Before and After: St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Janesville, Wisconsin

Conrad Schmitt Studios recently unveiled a project that they undertook at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Janesville, Wisconsin. The project is a key example of how painting and stencilling can not only better accentuate the architecture of a church, it can also completely transform it.

The church, which was originally built in the 19th century, had some typical mid-twentieth century design features that would have been from later renovations. A very neutral palette had been used throughout. What this resulted in was an accentuation of the flatness of the ceiling and lack of depth found in the sanctuary. This was further put at odds with the arches and windows going along the nave which have greater architectural ornament to them. The result was very not only very 'boxy,' the central nave and sanctuary seemed less prominent than the walls to either side of the church.


Enter Conrad Schmitt. Their approach did not involve having to make structural modifications. Instead it revolved around the introduction of painted stencilling to the walls, ceiling and sanctuary. The net result is impressive indeed.


The new painted additions take the approach of accentuating the existing architectural structure by framing them, as in the case of the gothic arches, while in other instances it has also created a sense of the structure being more ornamental than it architecturally is - as in the case of the ceiling or sanctuary wall.

What this has done is not only make the church appear significantly more ornamental, it has added a greater sense of depth, especially in relation to the altar and sanctuary:

One will also note how the statuary on the sanctuary walls have now been 'framed' (giving the illusion of a niche) which has the effect of providing a greater harmony between wall and statue.  The painted design work also continues around the altar with its reredos like marble structure. The end result is that, even though the 'after' has more ornamental details, there is a visual unity that is inherited from the ornament that actually makes it seem somehow cleaner, simpler and less cluttered. 



It is perhaps a good reminder to parishes that even if you don't have a budget to make major architectural changes to your church, a little painted design can go a very long way. 

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