I recently learnt of the Beuronese School, which was a nineteenth century attempt to reorient, literally and figuratively, Western liturgical art. You may read of it at the New Liturgical Movement. The linked article has some lovely photographs, as well. The style is what results, I suppose, when one expresses piety with Belle Époque aesthetic sensibilities.
What a century!
I have a theory, probably garnered somewhere now unknown to me, that human societies experience creative explosions in moments of civilizational crisis wherein cultures or ages collide. There are many counterexamples, but the high points of human civilization seem to occur at such moments. Take fifth and fourth century ancient Greece, the Hellenistic period throughout the Near East, the chaos at the end of the Roman Republic, the transition to Christianity in the empire, the first centuries of Mohammedan expansion, the High Middle Ages, the swan song of the Eastern Empire, the Renaissance, or the consequent ages up until the world wars. I do not know if one may see a similar pattern in South and East Asia, though such seems true of Mughal India. The 1800’s—that tumultuous century of revolution and reaction—gave the world remarkable literature, music, architecture, urban planning, and painting. Please forgive an indulgence in Hegelianism, but it seems that the nineteenth century resulted from a somewhat hostile dialectic between tradition and modernity that nevertheless created an extraordinary age. Perhaps, though, we should not be surprised that the coming together of opposites begets life.
I recently discovered Beautiful-Libraries.com, which showcases, unsurprisingly, beautiful libraries in various categories. I recommend a visit. The site also reminds me why I love the internet. Why not create a compilation of the world’s loveliest libraries?
Yesterday, I mentioned the Orthodox Church of the Third Caprican Fleet in “Cypriot Mothership.” Today, in the spirit of ecumenical misery, I offer you the Roman Catholic parish of Saint Francis de Sales in Muskegon, Michigan. You may take a virtual tour on the parochial web site to get a closer look at this Massassi Temple. See, I suspect that the church is where George Lucas filmed the award ceremony on Yavin 4 at the end of A New Hope. I report; you decide:
Saint Francis de Sales:
I shall say this for the design—it is bold and unrelenting. It pleases one’s inner fascist rather well. Next up, we shall discuss whether the Air Force Academy Chapel belongs in Colorado Springs or in Coruscant . . .
If Roman Catholics find Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles difficult to appreciate, I wish to let them know that they are not alone. The Church of Saints Barnabas and Makarios in Cyprus is our Orthodox space age equivalent.
It was built, to no one’s surprise, in the 1970’s. You may see more pictures of Patriarch Kirill’s visit to the Cypriot temple on the Moscow Patriarchate’s site.
At least, this building conserves traditional iconography, and one cannot argue that the design does not manifest the naval aspect of Christian architecture rather spectacularly. Still, I prefer traditional domed structures—and I hate a chaired laity! Even the Greeks in the old lands are succumbing to those hateful restraints! Toss out those chairs! Burn those pews! Let children crawl in the Lord’s house with abandon!
Have a good civil new year over the weekend!
At times, I delight in human beings. I just discovered the Ozark Medieval Fortress project in Arkansas, and I have another reason to visit the Natural State. The story starts with Frenchman Michel Guyot’s decision to purchase and renovate Saint-Fargeau Castle in Burgundy. He financed the rebuilding by turning the castle into a tourist destination. Guyot has assisted in helping others save derilict castles, as well. His experience in restoring castles gave him the idea of building a new castle with the technology and materials available to the castle builders of past ages. Such a project would help students of medieval architecture better understand the objects of their discipline. It is the history department’s meeting the faculties of natural philosophy, where one reproduces an experiment in the laboratory. Guyot’s lab is Guédelon, also in Burgundy. The new castle’s construction began in A.D. 1997, and Guyot’s team expects the building to take twenty-five years.
A French couple who moved to Arkansas two decades ago, Jean-Marc and Solange Mirat, decided that they wanted Guyot to establish an architectural-historical-touristy fiefdom in the Ozarks. The project started two years ago, and now one may visit, volunteer at, or become an intern for the Ozark Medieval Fortress in Lead Hill, Arkansas.
Less historically careful but still fascinating is Loveland Castle, not far from Cincinnati. I have visited “Chateau Laroche” since I was a child, and I still marvel at its wonderful weirdness. I often lament civilizational decline and the ruin of the West, and I think that my pessimism is well founded. However, remnants will always remain. A segment of mankind will always be too beautifully odd and indifferent to the masses to go along with whatever dominant development in social evolution. Whether it is a monastery in Wyoming during a new dark age or Christian settlements in Appalachia that thrive while former American cities decay in a Mad Max style apocalyptic wasteland, civilization will survive. Like seeds of mighty trees destroyed by a holocaust, pockets of the West will experience rebirth after the ruin. I still lament the impending fall, but I suppose that there is always room for justified hope. On such a note, I wish you well on every good endeavor in the new year.
Der Spiegel has several photo galleries of the destruction of German cities during the Second World War and of the consequent architectural decisions taken after the war. The pictures reveal horrendous devastation. I must repeatedly ask myself what lunacy must have prompted Europeans to engage in such fratricide—and suicide—in the first half of the twentieth century. To consider the amount of human, social, and civilizational destruction that occurred in the last century, with two world wars, totalitarian dystopia, and the alienation of Europeans from their past is profoundly disturbing. So much was lost, and what was gained? Wisdom? The West is full of fools finding themselves wise in their decadence.
The photographs of German cities before and after the war manifest in images what I think of the recent evolution of the West. Consider:
“Germany Comes to Terms with its Ugliest Buildings”
with its photo gallery: “When Architecture Goes Wrong”
“A New Look at Germany’s Postwar Reconstruction”
with its photo gallery: “A Century-Long Project”
Other related photo galleries:
“Architecture Out of the Gray”
“Emerging from the Ruins”
“An Endless Sea of Concrete Apartment Blocks”
“Problematic Postwar Architecture”
“Women in the Rubble”
Do we see an end to the madness—to the modern dark age?