Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Restored Baptistry at St Stephen’s in Portland, Oregon

The church of St Stephen in Portland, Oregon, recently received on indefinite loan the old baptismal font and Paschal candle stand from the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, also in Portland. (They had been kept in a warehouse for decades.) In order to house them, a space within the narthex that had formerly been the baptistery, but was then decommissioned, has been set off with a nice wrought-iron gate, and the font and stand installed. Here are some before-and-after photos, starting with a long shot across the narthex from the entrance to the bell tower/choir loft; our thanks to the pastor, Fr Eric Andersen, for sharing these with us. As Fr Z likes to say, brick by brick!

The Pietà statue seen above in front of the window was removed from this space, and the font, candlestick and gate brought in.
The gate has now been installed, and the space restored to use as the baptistery.
The original blueprints of the church show that the baptismal font was planned to be at the back of the nave, but it evidently was never installed there. There are old photos of baptisms being carried out in various places around the church, but at one time, the part of the narthex seen above was used as the baptismal chapel, as evidenced by holes in the terrazzo floor where an old gate used to be. This is where the new gate seen above has been installed. (The Pietà has been moved into the nave, in the location where the blueprints showed the original baptismal font was supposed to be, as seen in the lower right part of this photograph.)
Fr Andersen adds that when he first arrived at St Stephen’s, there was a very large baptismal font which doubled as a holy water stoup; the water recirculated through a pump, and he soon realized that it could not longer be used, since the the water could not be kept pure for baptisms, and there was no sacrarium in it. It was decommissioned, eventually removed from the building altogether, which permitted the reclamation of the church’s main aisle. The first photo here was taken during an Easter vigil a number of years ago, the second shows the restored space.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: