Update #3 Sacred Art and Acrhitecture

On the Diocese of Harrisburg’s website I found a number of articles on sacred art and architecture in the Catholic Church.  Most of these articles addressed recent controversy over the interpretation of the directives of the Second Vatican Council and the impact it has had on the architecture of Catholic Church buildings, both old and new.  Since the focus of my research is to determine the influence of ethnic shifts in the population on church architecture I thought it was important to understand how much of what I see at St. Anthony’s today has been influenced by the parish community and how much may have been influenced by changes in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church.

While there is a great deal written about this topic, I found an internet article and three books that I found most helpful, The Beauty of God’s House by Fr. Giles Dimock, O.P., Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy by Dennis R. McNamara, Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley by Richard Kieckhefer, and How To Read A Church by Richard Taylor.

In the Beauty of God’s House, Fr. Giles discusses the Catholic Church’s position as stated in the Church’s Canon Law that the church building is a symbol of God living among us.  Since Christ is always present in the Tabernacle in the form of the Eucharist the church building is truly the house of God and the signs and symbols used in the art and architecture should show that Christ is present and active in the space.  He highlights that a Catholic Church is not just a meeting place but rather that the whole church should be arranged in a way that lends itself to adoration of the divine presence of God even when a ritual celebration is not taking place.  He quotes the theologian Max Thurian as having said,

“The Church, by its beautiful liturgical layout, its tabernacle radiating Christ’s real presence, should be the beautiful house of the Lord and of His Church, where the faithful love to recollect themselves in the silence of adoration and contemplation. Every church must be “praying” even when no liturgical celebrations are taking place; it must be a place where in a restless world, one can meet the Lord in peace.”

Dennis McNamara reiterates this sentiment in the Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy. The focus of his work is to clarify misconceptions and misinterpretations of the intent of the Second Vatican Council by explaining what the liturgy means and how it relates to sacred scripture.  He highlights the meaning of the symbols used in Sacred Architecture as they relate to sacred scripture and how they work to make the invisible visible so that we can experience God’s glory.  He says, “Our task is to build beautiful churches because beauty makes the truth of Christ in the liturgy attractive.”  McNamara takes the position that it is the nature of good church architecture to bring honor and reverence to the rites.  He says that if it fails this task then it has failed to manifest the reason and nature of its existence.  Misinterpretation of the spirit of the Second Vatican Council at a time when modernism was on the rise in America resulted in the destruction of a large amount of historical treasures in the form of hand carved sculptures, stained glass windows, and beautiful frescoes that all work together to reflect the life of Christ.

The misinterpretations of the spirit of the Second Vatican Council are characterized in traditional churches by walls that have been whitewashed to remove decorative frescoes.  The removal of decorative altarpieces used to focus attention on the tabernacle, as well as the removal of the Tabernacle from the main altar.  Stained glass windows were replaced with less decorative windows.  Any form of art that distracted the congregation from the celebration of the Mass was at risk.  Many believed that Catholic Churches lost sight of the importance of devotional art and the beauty of the space to enhance the congregation’s experience of God.

Richard Kieckhefer discusses how ethnicity is expressed in the architectural style of the church and the devotional art.  First and foremost ethnicity is typically expressed by the Patron Saint the people select.  Architectural style is also a key.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Irish parishes used primarily Gothic styles while Italians chose Renaissance or Romanesque.  Romanesque Revival was very popular in Germany therefore it was also popular with Germans in America.  Romanesque churches were simpler and utilitarian which made them very popular in poorer parishes.  Ethnicity in devotional art is usually expressed in the form of statuary, shrines and stained glass windows that honor prominent saints within the community’s nationality.

Kieckhefer also discusses the aesthetics of a church as being measured by how the church impresses one most forcefully on entry.  The art and architecture of the building must appeal to all the senses to create a sense of awe and mystery.

St. Anthony’s is clearly a traditional church that shows little evidence that much was changed as a result of the Second Vatican Council.  The walls and ceiling are still adorned with beautiful frescoes and the Tabernacle resides on the main altar.  The Sanctuary is clearly the most visible and prominent place in the church with an incredibly beautiful life size crucifix hanging above the Tabernacle.  When you first enter you get more a sense of walking into a cathedral than a parish church.  A more detailed inspection will be require to determine if the church has any ethnic oriented devotional art.


Update #2

At my last update I intended to interview Ms.Danz, St. Anthony’s Historian, over spring break and hoped to begin reviewing documents in the church archives.  In preparation for this interview I set out to research the history of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, focusing on Lancaster, and more specifically St. Anthony of Padua.

