Tuesday, January 11, 2005

New Church in Washington, Missouri

There is a new Catholic church in Washington, Missouri; Our Lady of Lourdes. Like the recent Sacred Heart Parish in Eureka, Missouri, this building also looks like a church, which is a great relief for those of us who love the iconography of the Church.

Unfortunately, I arrived at Our Lady of Lourdes at about 4 p.m. on a Sunday, and it was closed; however the parish offers 24 hour Eucharistic devotion from 8 a.m. on Thursday to 8 a.m. Friday. Since I was unable to see the interior, I don't want to offer a complete review until I can see it in better detail.

The church is plainly visible to the east of Route 47, north of Route 100. Due to the verticality of the structure and its large steeple, as well as its site on a somewhat elevated location, it is hard to miss, even though it is located off of the main streets in the area. The building is noticably a church (although not particularly Catholic) and is symetrical in appearance, with a pediment on square cross-section columns, a matching roofline with an angle of roof pitch similar to that of most buildings as traditional in our area, surmounted by a prominent steeple, and topped by a cross. The side windows on the façade were of the pointed style familiar from the Gothic, although the church itself is not of that style, but looks rather all-American.

Upon driving into the church grounds, I noticed that at the parking-lot level of the façade were prominent glass-door entries into the parish hall, while a semicircular driveway led to the doors of the narthex of the church proper. I parked at the top of the driveway in front of the church and checked the doors, which were locked. At that time I wondered how someone who can't walk well would enter the church? But apparently there is an elevator going from the entry vestibule of the church hall to the narthex.

The round window below the steeple is of clear glass and has an interior framing in the shape of a Greek cross; those of you who have read Michael Rose's book, Ugly as Sin, may let out a shudder, since this element is barely symbolic enough to be called Greek cross, and some would say it it isn't a Christian cross at all, but it would never, ever be confused with a crucifix, and so, according to Mr. Rose, is a symbol of the school of iconoclastic Liberal Protestant architecture.

The pointed-Gothic style windows on the sides are also of clear glass and not distinguished. The Narthex itself is spacious, and I was straining to see the nave beyond, but due to the clouds in the sky and time of day, was unable to see anything.

The nave itself is roughly square in plan, rotated 45 degrees, so this is another auditorium church, with the seating not facing forward but at angles on the side. I find this disturbing, but I won't bother the reader with my thoughts and feelings yet. According to the web site, this church has its Eucharistic adoration chapel behind the altar, but since I didn't see it, I won't comment on it.

The church itself is faced with brick, of the familiar red variety that should make most Saint Louisians feel at home. The church is also oriented towards the East, in the paleotraditional manner.

This is not a traditonal church. But it is not a Modern church either; it is mainly Post-Modern, which means that it is Modern in its basic design, with a few traditional elements added. Beware of Postmodernism, though -- read Tom Wolfe's book From Bauhaus to Our House for an examination of what Postmodernism really means. However, it is perhaps a step in the right direction.

This church was designed by Chiodini Associates of Clayton, Missouri, who designed the Southwest Bank building on Manchester.

I must confess that I always wanted to be an architect and design cathedrals -- a good job if you can find it! I've learned that many myths about the lack of traditional architecture today need to be exploded, and there is little excuse anymore for building modernistic churches.

Web site: Our Lady of Lourdes Parish

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