Before and After: St. Joseph's in Bowling Green, Kentucky

Conrad Schmitt Studios recently shared a project they were engaged on at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Unlike some of our previous 'before and after' features, this is not an instance so much of taking an architecturally challenged space and turning it into something more classical; rather this is an instance of a church whose bones were quite classical -- with some caveats as far as the modified post-conciliar sanctuary was concerned -- and bringing it back toward a greater historical and liturgical integrity. 

In this particular instance we have a very good case study on the importance of colour and ornament in church design. While it is true the church, with its gothic vaulting and, thankfully preserved, reredos, were quite beautiful, one can clearly see what a difference the addition of painting, stencilling and colour has made to the overall atmosphere of the church. Indeed, it has the effect of drawing one into it -- whereas in its (presumably) whitewashed state, it was marked by a certain coldness and sterility, even despite the gothic ornament. 

Contrast this with the post-renovation state:

Let's take a closer look at some of these details.

Not to be overlooked in this renovation, however, are the improvements made to the sanctuary. Previously the sanctuary had been altered in a rather curious fashion with uneven lines. What's more, the forward altar was far too small for the sanctuary -- and while many of our readers will no doubt agree that the total restoration of the classical high altar arrangement would be the most desirable end state, at the moment that is not feasible in many places due to generational politics.  So we will set that aside for now and compare.

Evidently the removal of the carpet is a vast improvement taken on its own as well as the now symmetrical lines that form the border of the nave and sanctuary. In addition, the new altar sits in better proportions to the high altar and reredos behind, not to mention the overall scale of the church.  The addition of a predella for the new altar is always a welcome feature wherever freestanding altars are to be found as well. 

Perhaps one day we will enjoy seeing the high altar restored to permanent use. In the meantime, however, a significant improvement all around. 

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