Monday, August 27, 2007

Renovations and Counter-Renovations

We are blessed that there is much good work beginning to gain speed in the liturgical field -- which Summorum Pontificum has given a further shot in the arm -- not the least of which a re-birth of interest in the traditional ecclesiastical architecture and ornamentation.

A fact of this transitional period out of a transitional period, however, is that there still is the danger of further senseless and, indeed I should even go so far as to say, tasteless and ideologically oriented "renovations". This may be all happenstance -- the natural, even innocent, consequence of a still extant mindset of not so distant decades enacting itself -- though one wonders, at this stage of the game if perhaps this isn't also out of a desire to leave some lasting legacy in a time when the shift back toward our tradition is becoming more and more plain? A kind of desire to make the change (and really to enact a hermeneutic of rupture) "before its too late". We see such behaviour in other domains, so its not difficult to imagine in this domain either of course. Such is speculative of course and I put it out as a general consideration.

Regardless of the reasons, certainly by now it should be beyond a reasonable doubt that such revisions were certainly not mandated by the Council, and not at all necessary to be congruent with the modern Roman missal. In fact, pursuing such seems to only serve a congruence with a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture, which sees this as necessary to fit with 'the modern liturgy' as they define it in opposition to the tradition -- whether that be the liturgy itself or the architecture which the liturgy informs.

Of course, it must be said that not all revisions or renovations are beyond the pale, but what are the nature of the revisions/renovations? Are they truly necessary and by what standard do we say they are? Is the standard actually correct? Also, what solutions may allow a warranted renovation to occur, while maintaining a congruency with a traditional architectural and liturgical vocabulary and a hermeneutic of continuity with the same?

What raised this issue in my mind was this article about a renovation that happened in London a few years back, and which is apparently commented upon by author Moyra Doorly in her newly published book, No Place for God (published by Ignatius Press).

Here are the before and after pictures:



Even forgetting the "before" picture and taking that aspect out of this matter, there is a great deal to be critiqued from a liturgical level -- not to mention simply on the level of aesthetics. It's critiquable on its own 'merits', regardless of whether the church was built new or whether it replaced what was in the before picture; it is the fact that there is such a before picture, however, that makes the matter even more lamentable.

The good news angle on this sort of renovation is that it proves one thing: if a church or chapel can be taken from a very traditional state, to one such as this above, then likewise is the reversal of that process also possible. Chapels and churches subject to needless or less than desireable renovations can eventually be restored. Moreover, even those that were built new in recent decades can just as much be brought into a more traditional architectural and liturgical vocabulary as those that were taken out of it.

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