Last year the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary by the Lake hosted a two day conference on Catholic architecture. A brief examination of the program and names of the speakers showed it to be oriented towards traditional styles so we decided to attend.
The event was held on the grounds of the Mundelein seminary on October 25-26, 2012.
Process, Problems and Progress: Building a New Church – Duncan Stroik
Paraphrasing Stroik: “Fifteen years later, no one has ever said, ‘That church may be ugly, but it was built on budget and on time!'”
The main point of his talk was in regards to conventional budgeting practice in many dioceses and parishes. The desire to obtain maximum seating and parking space with minimal expenditure results in an edifice that would rival the aesthetic appeal of the local Wal-Mart. Low ceilings, large parking lots and a complete lack of ornamentation become the norm.
He proposed that church construction projects should be looked upon as long term investments that are built to last until the coming of Christ. If the goals are set high and the project is worthy, oftentimes people will find a way to raise the funds.
Church Architecture as Heaven on Earth – Denis McNamara
This topic covered ground that should be familiar to anyone that has interest in the symbolism of Catholic architecture. The sanctuary if properly built and adorned becomes a powerful symbol of heaven. The nave represents earth and the communion rail with its gates becomes the threshold to heaven. It is here at the rail where Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament comes to dwell amongst humanity again (reminding us of the Incarnation). This is literally as close as we can hope to come to heaven in this life.
Because of this, sanctuaries must be set apart physically and visually. They should represent visually what is taking place during the Mass, the Consecration and Holy Communion and give us a foretaste of heaven.
Ornamental Painting in Churches: Artistic & Theological Possibilities
As a representative of Evergreene Architectural Arts, Mr. Evergreene was especially well suited to lecture on the topic of iconography, symbolism and the visual portrayal of spiritual concepts. While the architects sometimes focus on the grand overall scheme of a project, ornamental firms often work with the very fine details. This talk brought the audience through a slideshow explaining the meaning behind many ancient religious symbols and provided ideas on how to incorporate them into architectural plans.