Thursday, July 26, 2007

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

For God, For Country and For Yale has a fine post on the recent renovation of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Harrisburg, which now looks exquisite with its ugly red carpeting gone and its splendid nineteenth-century Beaux-Arts style interior done up in striking aquamarine, gold and crimson, clear evidence of a pre-existing and quite vivid tradition of classical architecture in Catholic America existing alongside that of the Gothic so well-known and loved by our readers.

While I dislike freestanding altars without baldachins, they have done a good job of visually integrating it with the old reredos and, more importantly, raising it on a lofty predella, thus giving it the presence required of such a place of sacrifice. The whiteness of the altar against the bright and cheery tones of the walls also constitutes a brilliant and favorable use of color to highlight the altar as the church's liturgical apex.

As at Philadelphia, the tabernacle has also returned to its place at the center of the sanctuary. This is most heartening even if perhaps it is a deviation from the traditional norms for cathedrals (though not parish churches), albeit a rubrical departure once so common as to almost constitute a tradition of its own in pre-Conciliar American Catholicism. While in the ideal, a cathedral probably ought not to be seen as a teaching model for parish churches, in practice they frequently are, so this return will surely inspire others to bring Christ to the center of their sanctuaries. Surely in this instance, we cannot complain. In time, perhaps, such guidance from above will be unnecessary.

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