30 August 2011

Beauty by design

I was flipping through a book on Notre Dame de Montreal which I had bought my mother (may God bless her and her guilt inducing niceness) and I was struck by a few sentences from the original contract with the architect of that church.  Among the specifications, the church had to be able to hold several thousand people, (I forget how many- either three or eight) and it was also to be the "most beautiful church in North America."  That was in the contract.  I can't say if the contract was fulfilled, but I can say they took a fair run at it.

It called to mind the statement made by Bishop McNally, who commissioned the building of Christ the King in Hamilton, who said "We shall have the finest church in Canada!"  Again, I can't say for sure if they were successful  (some of those churches in Quebec are awfully beautiful.  If he meant in English Canada he has a stronger case.) but they took a fair run at it. It made me wonder how many more churches were built with the intention of being the most beautiful church in the world/country/city/diocese, and how many put that in the contract.  It also makes me wonder when and why it stopped.

3 comments:

Vox Cantoris said...

I think it stopped because we've become as Judas in criticizing the woman's gift of ointment (the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars) and even moreseo, we are like Cain...not Able. Able gave his best, the best lamb he had...a metaphor for Christ no doubt, but Cain gave bruised fruit out of his selfishness and greed he gave God the poorest of his harvest. So, when we build ugly churches and sing little ditties, we are like Judas and Cain, when we should be more like the woman and Able.

But I tend to think that Christ the King in Hamilton and St. Paul's in Toronto and St. Patrick's in Ottawa (and Kinkora) are amongst the most beautiful churches in English Canada.

Bear-i-tone said...

As we both know, two of those churches were designed by Joseph Connelly, who also designed Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, another strong contender for most beautiful church in English Canada.

Another problem, around ehre at least, is that the diocese has taken over church designs, with an eye to cost. I imagine it was the debt incurred by parishes to have the most beautiful church around that inspired this move. The churches tended to run out of money before completion. St Paul's and St Mary's on Bathurst, for instance, both could not complete their towers for years, until a wealthy patron, or patrons, gave bnoth the money in 1905. Another Connelly church, St Patrick's in Hamilton, has an incomplete tower to this day.

Vox Cantoris said...

You're right about Our Lady in Guelph, put that up there with the St. Paul's and Christ the King Cathedral.

Two fine Toronto suburban churches are St. Benedict's Etobicoke on Kipling Avenue and St. Lawrence the Martyr, Scarborough on Lawrence Avenue. They were built in the late 1950's and unlike most of the other utilitarian designs, they were of a higher calibre.