Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The New Baldachin at Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Fellow NLM contributor Gregor Kolmorgen pointed me towards some new photographs of Duncan Stroik's nearly-complete Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a project I have watched with considerable interest since I was given a tour of the unfinished site two years ago by a member of River Architects, Mr. Stroik's local collaborators overseeing construction drawings and some aspects of exterior design. The project is certainly one of the most ambitious he has undertaken, with a much larger sculptural and artistic program than was possible in earlier, budgetarily-constrained projects. The result is a wealth of painted altarpieces, soon to be installed, polychrome marble, and gilding.

The majority of the side-altar and ceiling paintings are being overseen by Anthony Visco, whose work has been profiled here in the past, and whose images of four Marian doctors of the Church occupying the pendentives of the dome show a new apogee in his work. (You can find them here, along with many other photos of the in-progress interior; there is also an Pozzoesque illusionistic ceiling fresco planned for the narthex.) When the church is dedicated this coming summer it will stand as a counter-example to those who say, in this day and age, it cannot be done, and will inspire us to even greater feats of art and architecture.

Some of the new paintings were recently put into place, while the baldachino is virtually complete. Adapted from the baldachin (or ciborium) of Saint Mary Major, it is probably one of the most complex and detailed pieces Mr. Stroik has executed in his career. It is interesting to note that another one of his more intricate designs in terms of execution and materials used, the shrine to the Sacred Heart in St. Louis Cathedral, comes from the same patron, Archbishop Burke, one of the few churchmen of any artistic vision and discerning taste in the country today.

Incidentally, I will note, in a little moment of shamelessness on my part, that while I did not have much to do with most of the details of the St. Louis Shrine, during the time I worked for him, I did help flesh out Mr. Stroik's sketches for the sunburst at the pediment's apex, as well as designing the crown of thorns motif within the tympanum.

In other Stroikian news, it would appear that the campanile of the chapel at Thomas Aquinas College is virtually complete.

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