St. Joseph's Seminary in North Carolina

Photos: Peter Brentlinger for Edifice
Perhaps the most exciting building project of the year award goes to St. Joseph's College Seminary in the Diocese of Charlotte. They have done a terrific job.  Hearty congratulations to the diocese and many thanks to everyone who dreamed big and worked hard to make this dream project a reality.  The finished project shines, complete with a cloister walk, inspiring the imagination with baronial elegance, looking like something between a castle and a large manor house.  The style of architecture selected, the Collegiate Gothic, speaks of greatness and learning.  It has an innovative touch that speaks of soaring faith, leadership and daring, and creative imagination.  It has a distinct mark of American ingenuity.  In short, the property is absolutely gorgeous and hopefully it will set a standard for new construction of minor seminaries across the nation.  I can think of not a few other seminaries that would do well to imitate this successful model (SJV in the Twin Cities comes to mind).  Photos of the new construction can be seen on the website of the builder.

The project manager/project architect is Michael Supino of Creech & Associates.  The brilliant design is by Michael G. Imber Architects of San Antonio.  These guys know what they are doing.  I like the variety on the facade, such as the large oriel window and even the tiny lancet windows.

The future chapel has yet to be built, and thankfully will be facing east, the proper liturgical praxis.  The temporary chapel, seen in the photo above with hammerbeam ceiling (with pointed, painted collar beams) and plastered walls and tiled floor, brings to mind a chapter room or a refectory in a European monastery or even a great hall from the early or late Middle Ages, when most schools were still attached to a church.  I am happy to see proper choir seating in the chancel (with beautiful wooden corbels), a proper extension of the sanctuary.  The simplicity of the Late Medieval and Early Tudor schematic design resembles something like Westminster Hall, London (designed in 1395).  Obviously the arts, especially architecture, are flourishing under the patronage of the local diocesan church, as it should be.  I have to say some of the best formed priests I met in Rome during my student days were from the Diocese of Charlotte, including the fine rector.  The beauty of the architectural design speaks of Catholic culture, classical training, music, mathematics, theology, Latin grammar, literature, logic, astronomy, and all things good, true and beautiful.  The simple tracery and lead frames on the sanctuary window in straight vertical and horizontal lines is delicate and beautiful.  The rectangular arch-topped doors are a nice touch.  Great care has been put into the smallest of details.  Even the interior Tudor oak furniture is just perfect.  This is a huge success story.        

St. Joseph's Seminary (SJCS) has a short and remarkable history.  It was founded in 2016.  In 2017 the land was purchased, 86 wooded acres just two miles from the Benedictine Abbey of Belmont.  Presently, the new seminary has rooms for 40 seminarians, with nearly all filled.  Classes will be under the same roof in the new building.  At this rate of growth a new addition is already being planned as phase II of construction.  In April 2020 seminarians moved into the new building seen above.  A capital campaign is still underway to fund the construction and education of the seminarians.  I ask everyone to be generous and to give to support this worthy cause here.  The price tag is about $30 million, with roughly half raised for a total space of 28,657 SF.  The Diocese of Charlotte leads the way with this one.  Great job, guys!  It brings great joy to see the men in a proper college house cassock, after all these years when priestly identity was downplayed and out of vogue.  The men can be seen in the above photo.  Indeed, good things are happening with this vibrant seminary that leads the way and reflects in its thoughtful design the objective value of beauty.  

Below are images of what the finished chapel and campus will look like from the exterior, watercolor images by Elizabeth LaDuke for Michael G. Imber Architects.    

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