Monday, August 13, 2007

Variations on St. Paul's Chapel, Columbia University

A charming sketch, from the drafting-boards of Howells and Stokes, of an abandoned alternative for St. Paul's Chapel on Columbia Campus, c. 1904-5, depicted with an enlarged dome and a strongly Italian Romanesque facade. While quite a successful design, the scale of the dome appears to suggest a building considerably larger than the actual chapel, whose lower dome seems more appropriate to its size.

Another abandoned variant from Howells and Stokes, who were filling out the basic campus partee laid out some years earlier by McKim, Mead and White, showing a campanile behind the church's east end and engaged with a stepped side-entrance into the campus.

The chapel as built, in a strongly classicized Romanesque manner, but still distinct enough in its archaeologically-inspired ecclesiastical character to distinguish it from the more canonically Greco-Roman campus buildings.

The interior, view of the dome. Excepting architectural elements, the principal ornament of the interior is its extensive patterned vaults of Gustavino tile, then an innovative and unusual material.

The apse. A dignified, if somewhat liturgically timid, Protestant design, with the altar at the end of a very deep chancel lined with elaborate choirstalls that threaten to overwhealm the actual sanctuary. The freestanding altar (with eastward facing footpace!) seems somewhat unusual to me, unless it was modified recently. It reminds me of Bertram Goodhue's somwhat "progressive" chancel at St. Bartholomew's, though I do not know much about the liturgical politics of the chapel's construction. That being said, with a stone top, six candlesticks, a hanging tester and a cross, it might make for a very fine Catholic altar.

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