Reconstruction of the Church of St. Cecilia in the Wisconsin Dells

Photos by OC-Travel
In all my travels throughout the world I have seen various new churches that work and others that fail.  I have to say how incredibly impressed I was in seeing this new construction project of the Church of St. Cecilia in the Wisconsin Dells.  Great job to everyone who had a hand in this exciting project in the Diocese of Madison.

The original church that was built in 1902 was replaced in 2016 with this new church.  The project was long overdue, necessitated by the intense tourist influx during the summer months.  In fact, year round visitors come from across the nation to vacation here at the Dells and attend Sunday Mass and devotions.  The fitting bell tower brings to mind a quote from Victor Hugo, "The horizontal is the line of reason, the vertical the line of prayer."  Appropriate as the bells in the tower sound the hours of prayer and call all to worship the Lord in prayer.

The Catholic Church is the only cultural power in the West that maintains beautiful church architecture on a global level, based upon the strong Greco-Latin humanistic tradition.  This is the architecture of prayer.  We incarnate our faith, our Latin piety, in permanent stones and shapes and high vaults of construction.  The new church seen here retains the massive nobility of the Romanesque, a monumental building style that soars heavenward in chorus with an arched, enveloping interior space.  Visitors who enter are impressed to see the ever-changing light beams rushing downward through the various antique stained-glass windows that have been incorporated from the old church, a nice Gothic afterthought.  This project could have gone either way.  Thanks to the bold and zealous pastors, courageous building committee and common sense guidance and support of the diocesan curia (Bishop Morlino of Madison, of happy memory), the project turned out as perfectly as possible.

The new church is a vast improvement over the old.  The windows and statues and altars were preserved and refurbished for the new.  Everything is an improvement, including the lighting.  The addition of the vestibule (what is unfortunately described by some church architects as a "gathering space"), is a huge asset for this community providing adequate space for families with young children and restroom accessibility, especially during the winter months.

The arms of Pope Francis are depicted in the rear of the church just above the entrance.  A nice touch (the tiara); we approve of this fitting and highly symbolic tribute to the papacy and Petrine tradition. 

Here can be seen the new interior with immense vault, designed beautifully as an old church.  A spectacular triumph.  I was last here in 1991 while on vacation at the Wisconsin Dells with my grandparents who had first visited here in the 1950s.  I am overwhelmed to see how well everything turned out.  It should be a model for future church construction across the nation, especially in the Upper Midwest.

By the way, thank you for the beautiful altar rail, symbolic of the curtain of the temple, that veil which visibly divides the sanctuary (heaven) from the pews (the earth).  And so impressive to see the well-instructed lay faithful preserving the immemorial custom of the Latin Church of kneeling for Holy Communion.  Needless to say, the rail also protects the sanctuary from useless traffic and even from thieves - we know from universal experience - protecting the "holy of holies" when no one is in the church.

Keep up the fine work to the visionary pastor, Fr. Sternberg!  May this project achieve the notoriety and influence it deserves, rising above the invariably green lawns and river bottoms of the Wisconsin Dells.  Time will not tarnish these Romanesque lines and vaulting, adorned with dazzling windows and colorful stencil work in the pursuit of the beautiful.  A child born in Reims around the year 1120 when their cathedral was begun could hardly hope to see it finished.  Meanwhile, this project has come to a conclusion in a short span.  The luxury of such a beautiful church is first and foremost an offering to God, satisfying man's instinct that impels him to build extraordinary monuments to heaven in search of the infinite.  May this house of God, which is everyman's house, remain for 1,000 years and more.     

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