New Reredos for Corpus Christi Church by Studio io and Granda

Hearty congratulations to Corpus Christi parish in South River, NJ on the occasion of their new altar reredos that is a true work of art designed by our good friends at Studio io. Many thanks to Michael Raia, the president and founder of Studio io, along with his entire team for their amazing work. They are ones to watch as up-and-coming great minds in the area of liturgical design and consulting.

The reredos was fabricated in Spain by our other good friends at Granda in Madrid who did a fabulous job as usual. The Spanish artisans on their staff are master woodworkers. The fitting golden tabernacle is also by Granda.

Corpus Christi was opened in 1952, designed in a Colonial Revival style. The original main altar, removed in the 1970s, had a simple tester and curtain that hung behind it. In the post-conciliar years the church went through five redecorating schemes. Several years ago the current pastor rescued a 160-year-old antique Gothic revival high altar from Belgium and placed it in the sanctuary, returning the tabernacle to the center of the sanctuary. 

The new reredos was made to match the old altar, making it an an architectural “mediator” of styles. It  was designed to look like it belongs with the antique altar, with matching material, stain, color, and finishes. At the same time, it was cleverly designed with classical proportions and clean lines to respond more closely to the architecture of the building, intending to tie the two together in a way that does not seem forced.

The finished reredos appropriately conveys the Church's central mystery of the Eucharist in art and architecture, a weighty consideration in any liturgical context, but all the more so in a church dedicated by name to that very mystery: Corpus Christi -- the Body of Christ. 

The hand-carved portions of the work include raised carvings of grape vines and wheat shafts that run up the sides of the two pilasters, framing the scene in gold leaf, continuing the same theme that is visible below on the existing altar. These carvings are crowned by the Alpha and the Omega under each capital, flanking either side of the pilasters at the top. 

The existing crucifix, original to the church is also a stunning work of art, of unknown origin. It stands out with the royal red of the dorsal curtain behind it, with the red fabric alluding to the Precious Blood cascading down to earth, while the inscription on the frieze above the arch complements the inscription on the altar below. 

The existing inscription below reads, in Latin, “I am the vine, you are the branches” - Jesus' words to us - while the new inscription above reads, “CORPUS CHRISTI SALVA ME” (“Body of Christ, save me”, the second line of the Anima Christi prayer) - our plea to Jesus. 

A relief carving of the Agnus Dei encircled with the Crown of Thorns in the canopy's pediment alludes to the heavenly Jerusalem and the foretaste of the fulfillment of Divine Revelation that is rendered present in every Mass offered below.

In the words of Michael Tamara, the gifted and competent designer and project manager for this project from Studio io:
"There is a need to moderate between the Gothic Revival style of the nineteenth century Belgian altar, and the American Colonial Revival style of the newer altar of sacrifice, side shrines, and the architecture of the church itself. Quartered white oak with gilded accents, stained to match the antique altar, serves the need to visually incorporate that piece. Otherwise, the simpler, classical massing helps to transition back to the stylistic language of the rest of the mid-twentieth century church. In short, the goal is a work of noble beauty that does justice to its surroundings architecturally, while glorifying God and inspiring the faithful to deeper prayer and contemplation. Granda Liturgical Arts of Spain, the same company that made Corpus Christi's beautiful tabernacle decades ago, fabricated this new furnishing."


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