Thursday, December 08, 2011

Architecture for a New Liturgical Movement: Our Lady of the Rosary, Greenville, SC

For some while now, we have been meaning to tell readers of an exciting new architectural project that is taking place in connection with Fr. Dwight Longenecker. It is the church of Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, South Carolina -- and if the drawings tell the story, it certainly promises to be yet another fine, contemporary example of church architecture, characterized by a continuity with our tradition and also picking up where some of the most successful churches of the 20th century Liturgical Movement left off.

The overall designer of the church is Andrew Gould of New World Byzantine and Christian LeBlanc will be the architect of record. NLM's own Matthew Alderman is contributing furnishing designs and a number of conceptual and color elements to the interior. (The watercolor renderings shown below are painted by him as well.)

From the architect: "The form of the church follows the example of early Roman basilicas, with a broad nave and a transept containing a baldachin over the altar. The structure will be built from solid masonry with extensive use of local salvaged brick for exterior trim. The timeless detailing derives from churches built in Western Europe in the first millennium – a universal style well suited to a modern Catholic church."

The church, both on the interior and exterior, looks to be quite beautiful, but what I am particularly pleased about is the high altar and the sanctuary. How so?

First, the possibility of ad orientem has clearly been envisioned since room has been left on both the liturgically Eastern and Western sides of the altar (I do not know what the actual geographic orientation will be, though it would be marvellous if it were able to be oriented to the geographical East as well).

Second, a good solution seems to have been put in place with regard to the altar being freestanding on the one hand, while still allowing for a central position for the tabernacle on the other.

Finally, I am extraordinarily pleased to see a ciborium placed over the high altar, thereby emphasizing the liturgical importance of the high altar as the place where the sacrifice is re-presented, offered to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit; further bringing that important aspect of verticality we have spoken of here many times before. I will dwell on this yet a little more since, of the three aspects I mention, this is no doubt the least likely to be intuitively understood. Of the ciborium St. Germanus of Constantinople comments that "it... corresponds to the ark of the covenant of the Lord in which, it is written, is His Holy of Holies and His holy place." Geoffrey Webb, in his excellent work, The Liturgical Altar, says of it that "there is nothing which can replace it as the most expressive manifestation of the altar's true dignity and majesty." Finally, Blessed Ildefonso Schuster says that "in the minds of the early Christians, the altar could never be without the halo of its sacred nature -- that is, the ciborium or baldacchino in marble or in silver. The altar in its entirety constituted the true tabernacle of the most High, who assuredly could not dwell sub divo without a special roof of his own under the lofty vaulting of the naos."

Here then, after much ado, is the church in question:

Fr. Longenecker, the parish's pastor, has written about the project recently in Crisis Magazine and the NLM's own Matthew Alderman will post about his own role in the development of the interior in the near future as well. More can be found about the project at the parish website.

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