Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Extending and Transforming the Tradition of Catholic Architecture

The School of Architecture and Planning at Catholic University in Washington is having a symposium from April 30th  through May 1st. The theme for the symposium is  Extending and Transforming the Tradition of Catholic Architecture.
There are many individual artists and architects involved with the planning and designing of new Catholic Churches in the United States and this upcoming symposium offers an opportunity to experience the trends that are evolving within the professional architectural community and the Catholic artisan communities that will effect the designs of future Catholic Churches.
While the School of Architecture and Planning at Catholic University does not exclusively design for future Catholic places of liturgical worship, the attention it is focusing on the topic is long overdue. For over forty years since the end of the Second Vatican Council, most of the Catholic Churches in the United States were a hybrid design that included space for the Sacred Liturgy and a place for other pastoral activities. For the most part, they did not reflect the large temples of worship America experienced in the 19th and 20th centuries of building churches exclusively designed for the Catholic Sacred liturgy.
However, in recent years the trend is moving once again towards the use of Catholic Churches exclusively for the celebrations of the Sacred Liturgies. What this means is that there is a Catholic renewal of art and architecture that is sweeping the parish communities in the United States when they plan and implement the designs for a new parish church.
Once again, the uniquely Catholic requirements for effective celebrations of the Holy Mass are the most important requirements of the new church design, coupled with the use of modern materials and ecologically sensitive configurations intended to enhance the church worshiping space as one devoted to the praise of God...exclusively.
In some cases, the merger and closure of parish communities in the United States has allowed the development of a mega cottage industry that reuses and recycles  items from closed parishes such as stained glass and marble altars. In an attempt to incorporate materials of the highest artistic quality from the 19th and 20th centuries, the new Catholic Churches built in the United States pay homage to the spiritual and temporal sensitivities of their spiritual forefathers. Also with the building of new churches there is an opportunity for new artists and artisans to have an opportunity to provide new visions of Catholic saints and liturgical accessories that are befitting a place in a sacred and transcendent Catholic worshiping community.
While the symposium is hosted by the School of Architecture and Planning, the keynote speaker for the event is His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia. Cardinal Rigali in his own Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been a strong supporter of the restoration of traditional Catholic Church designs for his parishes. During his tenure, His Eminence has even restored the traditional Altar of the Blessed Sacrament to the main body of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, an example followed to all of the parishes in his Archdiocese.
Keenly aware of the need for a renewal of the sense of the sacred in our Catholic spirituality, Cardinal Rigali has made the pursuit of spiritual renewal as a pastoral priority for Philadelphia and also for the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. Cardinal Rigali is a member of the National Shrine's Board of Directors and Artistic Advisory Board. With the backing of such a prominent American Cardinal, the great renewal of Catholic architectural traditions, extending into the 21st century, the symposium has the potential to provide resounding influence on Catholicism in the United States for years to come.

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