Three "Before and After" Projects of the Earlier Liturgical Movement

Generally our "before and after" series presents contemporary projects, but today I thought I would share three remodelling projects that come from the earlier period of the Liturgical Movement as featured in a 1934 issue of Liturgical Arts Quarterly. They actually featured six such remodelling projects in this issue, but these are -- to my mind -- three of the more successful projects (which is itself indicative of the history of the 20th century Liturgical Movement, frequently found to be a mixed bag of both triumphs and failures).

The first remodelling comes from the Church of the Holy Innocents in Pleasantville, New York. While it is difficult to see the full effect of the 'before' due to the overabundance of flora and fauna which was (and regrettably still often is) so characteristic of Easter Sunday in so many churches, what we can see here is a redesign which alters the more sentimentalist Victorian era clutter of the 'before' with a rather more orderly, Roman and gothic revivalist 'after.'  Especially effective in this regard is the rood, the altar with its tester, riddel posts and curtains and accompanying frontal. The net result is a church and sanctuary that is far more orderly and stately. 

The second project takes a similar approach where the altar is concerned and hails from the Church of St. Gertrude in Wilson, Connecticut.  In addition to the similar treatment toward the altar as in the previous example, a far more prominent cross has been hung above the altar. The end result is a much more prominent altar and altar arrangement that is by far more dignified compared to its forebear. 

Finally, the third example I wish to share comes from the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Bernardsville, New Jersey.  This particular example is a bit more nuanced as there are elements in the 'before' which strike me as far more successful than in the 'after,' but what is especially an improvement in this instance (besides the better designed altar frontal) is the Italian gothic inspired reredos.  The overall effect is one that likewise makes for a far more dignified altar. 

Each of these three examples shows the influence both of the gothic revival movement in the new world as well as the earlier Liturgical Movement's emphasis on the centrality of the altar. While the gothic aspect is a matter of personal preference and taste (just as is the baroque, Romanesque, Rococo or Byzantine style), few can argue with the desirability of emphasizing the dignity and centrality of the altar.

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