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#372223 11/21/11 11:06 PM
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La Stampa/Vatican Insider reports this news today - Vatican establishes new commission to deal with the problem of "ugly churches" - http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/e...tettura-architecture-arquitectura-10121/
I thought this was interesting, especially since the article features a photo of the Crystal Cathedral which the R.C. Diocese of Orange (CA) just acquired.

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Since there is no integral connection between liturgy and church architecture in the West as there is in the Byzantine-Orthodox Churches, what sort of canon are they going to propose, and on what basis? The West, in contrast to the East, has always been open to new architectural forms and materials, which sometimes resulted in incredibly beautiful temples, but which, of course, left the Western Church vulnerable to passing fads and fashions. When architecture, like all other modern art, went south from the 1960s, it had no coherent reason to resist its siren call.

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Originally Posted by StuartK
Since there is no integral connection between liturgy and church architecture in the West as there is in the Byzantine-Orthodox Churches, what sort of canon are they going to propose, and on what basis?

The Western Fathers would hardly agree with this.

As a bare minimum, the church building should be constructed so that the ceremonies set out in the liturgical books can be properly carried out and many modern churches are a failure in this respect even.

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A team has been set up, to put a stop to garage style churches, boldly shaped structures that risk denaturing modern places for Catholic worship. Its task is also to promote singing that really helps the celebration of mass. The “Liturgical art and sacred music commission” will be established by the Congregation for Divine Worship over the coming weeks.


Hey, maybe our Greek Catholic prostopininje has become "avant garde."

Will some of the huge and dominating pipe organs be relegated to the museum? Once they crank up you can't hear anything else without an amplifier.

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Hey, maybe our Greek Catholic prostopininje has become "avant garde."

We had folk Mass before folk was cool.

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The Western Fathers would hardly agree with this.

Maybe not, but the fact is Western churches from an early period could be found in a variety of architectural styles. Certainly the basilican floor plan, adopted from the Romans (and also increasingly used by Jews for synagogues) was the most common style from the fourth through ninth centuries, but there were always variations. Even orientation wasn't universal in the Western Church--witness St. Peter's, which is "occidented" in order to center the high altar over the tomb of St. Peter.

But concurrent with the basilica, one can find octagonal and other floor plans. And many secular buildings were converted to churches, including a private bath house today known as Santa Pudentiana in Rome. The addition of the transcept and crossing was a purely Western development not know to the Fathers, as was the development of side altars (which violate the patristic principle of one church/one altar). Moving forward into the Renaissance, one would find new St. Peter's a very different proposition from the old basilica, and one wonders whether Pope Damasus would approve of it, much.

If you look at the rubrics for Byzantine worship, it assumes something about the layout and shape of the church: the three-fold division into narthex, nave and sanctuary; the presence of the iconostasis; the presence of a dome or cupola with Pantocrator; the elevation of the sanctuary above the floor level of the nave; the presence of a bema or solea. These are all integral to the celebration of the various services, and their absence requires compromises.

In contrast, the rubrics of the Roman Missal have very little to say about the layout of the church. The altar must be free-standing, and the celebrant must be able to move around it. But that's about it. Any floor plan will do, and throughout history, the Latin Church has tried most of them. Nothing is actually specified about the interior decor of the church--in contrast to Byzantine churches, where the placement of certain icons is governed, if not by a formal canon, then at least by very strong custom.

So, at the end of the day, the only criteria that can be used is aesthetic: I like this/I don't like that. There is no actual canon governing Western church architecture.

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Really, Stuart? The rubrics of the Roman Mass suppose an altar facing east, speak of the steps to the altar, the sacristy, and the priest's position relative to the altar.

You mention that in Byzantine churches, icons are located according to strong custom. So it is by custom that side altars in Roman churches are commonly dedicated to Our Lady and to St. Joseph, on the left and right, and the placement of the credence table, the pulpit on the gospel side, and the communion rail.

But perhaps there are as many exceptions as rules. If there were not, you would complain instead of rigidity.

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Yeah, but none of that actually defines the layout of the church itself. The altar is a free-standing table. Thus, whether the priest faces east or west is determined by the side of the table on which he is standing. The steps of the altar, the placement of the pulpit, the credence table and the communion rail are independent of the floor plan of the church. You can meet the requirements in a square church, a rectangular church, a polygonal church, and even a round church.

On the other hand, a proper Byzantine church must be divided into three parts, must have an iconostasis, must have a dome or cupola, must have an ambon. That some--particularly in the West--do not is due first to the exigencies of finding worship space, which causes many Orthodox or Eastern Catholic communities to take over Roman Catholic or Protestant buildings, and adapt them as best possible; and second, to abuses that can be traced to the assimilationist urges of immigrant Eastern Christian communities that wanted to fit in by having churches that look like "real" churches.

When Epiphany in Annandale was seeking approval for its new church, a member of the County Planning Commission asked, during a public hearing, "This is so different. Why can't your church look like an ordinary one?"

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Just to toss a thought in here (which might well have brought a smile to our late and much missed Fr Serge) - in penal times in Ireland, Catholics could only celebrate mass outdoors, and often had to use rocks in isolated places as altars, so as not to alert the authorities. You can still see "mass rocks" all over Ireland. One advantage, I suppose, is you always know which way is east in the open air (even in the rain!)


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Glory Be to Jesus Christ for His great mercy!

And a long and glorious reign to our Holy Father Benedict.

Praise to our merciful Savior!

Beauty will save the world.



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