After reviewing the brief history provided on St. Anthony’s website, I went to the Diocese of Harrisburg website where I found a history of the Catholic Church in Lancaster County.   Not only did German Catholics play a significant role in the evolution of the Catholic Church in Lancaster, they were instrumental in the building of St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s, and St. Anthony’s.  From this I concluded that to truly understand the similarities in the church architecture I would need to develop a more precise history of the German Catholics in Lancaster and a timeline of significant events leading up to the building of St. Anthony’s.

I also found that the Catholic Church has a great deal of influence over the art and architecture of its churches.  The Catholic Church has a strong tradition of sacred art and architecture and through the Sacrosanctum Concilium, its Sacred Constitution, provides guidelines for the design of Catholic Churches.  These guidelines change over time and influence the building and renovation of church buildings.  The Catholic Church also requires that all plans for church design, restoration, renewal and renovation be submitted to the Diocese Office of Worship for approval.  Further research on Sacred Art and Architecture in the Catholic Church would be useful background to have in analyzing the architecture and art of St. Anthony’s as it changed over time.

I also visited the Lancaster Historical Society during this time to see what publications and records they may have on the original building of St. Anthony’s, St. Mary’s, and St. Joseph’s but was unable to find anything.  I spoke to one of the women in the library who indicated that they did not have much on the Catholic Churches because all of the church records and archives are kept at the respective church.

By the end of the week I still had not heard back from Ms. Danz so I contacted the Rectory Office again to see if I could start reviewing their records.  They indicated that Ms. Danz works from her house so they do not have her schedule and all of the Church records are stored at her home.  They did say I could pick up some booklets they had at the rectory on the history of the Church and these while not complete have been very helpful in directing my research.

Update 4/5/10

The “two decade” period of time I was assigned was 1850-1870, so I spent a few hours just looking up as much data as I could from the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses.  The 1850 Census actually provided me with the most useful and conclusive information: population info for Pennsylvania, Lancaster County, and Lancaster City.  Also, I managed to locate the Total Number of Churches in the US (lists every denomination in the US at the time and how many there were), the overall Value of the Church Properties for the US (by denomination) and Pennsylvania, as well as the Population of Lancaster City (by Ward, Race, and Gender) and the Total Number of Churches and Church Property Value (by denomination) for Lancaster City.

I could gather many things from the information above, notably that the number of Methodist churches far outnumbered others during this time, even though the property values of these churches were less than those of other denominations (notably Episcopal and Lutheran churches).  What I conclude from this is that the Methodist church had a huge hand in shaping the urban fabric of Lancaster, particularly because in the 1860 census, Methodist churches are still the most common in the city.

Then I had a brainwave.  One of my original research churches was First United Methodist Church on East Walnut Street.  I know that this church is one of the oldest in the city (founded 1807) and is currently one of the largest (it takes up a whole city block).  I visited the church’s website and found a whole other website devoted to the history of the church: http://www.fumclancasterpa.org/ According to this website, there is a “Committee on Archives and History” that meets weekly and, from 9:30-11:30 on Mondays, allows people to come do research in the rather extensive archives of the church.  I know that the Lancaster County Historical Society will also have extensive information on this particular church.  As luck would have it, FUMC is also one of the most photographed churches in Lancaster…

Because of the role that the Methodist church played in shaping Lancaster, and the fact that this particular one is so easily researched, I thought that I might do something similar to what we talked about on Wednesday: getting a feel for the demographic/cultural change in and around this particular massive religious presence throughout the mid-1800’s by mapping who lived in and around this church, which businesses existed close by, etc. I would also, of course, like to make comparisons to the modern-day fabric of the neighborhood around the church by utilizing the 2000 census data (which I have not yet researched but is available online).  As an added bonus, I do not believe that anyone else is doing FUMC for their research project, so I would not necessarily be researching information that will be presented by someone else in a later presentation.

In terms of my interview, I hope to either interview an elderly member of the congregation (one who has been attending FUMC for many years) to get a sense of how the church fit into the context of the city years ago, or one of the archivists at the church, who are sure to be extremely knowledgeable about the history of the church.

I hope this is a sufficient update.  I am going to attempt to get to the church tomorrow morning to visit the archives and do some research there (maybe get a member list from the mid-1800’s so that I can see where those members came from in the city…around the area of the church or not???) I will hopefully have my interview and transcript done by Friday, and my other census research completed tomorrow (2000 census, etc).

