Before and After: San Joselito Chapel in Norwalk, Connecticut

Many of our "Before and After" speak quite well for themselves, and today's example coming from Canning Liturgical Arts is certainly no exception -- in fact, it might be an iconic example. Speaking of such, over the years we have commented on how colour and decorative work can absolutely transform a space and today's example, San Joselito Chapel in Norwalk, Connecticut, is a perfect example of this. 

The chapel was originally built in the very late nineteenth century as a convent chapel, done in a Tudor gothic revival style. The Canning company was originally engaged to help provide design recommendations simply for the sanctuary, but as discussions developed, the project would expand to include the entire chapel -- and we can be thankful it did. 

Canning provides some background:

The historic interior of the chapel has both Gothic and Classical elements that may be observed when studying the lattice-stained glass windows and the classical, Carrera marble altar. In all likelihood, the roughly 18ft x 35ft space was never highly decorated and recently, the interior had been completely white washed. Our involvement on the project began with basic consultation services on how the chapel may be beautified with stencil decoration, specific to the sanctuary area. Following this consultation, we offered to design, fabricate and install the decoration within the sanctuary. During the installation of the sanctuary decoration, our team inspired to complete the interior decoration with gold leaf and intricate stencil decoration..

In the fall of 2020, amidst the darkest days of the pandemic, a brightness blossomed with the commencement of a full beautification program for the chapel interior. The design was propelled by the unwavering and rich faith of the community and acted to provide creative refuge and inspiration for the decorator. This little chapel is true labor of love and beacon of hope. Many weekends and late nights as well as the efforts of happy volunteers were devoted to the cause of beauty bound up in the decoration of the chapel. The project attracted the volunteer efforts of company staff, staff family members and parishioners. Various elements of the trade were employed in the production of the chapel beautification including but not limited to stenciling, glazing, and gilding. This interest and desire of outsiders presented the opportunity for instructing young people and parishioners on the traditional trade methods and materials practiced in the decorative arts..

The chapel was completed in August 2021 and has quickly become the prize jewel of the community. The chapel balances English Gothic design with Spanish influence and incorporates motifs symbolic of the patron saint for whom the chapel is named, San Joselito. The decorative scene is high Victorian and is inspired by St. Giles’ Church in Cheadle, England, which was designed by Augustus Pugin. The chapel offers reprieve from the chaos of the outside world, captivating visitors with beauty.

With that background in mind, here is a look at the chapel prior to the renovations.


And here, let us jump straight to the profound state of the chapel as it now stands.


One could be easily forgiven if, in seeing these photos, they weren't even able to recognize them as the same space, and this is particularly noteworthy for the reason that, other than the addition of pews in place of chairs, the architectural bones of the chapel remain substantially the same. These profound differences then are not the result of major architectural-structural changes, but rather mainly and primarily the simple addition of colour and decorative ornament. 

The palette of colours utilized in ths project is very typical of the tastes of the nineteenth century gothic revival, and come off extremely well, as do the stencils which include the gothic style IHS Christogram, crosses, palm branches and other vegetal motifs. 

The entire project puts on to mind of the sort of work that was practiced by one of the most eminent gothic revivalists of the nineteenth century, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. 

Canning calls this project a "transformation through decoration" and they are most certainly correct. One might even term it moreso a "transfiguration" than a transformation. 

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