Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reverse Iconoclasm in One Hour or Less

Back during my days at Notre Dame, a young would-be churchlady among my friends used to joke that we ought to sneak into her residence hall chapel in the dead of night and bolt the flimsy movable altar to the floor. This, of course, never did happen. We wanted to graduate, after all.

However, the sequence of photos below sent by a reader shows something a bit similar, if more official, and quite momentous from an art-historical view: the un-wreckovation of the high altar in St. Stephen's Chapel at the Anglican Cowley Fathers' complex in Oxford, a space designed by Bodley with a ciborium by Comper. We featured this interior some time back, incidentally. The end result is much closer to Comper's original vision. It also shows how a freestanding altar and baldachin may be used within the context of ad orientem liturgy, as well as being a further commentary on truly noble simplicity in architecture and church paraments. Our correspondent notes this all happened during his lunch break. It took a mere sixty minutes to architecturally restore the sacred here. Sometimes that little push is all that is necessary.

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