I’m fully aware that I’m really in crunch time now…but I’m really excited about the potential that this project has.  I still need to think more deeply about how to visually represent all that I will be researching on the map.  I’m thinking that I will label the church buildings, homes, businesses, etc within a few block radius of FUMC and color-code or something according to ethnic background, for one particular 1850’s year (I haven’t decided which one yet).  I hope to provide am 1800’s snapshot of this few-block section of the city (as is centered around the church)…essentially, how the church affected the “urban fabric” of those few blocks and vice-versa.


A sample page of the official historical record of FUMC from the church's archives (mid-1800's)

Sample page of the New Member Record, including name of new member and their personal address

1 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Altar/Pulpit

After doing further research at the historic society and meeting with the archivist of Holy Trinity Lutheran I was able to gain a good amount of information.  I learned before the building of the brick church there was an earlier stone church complete with stone altar that dated around the conception of the church in 1730.  Later in 1760, the brick church on the current site of the property was constructed.  This building was 60′ X 80′, the main entrance was on duke street and there was no steeple or tower.  It was not until 1785 that the tower and steeple construction was started which lasted until 1794.  When this feature was added the pulpit was moved to the opposite side of the church that the tower was on.  It was not until 1854 that the entrance door was moved to its current location.  Narthex that was built in order to change the entrance location was built from the original brick fence that was built around the church.  Along with the entrance change and the construction of the narthex it was possible to move and construct the altar/pulpit to its current location today.  A large influence for this raised pulpit came from the german heritage of the church because although as a congregation they had shifted to english speaking services they wanted to retain their roots.  They used the services of Samuel Sloane to design this new pulpit because he happened to be in the area designing the Fulton Opera House and the Court House. Then in 1893 there was a great refurbishing of the church and the current altar that is in place today was created.  There was a victorian type biblical scene painted behind the pulpit which was done by H.K. Beck in 1866.  Their were other minor changes around this time of the late nineteenth century in order to increase the influence of the word and sacrament.

Saint Joseph’s: Steeple Update 4/5/10

Last week, I took advantage of the nice weather and went out exploring the other churches around Lancaster- where I discovered a steeple similar to that of St. Joseph’s.  This is of the Crossroads Mennonite Church.  However, this steeple is in Gothic attire and lacking a clock.  I was able to make a few comparisons as far as the materials went; such as the similar bricks, slate and wooden window material used in the Crossroads church is alike the materials of St. Joseph’s steeple.  You can note the more narrow window style on both, as well as the height and proportion of the steeples to the towers below:

Crossroads vs. St. Joseph

Moreover, I investigated the dimensions of St. Joseph’s to create a line drawing of its proportions, i.e. its tower and the steeple at its widest and narrowest parts:

The height of the tower is around 160 feet. Whereas, the tower’s width is about 24 feet. Exact notations of the proportions were made on my final revisions to the drawing.

I was also able to meet with Monsignor Smith from St. Joseph’s last week.  This was a huge help to the research aspect of my project.   As I discovered that not only is this church Romanesque in design, but it is of Northern German Romanesque.  This explains why its style is more Romanesque rather than Gothic- as you would find in the architecture of Southern German Churches.  Msgr. was able to inform me that the Church has no records of its architect, nor do they have an extensive collection of archives.  Though, the archive material they do have they are willing to open up to me.  With the help of Mary Ellen, their historian, I am visiting again this week to make comparisons in the photographs they had taken during the steeple’s restoration in 2002.  Msgr. Smith confirmed that the entire original design of the steeple was maintained in the restoration process.  All that was changed was the revamping of materials that would better reinforce the steeple to last for many more years. He also told me that there are no other towers nor steeples on any other churches in Lancaster city that are quite like St. Joseph’s.  Even its sister church, St. Anthony’s- while beautiful, does not compare because while it has a bell tower it is lacking a steeple.  The monsignor was also able to inform me on where pieces of the tower and steeple went for reconstruction; such as the bells which were refurnished in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This week I am hoping to dive further into the research of St. Joseph’s by visiting their archival materials once more, and also researching about the architecture of Northern German churches.  This could perhaps provide me with more literary evidence behind the design of St. Joseph’s architecture (in particular the steeple) since the blueprints and architectural records are no longer in the churches possession.

Mapper Research Update

Woolworth Building of Lancaster Postcard

This is a postcard I found for sale online of the Woolworth building of Lancaster (not New York). Unfortunately, the site did not list the year of the postcard. But it was for sale for $7.50, which seemed pretty expensive. I was interested in the Woolworth building because it housed Spider Lake Saw Mill & Lumber Co. (325 Woolworth Building) as well as Lancaster Cut Stone Company (230 Woolworth Building)

Found on:

This week, in trying to delve into the research of the building materials of different Lancaster churches in the early 1900’s, I started with looking at the company names I had collected last week from the Lancaster city directory of 1909 (one of many city directories that can be found at the Lancaster Public Library on Duke). I was hoping that in researching company names I would be able to find further history about the company and possibly locate records about who they had supplied etc. But I suppose this was slightly too hopeful, after all this was almost exactly 100 years ago, and it is not surprising that this information has not been loaded online.. yet anyway.

