Friday, July 17, 2009

St. Mary of the Lake, Door Peninsula, Wisconsin

I was up at Fish Creek in Door County along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan coast this Fourth of July, my parents having come up for the occasion. It is interesting to know the area has a number of ecclesiastical curiosities as well as its more usual tourist appeal--Washington Island, at the far end of the peninsula, boasts a recently-built Stave Church constructed by its Icelandic inhabitants, which is regularly used for Lutheran services. I also spotted what appeared to be the narrowest, smallest Carpenter Gothic church I have ever seen. I also understand the southern part of the region was settled by Walloons, who have erected a number of roadside shrines amid their farm-fields, though our vacation was confined mostly to the peninsula proper. One of our drives round the peninsula led me also to this handsome little church, St. Mary of the Lake, once a parish in its own right and now a chapel of ease of sorts for the new, consolidated peninsular Stella Maris Parish. It has the look of the inter-war year, when Gothic revival had become canonical, if not quite conventionalized. It is a model of balanced economy, with simple massing and detailing carefully considered, just enough but not too little. In particular, the combination bell-cote/chimney is quite fine. This specific detail I have always been fond of, and I believe it originated in a Ralph Adams Cram church in Americus, Georgia, where it was combined with a buttress.

The mosaic, with its hieratic Virgin and modern ships on stylized waves, is also a welcome touch of color, though perhaps if the lunette were larger and the design slightly bolder, it would read better at a distance.

I was unable to ascertain much about the interior as the doors, while glass, were locked. There was a fairly good, if rather simplified, stained-glass window of the Virgin over the altar; I could see what might have been a plaster chancel-arch and some woodwork around the tabernacle, but beyond that, there is not much else I could see. On the whole, though, a pleasing composition, well-sited high above the road to take advantage of its location.

(A shorter version of this post originally appeared at the Holy Whapping on Sunday, July 12.)

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