Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Josephinum’s Elegant Architecture Endures

The Josephinum’s Elegant Architecture Endures

More than 80 years ago the Pontifical College Josephinum moved from downtown Columbus to a 100-acre campus just north of Worthington. The main building at the Catholic college and seminary was designed by a Dutch architect and is still today an architectural gem.

The Pontifical College Josephinum is one of more than 180 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States. But the Josephinum is unique. It’s the only seminary in the U.S. that’s directly run by the Vatican. James Wehner is the Josephinum’s president.

“There are only 15 pontifical seminaries in the world,” Wehner says. “14 of them are in Italy and then Columbus, Ohio. That makes us a unique seminary in the United States.”

About 200 men from across the U.S. are enrolled at the Josephinum. While the seminary offers academic degrees, Wehner says there’s a larger purpose: to determine if students have a call to the priesthood.

“They’re going through a formation experience; it’s like going through boot camp,” Wehner says. “So here we’re providing the space and the time for the men to get trained in a way that they can then answer the question, ‘Am I called to be a priest.’”

During evening vespers students sing passages from the Bible. The music rises through the elegant and expansive Saint Turibius Chapel.

Saint Turibius Chapel rises several stories above the third floor of the main building at the Josephinum. The 81-year-old building was designed by Dutch architect Frank Ludewig in a style that reflects the sacred architecture of Europe.

“Sacred architecture is always trying to bring man in touch with the divine,” says Columbus architect William Heyer.

Heyer oversees restoration at the Josephinum. He says Saint Turibius Chapel is somewhat reminiscent of iconic places of worship such as France’s Mont Saint Michel.

“It’s meant to carry us spiritually, mentally, into another realm and so the chapel at the Josephinum, Saint Turibius Chapel, rising above the rest of the buildings, is symbolic of that flight of the spirit, taking us out of the mundane at the level of the ground, and lifting us toward the heavens,” Heyer says.

The chapel’s soaring architecture and beautiful altar create an atmosphere conducive to worship and prayer.

“The paintings and all of the symbolic forms that are in the church are part of the chapel speaking to the people who come here for liturgies. These are things that are important for us to understand the building. It’s talking to us. When you take all of these things out, the building really has a hard time communicating with you,” Heyer says.

The Josephinum is said to be the finest building Frank Ludewig ever designed. The placement of the chapel, Heyer says, is evidence of its importance.

“Its being at the top of the facility and being in the center in plan it’s at the center of the Josephinum, so in that sense it’s symbolic of its importance,” Heyer says. “It’s the highest, it’s most important, it’s at the center, it’s at the heart of the campus. And the architecture is monumental, it’s unique, and it celebrates Catholic architecture throughout time, really.”

Again the Josephinum’s president, James Wehner:

“We have a beautiful campus with a beautiful history; a very beautiful architecture which hopefully raises the minds and the hearts of people from the mundane, ordinary aspects of life to really what this is all about and that’s the supernatural and the kingdom of God and our architecture captures some of the mystery of what life is supposed to be about.”

Source: WOSU News

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