Monday, December 01, 2008


Architect Duncan Stroik is busy, as always. I received news last week, via this new Catholic architectural weblog, Beatus Est, from whence the photo above comes, that the new statue of Our Lady was recently lowered into place via crane atop the pediment of Thomas Aquinas College's in-progress chapel. This is a very exciting moment in the construction process, and marks one of the final finishing touches to the exterior.

UPDATE: I incorrectly stated earlier that the statue was the work of Anthony Visco. It was done by the Italian Giancarlo Buratti. The final product was created from a plaster cast of the original full-size clay model in a marble studio based in the town of Pietrasanta. More information on the event can be found here.


Mr. Stroik is also working on a new church extension at St. Bede the Venerable in Holland, Pennsylvania. The first stage is a new chancel with attached sacristies, while a new narthex is planned for the future. While small compared to his other recent projects, this one is one to watch. Renderings on the parish's webpage show an intriguing and sophisticated new sanctuary that will be attached to the Church's existing nave.

The new sanctuary consists of a full rotunda-shaped chancel attached to the main body of the church via a Serliana-like screen of Ionic columns, a freestanding altar placed prominently atop a predella of several steps, and a large tabernacle shrine that was salvaged from a nearby closed parish. The arrangement is spacious, with a greater architectural distinction between sanctuary and nave than many other new examples, a very fine thing today when the chancel is often little more than a thrust-stage or runway. The sacristies also appear quite large and it will be fascinating to see the way the plan is expressed on the exterior as more renderings become available.

The design adapts existing furnishings, including an old high altar, so a full-fledged baldachin in the usual Stroik manner was not possible. An interesting development of this design that could be used in other locations without these constraints might be to place a baldachin and altar at the center of the rotunda, and the tabernacle at the apex of the apse. Alternately, an oval placed lengthwise with altar and tabernacle at its separate foci might lead to interesting results. In any case, it is heartening to see such an interesting and inventive use of space within a quite traditional context.

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