Tuesday, January 10, 2012

St. Louis Catholic Church, Memphis

Alert reader Michael A. Beaureagard recently emailed me to point out a rather handsome renovation:

I wanted to share with you a renovation at St. Louis Church in Memphis [...] that was recently completed.

The church was built in the late 1950s in an austere style prevalent at that time. Little changed after Vatican II. Originally, there was a very plain marble altar attached to the back wall with a freestanding tabernacle on top. In the late 1990s, the original altar was removed and the tabernacle was placed upon a pedestal. A matching altar of sacrifice and ambo were made at this time as well.

The parish desired to have the church reflect a classical style of architecture. A baldacchino was added, and the entire sanctuary and appointments were redesigned. The new stained glass behind that altar (Sainte-Chapelle in Paris was the inspiration with the connection of King St. Louis) is artificially lit. [...]

The pastor, Msgr. John McArthur was very instrumental in the redesign. Victor Buchholz, of the firm of Looney Ricks Kiss in Memphis, was the principal architect.

I normally am somewhat cautious about using a fairly high register of classical elements in a mid-century modern setting, but I am quite impressed at how the fusion succeeded here. The artificially-lit stained glass, according to Mr. Beauregard, is also "one of best [he has] seen - it can be set at 'full sunlight' during the day or a 'twilight' setting for early mornings, evenings and night."

My only comment is to remark that a stronger liturgical plan would have been achieved by placing the altar underneath the baldachin, rather than associating the baldachin with the tabernacle shrine, but I also recognize there may have been local factors in laying out the design of which I might be unaware. On the whole, the project shows considerable judiciousness and resourcefulness in its strategic application of traditional elements to what was once a rather dry modernistic interior. Photos below courtesy of Looney Ricks Kiss.

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