While there is nothing--sadly--out of the ordinary about such a design, certainly a study of the GIRM and the Pope's writings will reveal many problems, not to mention the Motu Proprio, for a cathedral ought to be designed with both legally-sanctioned, papally-encouraged forms of the Roman Rite in mind. Be measured; be charitable; be reasonable; cite your sources, not your feelings; and be firm. Please, at least try; it's one thing to engage in combox bloodsports, but bishops still deserve some respect in this day and age, whatever their taste in art. Nevertheless, the young people of the Church deserve better from their reverend fathers in Christ.

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