Before and After: St. Mary's Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Valley Falls, Kansas

We're pleased to bring you yet another 'before and after' -- and fortunately, 'before and afters' seem to rarely be in short supply these days. This particular one comes by way of Ecclesiastical Studios and Sons at St. Mary's Immaculate Conception Catholic Church located in Valley Falls, Kansas. This particular project is yet another study in the importance of colour and pattern to both beautify a space and also focus it. 

It is unknown whether this is a case of a historical parish that was 'white-washed' under the impetus of the usual motives of the latter half of the 20th century or whether it was simply a case of a parish that never had its decorative scheme completed; the net result is the same however. The before state was very cold with its whites and pale blues and provided little to no ornamental support for the encapsulating architecture. We were left with side altar niches that served little to no purpose, nor did they help to frame the main altar and apse in any significant way. With all the cool tones, it must be said it had an almost 'clinical' kind of coldness to it.


Suffice it to say, the free-standing altar, which evidently takes it origins from the 1970's or 1980's added no artistic merit to the sanctuary and, along with the ambo and lectern, indeed drew attention to themselves, but not in a good way. Rather than being integrated in a complimentary way, they sat in distinct contradiction with the rest of the sanctuary and church -- and indeed, the side altars showed greater artistic value and weight than did the main forward altar.

We turn now to the 'after'.


Evidently the altar issue was addressed in part by the installation of a new forward altar that was more substantial and decorative. But what I'd like to particularly draw your attention to is the new colour scheme and the decorative stencilling to be found in and around the apse, as well as above the side altars framing the statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph. 

The net result is not only a much warmer, and therefore more inviting atmosphere, the decorative work gives structure and order to the whole. The architectural niches above the side altar now make more sense and, further, frame the main part of the sanctuary. The same too may be said of the patterned work around the apsidal arch. This part of the design immediately draws your attention toward the apse, leading down to the cross and finally the altar. 

I should note, however, that the project did not just involve a renovation to the sanctuary, but the rest of the church received a treatment as well.  The cool, plain whites and baby blues originally continued from the original apse and sanctuary into the nave itself as can be seen here below.


But as with the sanctuary, this too was replaced by the much warmer tones and, importantly, decorative stenciling now found along the arches and also along the walls, acting as a kind of visual support for the stained glass windows. 


Since the subject of the 'forward altar' is always one of interest both to ourselves and to our readers, here's a quick view of the newly renovated sanctuary with its historical ordering in tact:

And here too a closer look at the historical high altar, which Ecclesiastical Studio and Sons also touched up, giving it greater colour.

A closer look at one of the side altars, also given more colour, and the ornamental painting in the niche above which now serve to frame the statues and lead one's eye to the altars themselves.

Of course, it is one thing to see the end result, and another to see the amount of thought and effort that goes into such projects. With that in mind, here are some views of the work in progress:

For more information, please visit Ecclesiastical Studio and Sons website or visit them on social media

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.