2 September 2011

Beautiful churches.

A few posts down I mentioned a few churches that had "must be most beautiful church in town/ province/ country/ continent/ hemisphere/ world (circle one)" written onto the contract with the architects, and I wondered why this is done no more.  In the combox, Vox Cantoris speculated spiritual reasons- we have turned from God, and ask the question of Judas- and I speculated materialist reasons- namely, whenever a priest sought to create the most beautiful church around, he very often went into debt and couldn't complete the project, and left the diocese holding the bill, until the diocese took over the design aspect themselves, and went about creating the modern style churches so common these days.  They have the advantage of being cheap.  They have the disadvantage described in the old saying:  "You get what you pay for."  I suspect we are both right, to some measure, anyway.

I have been thinking about churches, both beautiful and not so, in the light of the post and comments.  Not too long ago, it was common for blogs to have "Ugliest Church Ever" contests in their comboxes.  I haven't seen any lately, perhaps because people got bored with it, perhaps because the L.A. Cathedral and the Wotruba church generally won, and they're pretty tough to beat.  This sort of thing, while fun for a while, may not be the best thing for us spiritually.  A church remains a church, whatever its form.  It is the place where the miracle of the Mass takes place, and therefore, whatever its outward form, it will always be among the most beautiful places on earth.  I say that as someone who does not always live up to that ideal, although I should.

I also believe that always condemning the bad can lead to, well, lots of negativity, and it spreads. It can be fun, and cathartic to vent and be negative, but always focusing on what is wrong can be addictive, and it can blind one to what is right.   While I am not saying don't speak against badness, it is also important to point out the good, although that is less popular.  For example, while I have seen many contests in the past for nominating the ugliest church ever, I don't recall ever seeing one for the most beautiful.   With that in mind, I come back to our comment box, where Vox and I mentioned a few of the more beautiful churches in our area.  In the interest of both pointing out some beautiful churches, and also letting any readers who were wondering what we were talking about see what we were talking about, I will post a few pictures, links, and a few words if I happen to know anything about the church.  If any readers who have made this far into the post are so inclined, speak of a beautiful church in your area.

I will begin with Christ the King in Hamilton.  Of the churches I am going to speak of, this one has a family connection. My father lived in a house that was bulldozed for a Tim Horton's close by here, and he was among its first altar boys. It was, for him, till the end, the most beautiful church there was.

When seen from the distance, it seems to be a relic of the past, a thing of permanence and eternity, as though it simply has always been there, and was merely uncovered by settlers hacking away the forest.  All of this belies its true age:  it is less than eighty years old.

The decision to build it was made by Bishop McNally in the early 1930's.  He decided the Depression was the perfect time to build a church.  He was pilloried in the local press for spending money on a church when he could be spending that money on feeding the poor.  He was also criticized for building at a time when collections were down, and funding was low, and was encouraged to put off his plans until the Depression turned around.  He refused.  "In a more prosperous time," he said.  "We will pay a more prosperous price."  He went ahead with his plan, and spared no expense, importing carrera marble for the stations, limestone from America, windows from Germany.  The final price was a whopping one million dollars.  "We shall have the finest church in Canada!" he claimed.  Whether or not he made good on that boast is open to interpretation, but it was not for lack of trying.

For more of its photos and for more of its history, here is a link to an online booklet attached to the official site.

Another of the most beautiful churches in the area is Toronto's St Paul's basilica, which has been mentioned many times in this blog.

This church was designed by Joseph Connelly, who is responsible for designing three of the Churches Vox an I listed as the most beautiful around here.  It is unique among his churches, for the rest of them were all Gothic. St Mary's on Bathurst, which he was building at the same time, was a Gothic church.  In fact, at the time it was built, every other church in Toronto, Catholic or Protestant, was Gothic (with the exception of Our Lady Of Lourdes, which was built at the same time as this one.)  The exterior is nice, but where Connelly excelled was in creating beautiful interiors.  The priests of St Paul's picked up on his beautiful and spacious interior, and decorated it beautifully.  It is now easily the most beautiful interior of any church in Toronto.

For more information about the history of the parish, click here, and for a large a beautiful set of photos of the church, click here.

Disclaimer:  none of the photos are mine.  Unfortunately, I didn't keep the credits, although the two of St Paul's came from Wikipedia

I'm going to close off here for now, and pick up again tomorrow or later.  Feel free to comment.  No really.  It is free, after all.

Next post in this series.

Third post in this series.

Another post featuruing links to panoramic views of several of Canada's most beautiful churches.

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