However, I did learn some really interesting things about this city we live in. Some of the local companies from 1909 are still alive and running today.

Conestoga Bending Works, recorded at 545-7 Market

Harris Boardman, known as the founder of the cork industry in Lancaster, began Conestoga Cork Works. In 1860 Lancaster was ranked as the number one cork producing city in the United States. In 1895,  Armstrong Cork Company absorbed Conestoga Cork Works as well as Lancaster Cork Company (another leading cork producer in the city). When carbonated beverages demanded the need for cork lined bottle caps in the 1920s, Armstrong Cork Company created Crown Caps to meet the demand. Finally in the 1960s Armstrong Cork Company sold their property to Kerr Glass Manufacturing, who manufactured glass there until 2002. Currently property has been turned into hotel among other things..

“Built on the shoulders of industrial giants who helped build Lancaster city, Urban Place starts a new chapter in the revitalization of historic downtown Lancaster as a hip 300,000 square foot community made for living, learning, shopping, working and dining.”

Next, I explored Armstrong Cork Co. which was listed under linoleum manufacturers in the city directory (the only one).
Current Address:
Armstrong World Industries
2500 Columbia Ave. (17603)
P.O. Box 3001

Lancaster, PA 17604 (717)397-0611
“The Armstrong experience stretches over more than half the life of the Republic; few American business enterprises have endured as long, or with such continuing success.”

“At the turn of the century, the company already was 40 years old, cork was being popped out of its old markets, and Armstrong added to the formula for success the capacity to adapt to changing conditions while at the same time sticking to the business it knew best.

The company found new uses for cork, first with insulating corkboard and brick. Then, in 1906, it foresaw that the avenue to the future was laid with linoleum. A new factory rose from a cornfield on the edge of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and in 1909, a year after Thomas Armstrong died, Armstrong linoleum was first offered to the trade.

From that point, the company let one product use logically lead to another. Corkboard led to fiberboard, fiberboard led to ceiling board, cork tile and linoleum led to vinyl floors.”


So now my new research tactic is going to be selecting a church from my time period and trying to track down the materials that were used to build the church, and who supplied them, through church records etc. I  was thinking about contacting Armstrong.. however I have a feeling that contact with them will take too much time. Slowly but surely I am honing in on my topic. Hoping to make some leaps in the coming week by going to an actual church building and if anything working myself to identify the materials.

Lutheran Churches Comparison

As we have been asked to make some comparisons between the church we are researching and similar churches I will make some comparisons between Trinity Lutheran, Zion Lutheran and Grace Lutheran. Trinity was built in the 1760s as has already been noted. Zion is an appropriate church to compare because this church was built as a result of a dispute and split in the Trinity congregation over changing the services to English or remaining with the original German language. Interestingly, the churches are “spitting distance” from each other, just across the alley on the same block! I am including Grace Lutheran church across town, because I was able to get some good interior shots early in our explorations.

Trinity is the earliest church and it truly reflects this in many aspects of its architecture. It’s arched windows and doors, with a domed section on it’s steeple mirror the English Renaissance style embraced by Christopher Wren. It’s interior, which we will see reflects a change over time.

The Zion Church, built about sixty years later, is clearly an example of Norman Architecture with the use of pillars and round arches. The front door and tower show this.

Grace Lutheran is a built later (1907) and shows a later gothic revival style. Pointed, decorated arches and buttresses along with stone work and a tower that stops short of spires, but includes crenellations appear remarkably similar to Durham Cathedral.The interior windows show off the gothic style even more beautifully.

Conversely, returning to Trinity Lutheran, we see the colonial simplicity of its earlier rounded windows. Though, it should be remembered that the addition of stained glass, replacing the original multi-paned clear glass, was also a gothic revival move. Trinity also reflects a later moment in development with the addition of its pulpit, as seen below.As for ongoing research, this week, I am continuing to compile. I found an article written by Joseph Lauber in Western Architecture Journal on the history of stained glass, that gives me some ideas about his perspective on the art form. And by the way – he slams the people of Pennsylvania! Some themes in the research are beginning to emerge, particularly how Trinity’s examples of glass mirror the rise and fall of stained glass in United States ecclesiastical building. I will need to weed out and streamline all of the random bits into something coherent.