Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Modern Church architecture - "Sometimes it goes wrong"

According to an article in the Telegraph newspaper, Cardinal Ravasi has taken against the architectural style - or lack of it - in modernist churches being built recently. I think the trouble is that churches - and the wanton "re-orderings" that go on - are usually carried out by architects with no feel for liturgy and no experience of faith. Thus, the elements that make an excellent dentist's waiting room do not transpose themselves to the creation of a beautiful or suitable church. Without an understanding of the history of church architecture and liturgy, an architect designs a space for people to gather in that reflects secular gathering places - dentist's waiting rooms, theatre's, academic auditoria, sports facilities. While some elements of light, comfort, ease of access can be learnt from these, without the major element of understanding what a church is principally used for - the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - we are left short-changed.


Opposition is mounting in the Holy See to a spate of recent, ultra-modern churches, in Italy and abroad, by high profile architects.

"The lack of integration between the architect and the faith community has at times been negative," said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican's Pontificial Council for Culture. "Sometimes it goes wrong."

Cardinal Ravasi said a church built in 2009 in Foligno, Italy by the celebrated Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas, which resembles a monolithic concrete cube, has been "highly criticised".
In his native town of Merate in Lombardy, Cardinal Ravasi said the local priest needed to bring his own image of the Madonna to mass, because Mario Botta, the architect who designed the church, had not installed one.

"The problem is that in Catholicism, unlike Protestantism, things like the altar, the images, are essential, while architects tend instead to focus on space, lines, light and sound," said Cardinal Ravasi.

The last architects to work closely with the church were back in the 17th century Baroque era, he added.
Cardinal Ravasi's attack was backed last month by Antonio Paolucci, the head of the Vatican museums, when he spoke at the launch of a book celebrating the building of dozens of new churches in the suburbs of Rome since the 1990s.

Instead of praising the churches, Mr Paolucci lashed out, claiming that: "At best, these are like museums, spaces that do not suggest prayer or meditation."

Cardinal Ravasi conceded that one of Rome's most controversial new churches – Richard Meier's Jubilee Church, which resembles a yacht with spinnakers hoisted – had won over locals, but complained that "the building materials were the focus of pre-construction meetings, not the liturgical life".

Cardinal Ravasi was speaking after inaugurating the Vatican's first ever art exhibit at the Venice Biennale on Saturday, which focuses on the Book of Genesis through photography and paintings by a Los Angeles artist, Lawrence Carroll, who uses melting ice in one work.

Vatican officials believe the show can help heal what they call a century old "fracture" between religion and art, and Cardinal Ravasi said the Church now had its sights on commissioning modern liturgical art, for installing in churches.

"The Venice Biennale exhibit has been the first step on a journey," he said. "Further down the line could come liturgical art, meaning we could commission modern artists to create altars, fonts, tabernacles, lecterns, pews and kneelers," he added.

But after letting modern architects push the envelope too far, the Church will keep a wary eye on liturgical art commissions, he said.

"We will need to build up dialogue with artists before we commission any liturgical art," he said.


Here are some of the examples from around Rome and no wonder he criticises them... but I'm sure we could all think of examples closer to home... I know I can!



Anonymous said...

- YEP! They don't get that, for sure! The cardinal also seems to be very merciful or naive towards freemasons... Take a peek: http://www.corrispondenzaromana.it/il-card-ravasi-e-i-fratelli-massoni/ (It is in italian)...

Chloe said...

Liverpool metropolitan cathedral. Paddy's wigwam.

Sixupman said...

Vatican II, in the UK, gave rise to an architectural magazine specifically for the clergy - egging-them-on to perpetrate sacrilege. Many, if not all, such architecture was aimed not at the glory of God, but of the dilettante architects. It became a veritable industry, diverting the funds available from good causes. Altars, particularly in cathedrals, became 'worship spaces' to accommodate throngs acting-out self-satisfaction formulae.

A modest example, close to your own parish, which I attended for the first time on getting time wrong at St. Catherine's, engendered all the feeling of a college lecture theatre.