Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Architectural "Reform of the Reforms"

It has been far too long since we have had one of our "before" and "after" series of photos.

This one will stun you. The parish is Sacred Heart in Peoria, Illinois and you can see further photos of their renovations on their website.


The pre-renovation church had some things going for it, but one can tell that all of the original pieces and vision for the church aren't in tact. The canopy and backdrop at the back are designed as such that it rather cuts off the apse in a way that does not work so well in my opinion. Stylistically as well, we have a bit of a hodge podge. The side altars are one style -- and material for that matter -- the canopy another, and then the backdrop attached to the canopy still another. The statuary is also of different styles on the side altars. Finally, the main altar and altar of the Blessed Sacrament seem proportionately too small given the presence of side altars that are about as big -- or bigger. Let's take a look at what they did to address these issues.


Right away, one can see how the change to the reredos structure in the back of the sanctuary no longer cuts off the apse but fits much more neatly in a way that is consonant with the basic architecture itself. The side altars are now put in a better proportional relation to the altar and reredos where the Blessed Sacrament resides, and by consequence, the main altar itself which visually forms a part of that space. The one thought on this front I would propose is that it would have been more ideal if the main altar itself where widened to make it bigger than the side altars -- about the same length as the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. Still, the backdrop the altar and reredos of the Blessed Sacrament provides is somewhat inherited by the main altar and therefore significantly helps with the proportions at least.

From the perspective of colour, the addition of reflective gold works much better, not to mention the striking red ceilings with their gold highlights. The materials are spectacular and substantial and what can one say about the murals, stencilling and floor design? Even the addition of hanging lighting is also to good effect, for they help emphasize the verticality of the building in a way mere pot lights cannot.

Overall, a sense of unity and proportion has been restored and the church is significantly more a reflection of the heavenly Jerusalem in which occurs the icon of the heavenly liturgy.



Thanks to a reader for pointing this renovation out to me, as found originally on Creative Minority Report.

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