Before and After: Ss. Cyril and Methodius in East Helena, Montana

[Steve Baker, the principal architect at Baker Architects LLC provided LAJ with the following guest article featuring a renovation project their firm completed in the Autumn of 2023 at Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church located in East Helena, Montana.]

Guest Article by Steve Baker, Ph.D.

The ambitious renovation of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church from its original 1960’s state to its rejuvenated form was an imperative journey that sought not only to correct the disorganization of the original design but also to instill a sense of divine order and spiritual elevation into the interior of the sanctuary. The original state of the church required a thorough transformation, compelling the architect to salvage the sacred space that had lost its luster over the years.



The initial assessment of the old church revealed a combination of outdated fixtures and faded aesthetics, presenting an opportunity to bring centrality, focus, and a sense of divine order to the sacred space. Likewise, the existing color palette of the sanctuary left a dull and uninspiring atmosphere. The asymmetrical positioning of the existing altar removed it as a focal point of reverence and lacked the regality and sacredness that the Eucharistic celebration deserved.



In addressing the disorder, the redesign aimed not just at aesthetics but at creating an environment that reflected the glory of God and His creation. The carefully chosen color palette, with rich hues of deep burgundy, royal blue, and gold, symbolized the sacred and divine.

The altar, meticulously adorned with intricate carvings and gold leaf accents, became a visual representation of divine order, signifying the elements of the design to reflect the glory of God.

Technological deficiencies were addressed to bring order to the worship experience. Subtle, concealed lighting fixtures were strategically placed to highlight architectural details and create a warm, inviting ambiance.

Lighting for Eucharistic Adoration

The absence of heavenly imagery was replaced with a deliberate effort to infuse divine symbols throughout the church. A breathtaking adorned the sanctuary's ceiling, served as a visual reminder of divine inspiration. The redesign prioritized the centrality of the tabernacle, placing it at the heart of the sanctuary. This deliberate placement emphasized the significance of the Eucharist and its centrality in Catholic worship. The tabernacle became a focal point, radiating divine order and underscoring the sacredness of the space.

Furnishings were carefully selected to complement the divine order and enhance the worship experience. An intricately carved marble ambo provided a sense of continuity throughout the design. The addition of a baptismal font near the entrance symbolized the sacrament of initiation and rebirth, further integrating divine order into the design.

Community engagement was integral to the success of the renovation, fostering a sense of collective rejuvenation. Regular updates and presentations kept the parishioners informed and engaged throughout the process, emphasizing the spiritual significance of each design element. The renewed sanctuary now stands as a testament to the profound impact that divine order and thoughtful design can have on the spiritual vitality of a community. 

This dramatic transformation was designed by Baker Architects and manufactured and installed by Baker Studios, LLC. Installation of the furnishings was aided with significant help from Darvin Eckert and his team. For further project information, contact the architect, Steve Baker, PhD at Baker Architects today.

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