Before and After: St. Mary's Church in Willimantic, Connecticut

John Canning Studios recently gave us another example of the importance of colour in liturgical architecture. They recently undertook a restoration and beautification project at beautiful St. Mary's Church in Willimantic, Connecticut. In addition to repair work they also replicated the original ornamental plaster elements that had been lost, utilizing traditional methods while also contributing to the beautification of the church by adding additional colour and pattern to the architecture. Here was their proposal to the parish:

Above you can see to the left the conceptual watercolour superimposed over a picture of the church in its 'before' state.  As you can see the parish had beautiful architectural 'bones' but it was devoid of other ornamentation -- quite likely the result of the misguided post-conciliar renovation enthusiasms which were common in the 1970's and 80's, but this is purely a guess.

Fortunately this church, being Romanesque revival, had a strong foundation from which to rebuild -- in this case quite literally as this particular renovation was spurred by a disastrous church fire.  Here we have a look at the state of the parish before.


Historically, it is quite likely that a substantive altar and reredos would have been located toward the rear of the sanctuary wall it goes without saying. Regrettably I have been unable to source historical images of the 'before the before' in this instance so let's just focus on what was and now what is. Here is the church today:


One can see here just how much something as the simple addition of some colour and stencilling in the apse alone makes a critical visual difference in the church, leading the eye straight to the sanctuary. 

However, in addition to that some additional detailing was also restored and added to the rest of the church, thereby helping to balance the parts to the whole while keeping the sanctuary itself the clear and central point of focus. 

The object lesson here is that you certainly do not have to go 'all out' in order to have a significant impact.

For more information, visit Canning Liturgical Arts website or see them on social media

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