A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Know Any Rich Benefactors?

After a century of existence, TOF's parish church is in need of extensive structural repairs, more than its congregation of mostly poor and fixed incomers can plausibly raise.  So if anyone out there knows Bill Gates or something, now's the time to give him a call. 

Neepery about the building is below the cut.  It would be a shame to lose it. 

It's the third building to have been built on the site.  The first was in 1856, and the cornerstone was laid by St. John Nep. Neumann, then-bishop of Philadelphia.  The second, larger building burned in a great fire in my grandparents' youth.  The third was laid in 1915. 

My grandmother in foreground and
her brothers laying the stone.  Schw√§rs
had been stone masons for centuries.
Similar in plan to the Frauenkirche in Munich, Germany, the church is constructed of Stockton granite from basement to roof.  It is 140.5 feet long by 75 feet wide.  Its twin towers, about 100 feet tall, are capped with terra cotta domes.  

Pentecost Rose Window
The floor plan is in the shape of a cross, with the sanctuary and nave forming the long part and the side altars and rose windows marking the transept.   The right-hand rose window is over a triptych of the Nativity; the left-hand rose window is over one depicting Pentecost.  Two birthday scenes, as it were. 

God learning carpentry
The stained glass windows were made in Germany, we think by the Franz Mayer Studios, but their delivery and installation were delayed until after WW1 was over.  The windows lining the nave depict the life of St. Joseph, patron of the original parish.  The two windows in the choir loft in the rear depict David the Psalmist and St. Gregory (as in Gregorian Chant).  The four windows in the sanctuary depict Eucharistic scenes: Moses and the manna, Melchizedek, Abraham and Isaac, and Elijah receiving bread and water from Heaven. 

The bell tower contains a three-bell peal in C-G-E.  The bells are named (from low note to high): Saint Joseph, Protector, Our Lady of the Angels, and Saint Agatha.   The no longer swing -- too many tons rocking the tower -- but are struck with external hammer.

The designers of the church took pains to make its layout liturgically apt.  Below is a long view from the choir loft, a bit washed out in light.  

The view from the choir loft.
Here is a closer view of the sanctuary:
The altar sits under a hemi-dome in an apse.
There are four windows (two in view)
depicting prefigures of the Eucharist.
The vertical line leads from the dome (blank, representing the Father) through the canopy (on which a dove represents the Spirit) to the crucifix (and the Son).  This leads directly to a bas-relief of the Last Supper flanked by mosaics of grapes and wheat.  The celebrant's chair is in the same vertical line, in loco Christi, leading the eye to the altar.  The chairs for celebrants and servers echo the disciples seated in the bas-relief.  That visual space was once occupied (appropriately) by the tabernacle, but when the altars were turned around, liturgical meaning was not wasted.  
These icons represent matrimony,
holy orders, and extreme unction

The horizontal line along the top of the altar screen are icons representing the sacraments, with the Eucharist in the center.  Below them, circular mosaics depict Eve and Mary. The vertical and horizontal line together represent an upside down cross. 

The old Eve considers the fruit
The new Eve considers the fruit
while holding the fruit
There are other details: the nave is roofed by a barrel vault whose faux ribs are supported by corbels in the form of cherubs:
Detail: Cherubic corbels
The Stations are in high-relief plaster between the windows:
High relief technique.

There are two lecterns on either side of the altar. 
One has a medallion showing Paul being blinded;
the other has a medallion showing Jesus teaching. 
In former times, one was used for reading the
epistle and the other for reading the gospel.
The betrothal, after Raphael

The windows in the choir loft are musical.
This one is St. Gregory; the other (not shown)
is David as harper.


  1. That's an absolutely beautiful church. I really hope you guys find the funding you need.

  2. It's a shame that, with all the ugly, modernist monstrosities out there, a beautiful actually-churchlike church is having financial problems.

  3. My parish church is a modernist monstrosity, sadly. Not the worst,, it's all smooth beige plaster/fabric and wood 'arches'.

    I truly wish I had a parish church like that one. It makes me heartsick to think that it might be going away. I may not be able to send money, but I'll pray for your parish.

  4. I know this is off topic, and I apologize...

    A little while back you had a post about Lawrence Krauss' book and a critical review from David Albert.

    Well, I didn't even know about this, but Krauss has suffered a pretty big backlash, and not just from Albert:

    An NPR article.
    And this, from a blog called "Rationally Speaking."

  5. Do you have more details? For example: how much will the planned renovation cost? What's the timeframe for construction? What's the deadline for raising the funds?

    If those aren't publishable, can you provide the development person's contact info?

    1. I understand that the total is three million dollars, though I don't know if that must all be done at once or what the time frame is. The pastor, Rev. Deogratias Rwegasira, A.J., would know more. The contact info can be found at the top of the page here:


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