Monday, February 13, 2006

Not entirely Bishop Boland's fault...

In a recent post made upon my discovery of Pope St. Pius X watching me in traffic from a niche on the back wall of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, I unjustly blamed Bp. Boland for wrecking the Cathedral, which once looked like this:

The new interior, shown here, is hideous, and completely divorced from western Catholic tradition, and for that, of course, Bp. Boland must answer: See more current interior shots by CLICKING HERE and see the bizarre floorplan--in line with the awful stuff done in the Cathedrals of Milwaukee and Rochester, by CLICKING HERE.

However, we can't blame Bp. Boland for wrecking the old interior, and I here make my public apologies to the Bishop Emeritus for insinuating that he had anything to do with ruining Tinsley's plan and throwing away over 100 years of history. Bp. Boland's predecessor, Bp. O'Hara (1939-1956) is the guilty one. He commissioned Charlton Fortune to wreck it in 1950, and by 1955, the damage was done. Miss (or I'd guess she'd be the type to prefer "Ms.") Fortune was a misfortune, indeed. She thought that the original Neoclassical design for the church (which has a cornerstone date of 1882) by Tinsley and the stenciling and gold trim by Dante Cosentino (circa 1935) were "gin crackery." She replaced stone and plaster columns with steel, filled the nave and sanctuary with black and gray tile, and she designed a black (???) high altar.

Ms. Fortune's changes were ahead of their time, and a second, 1972 renovation in the Spirit of Vatican II involved mostly rearranging the furnishings, staining them black, and building a new black altar to face the nave. Here's what they ended up with:

It is reported that the 1950-55 Cathedral wrecknovation was Mrs. Fortune's last major undertaking as an church designer wonders why that might have been....

By the end of her little project, in the five years ending in 1956, capital expenditures on the Cathedral were about $980,000 (yes, that much in 1956). I have no idea what it cost to redo the Cathedral--and to undo her damage--a few years ago, but it was at least $7 million, and it was paid from all over the diocese (when, in justice, it should have come out of Bp. O'Hara's and MissFortune's pockets).

There's no question that the Bishop was right to do undo the disaster visited upon it by MissFortune, but it's a shame to waste such huge sums of money making it less like a Catholic cathedral than it already was. That kind of money could have been used to put up a couple of barn-like church auditoria for new parishes in suburbia, and it's far more than enough to have done a restoration job modestly, but in a genuine Catholic spirit.

By the way, I note in reviewing the Cathedral website that the "program" was funded by the Calvin Institute. What "program"? The program of renovation? Or just the website? In either case, that sponsorship lets us infer quite a bit. As you might guess by the foundation's name, and as you can clearly see by the Calvin Institute website, they aren't Catholic at all--they're a bunch of . . . well, exceptionally liberal members of the Calvinist sect. Clearly, we can see their "reformed perspective, ecumenical what-ya-ma-call-it" reflected in the current Cathedral, can't you? Even more than Calvinist, I'd say it's Huxleyian.

All I know is that if by some bizarre quirk of fate I succeed Bp. Finn (and pray that it never happens, as that quirk would involve losing Mrs. Curmudgeon, without whom I'd be dead or in jail), I'll pack up my seal and set up shop at the still-beautiful Our Lady of Perpetual Help, whether the Redemptorists want me there or not.

Sources: Marra & Doering, This Far by Faith, vol. 1, beginning at about the sixth color plate; Coleman, ed., This Far by Faith, vol. 2, pp. 121-136; and


Deacon Bill Burns said...

Inspired by Cecille B DeMille apparently. No kidding we have a local theatre done in an Egyptian motif, and the similarity to the 1956 state is striking.

Curmudgeon said...

If you're talking about the Muvico theaters in either Maryland or Florida, I'd give the point to Muvico. At least those guys managed to match form to purpose.

CS said...

That last version shown is spooky; very grim.