Before and After: Three Churches

Continuing on with our popular 'before and after' series, I have three churches to show you today, each worked on by Rohn and Associates Design.  After each image I will provide a few thoughts and comments. We begin with St. John the Evangelist located in Lamberville, New Jersey.

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Lambertville, New Jersey

Comments: The 'before' arrangement had its pluses of course, mainly due to the architectural merits of the gothic vaulting and presence of original high altar and reredos, but certainly the look here is either of a church that was not finished or one which had been painted over.  In the new arrangement we see that some much needed colour has been added to the walls generally, but of course the particular highlights are the painted vaulting and the mural above the main arch. What's more, the architectural additions that were affixed to either side of the reredos have been removed. This has revealed the beautiful stained glass windows behind and has also revealed new gothic arches. This has given a better balance to the whole sanctuary and has an effect of making the original reredos much more dramatic in my estimation.

Here is a slightly better look at the new arrangement:

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St. Mary of the Assumption, Marietta, Ohio

Comments: Similar to the previous church, the basic architectural structure of this church already lends it a certain beauty in its 'before' state but, once again, there is sense that there was a greater potential to be found here. This particularly comes out in the sculptural figures seen in the apse and sanctuary. There was some attempt that gilding the sunburst but something looks 'off' about it.  Beyond the architectural components, it must be commented that the potted trees and plants in the sanctuary was entirely lamentable. As well, the altar is, yet again, rather an afterthought in this crowded 'before' arrangement.

In the new arrangement the colour that has been added has drawn out the sculptural figures, including the beautiful angelic figures which were almost not noticeable before. The tabernacle has been restored to a central placement and a much more substantial altar has taken pride of place in the sanctuary as the central point of focus. In addition, you can see that additional art has been installed in the medallions.

I do believe a closer look at the some of painted work that has been added, particularly to the sculptural figures, is merited so as to gain a better appreciation for what has been done here. You will see there is an almost Art Nouveau like quality to these.

This really looks quite impressive. While there can be a place for a more muted type of approach in church architecture, especially where there are strong architectural details, I think this particular view is demonstrative of why this was the right approach in this church.

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St. Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Centre, New York

Comments: The 'before' shows a space that was quite devoid of colour and inspiration. The altar was rather dwarfed by the entire space making it rather anti-climactic and unfocused. That lack of focus had an effect of making the entire sanctuary visually cluttered.  In the new arrangement, the ciborium and the woodwork with its painted details and gilt highlights work nicely to frame both the altar and tabernacle giving it warmth, focus and visual unity, drawing one's attention to the altar.

My one caveat here would be that, ideally, in accordance with its historical and liturgical purpose, the ciborium should cover the altar. Fortunately the design is such that this would be possible to do this in the future.

That caveat aside this is a very well done renovation that has brought about a much more classical ordering, at least visually, that is not only more beautiful, but also much more worthy of the sacred rites in general.

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