Before and After in Sydney

In many of our "before and after" considerations, we are generally dealing with a traditional sanctuary and church that was renovated in a very modernistic fashion that is then restored back closer to its historical design; in other instances we are dealing with a church whose origins were in fact very modernistic but that has then been renovated in such a way as to bring it into alignment with a more traditional ordering.  These, of course, tend to be the most dramatic "before and after" considerations but they are not the only one's that are possible, nor are they the only one's that are effective or important.

Recently a project came to light, based out of Sydney, Australia as I understand it, that shows how even parishes that are already relatively traditionally ordered have opportunities for beautification and improvement.  Let's begin with a consideration of the 'before.'


The most notable point here is the projection screen; an eyesore that disrupts the architectural and liturgical integrity of the church.  Additionally, a very temporary looking lectern and ambo are found on either side of the sanctuary and the sedilia appears to have been set facing toward the nave, behind the lectern.  The end result is cluttered as these various bits and pieces fight for attention and distract from what should be the primary focal point of the church: the altar. 

Of course, beyond these deficiences we still can find the bones of a traditional church ordering. One might be tempted to conclude, therefore, that all that was really necessary here was some re-arranging of those aforesaid bits and pieces. While it is true such an approach would have had a positive impact in its own right, we are fortunate that a greater vision and potential was recognized.  Let us turn to the 'after.'


In our 'after' state of affairs we see a number of improvements. In the first instance the stripping away of the red carpeting in the aisles not only contributes to better acoustics, it also removes an object that was too visually predominant in the overall scheme of things. The tile work that has replaced it is much more neutral colour-wise and yet also more ornamental and visually appealing -- tying together the various parts of the church and, through perspective, better leading one's eye up through the nave and into the sanctuary.

As for the sanctuary itself, a wonderfully rich red colour has been added to its walls which has helped to set it apart from the rest of the church while also framing and accentuating the sanctuary stained glass and the beautiful stonework around it.  In addition, an ornamental backdrop in the medieval tradition has replaced the much plainer and more neutral backdrop the was previously found behind the altar. This has not only added a further layer of visual interest through the introduction of various bits of Christian iconography and symbolism (including the text of the Sanctus), most importantly it has also significantly accentuated the altar -- something that was previously far less pronounced.

Needless to even say perhaps, the projection screen has been removed and you will also note that the former lectern has now been replaced by another of more worthy design and materials  The sedilia has now also taken up its traditional station and orientation.

Overall, what we have here is a very beautiful and appealing bit of work.  While at first glance it might have seemed that only a few objects needed to be removed or replaced, it is my hope that this will serve as an example of how colour and detail can make a significant difference for the overall 'feel' and focus of a church -- including a traditional one.

Well done.

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