Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Some Illustrations from Churches: Their Plan and Furnishing, 1947

Church in Eisden-Mines, Limbourg, Belgium, by A. van den Niuewenborg

Another one of those remarkable period-piece church-furnishing books from the later part of the Old Liturgical Movement, Peter Anson's Churches: Their Plan and Furnishing is packed with the same typical mixture of good advice, common sense, slightly snippy tone, and one or two spectacularly silly ideas (usually based on bad archaeology), that one comes to expect from works of the era.

Unlike, however, O'Connell's Church Building, which has the same surprising mix of ideas (O'Connell's book features pictures of St. Pat's high altar, as well as some hideous WPA-ish baptismal fonts), the book also features (sometimes Statler-and-Waldorf-esque) asides by editor H.A. Reinhold, another somewhat ideologically muddled Movement figure. Reinhold and Anson, unlike other authors of the era, seem to have had a genuine catholicity of taste, with Reinhold even having a sparse handful of good words to say about the Baroque at one point, a real rarity in works of the era. Still, the illustrations, in Anson's distinctive style, are the best part of the book:

Church of the Holy Rood (duh), Watford, England, by J.F. Bentley, the progenitor of Westminster Cathedral. A wonderfully top-heavy rood-loft lacking a screen below.

The Oratory Church, Birmingham, by Dorian Webb. Described as "striking" by the authors.

An early Giles Gilbert Scott Work, Our Lady of the Assumption, in Northfleet, England. Anson excoriates, with a certain unnecessary snippiness, it for its admittedly unliturgical altar--which, while somewhat unrubrical (though not unable to be remedied by the removal of its illegal exposition throne), is otherwise rather splendid, and ensconced within a wonderfully vertical sanctuary whose straight lines recommend itself to the church designer working on a budget. Note also the fine rood, dossal and canopy.

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