6 February 2009

Renovations Complete

My parish church finished its renovations in December, and I finally got some photographs of the interior.

The renovations were quite extensive. It began with problems to the exterior. The facade had been cleaned by sandblasting back in the '80's, when sandblasting was all the rage, and no one had yet realized that sandblasting seriously weakens concrete and mortar. As a result, the facade was falling apart. An inspection revealed that the roof was also in need of repair, the interior could also do some work, and on top of everything, the inside had not been painted or had a new carpet in about thirty years. The decision was made to fix everything in one shot, and so a large capital campaign was undertaken to raise $600,000.00 to fix the church.

The most noticeable changes were perhaps the least significant: the paint job. St Clare's had once been rather richly decorated with stencils and painting, but most of it had been painted over. (Those who want to blame the "Spirit of Vatican II" over that- don't bother. I think the spirit of economics had more sway. A priest in the past with a declining congregation and dwindling revenues had to decide if he would hire a very expensive professional to restore the decaying stencil work, or get a big bucket of paint and a huge roller) Father decided to restore many of the stencils and painting to their original glory. Parts of the church were selectively stripped of their paint by the restorer, Carlos Nunez, to find the stencils underneath, and new stencils were made and used throughout. There were some stencilling revealed that was not used again, probably in the interest of not going overboard.

I think the results were wonderful. Here are a series of before and after photos. Just a reminder, I'm not a photographer and I was using my kid's camera.

The sacred heart and tabernacle in the west transept before:

And after:

Similarly, the crucifix in the east transept before:

And after:

The spectacular painting by Guido Nincheri which hangs over the altar was also restored. Before:

The painting was cleaned, revealing brighter colours and extra detail. Also, someone in the past had folded up the bottom two feet of the painting to make way for a ledge that was installed along the wall. The ledge was removed, and the painting was unfolded and restored. In addition, the artist added a border around the painting similar to the border that surrounds the stained glass windows that run along the top portion of the church.

Borders and colour were used in several places to enhance and emphasise details throughout the church, such as for the beautiful Stations of the Cross. Before:
And after:
The medallions of the apostles were restored to their original brilliant colours, and the surrounding areas were once again stencilled in the original vibrant colours. Before:


St John before:

And after:

The underside of the arches visible in the above photos were also once again stencilled. A new detail added was the rosettes painted at the top of the arches. This was done to match rosettes painted on the high ceiling.

Other details involved a new coat of paint over the interior in general. New colours, warmer colours were chosen over the old battleship grey. the new colours also help the marble pillars to stand out. Before they were grey on grey- not interesting in the least. The new colours help them to stand out and be noticed.
Last is a photo of one of Nincheri's stained glass windows. It wasn't restored, but it allows you to see the stencilled framing I mentioned earlier. It is a glass picture of the Holy Spirit descending, sending forth its gifts. This church is also a gift to its current parishioners, and also from its parishioners to the next generation.

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