6 September 2012

Some pretty churches

I got the idea for this post, and perhaps a few others like it,  from a trip I took with my mother a few months back. 

I took her to Montreal, because she had mentioned in passing that she had always wanted to see La Basilique de Notre Dame, but had never been able to, sigh, and now it looked like she would never get to see it, etc etc..  I had planned to take her to Notre Dame, Notre Dame de Bon Secours, St Patrick's and Marie, Reine du Monde, but with weather and Montreal traffic and whatnot, we didn't see Bon Secours, and we only saw the outside of Reine du Monde.  I hoped she liked it, as that will be the closest she ever gets to the Vatican, unless one of my siblings steps up. 

At any rate, she did get to see the one that she had always wanted to see, and when I asked her how she liked it she said:  "It was very beautiful."  She had the same reaction to St Patrick and Reine du Monde.  I had forgotten at the time that mother does not do 'blown away'.

Until the next day.  We spent the night near Cornwall Ontario, and the next morning, a Sunday, I decided to visit the parish of St Andrew's, in St Andrew's East, which I had passed by once or twice, but had never been open.  So we dropped in there, and when we came out, mother said in a voice that was the closest thing to blown away that I have ever heard "That church was pretty!"

It was odd to me that she reacted more strongly to the pretty church, but she explained to me that she had high expectations of the others, whereas she had no expectations of this little country church.  It was the pleasant surprise that moved her.

With that in mind, I started thinking about pretty churches. Around where I live, the churches were either built recently and look horrible, or they were extensively renovated in the '70's and '80's, and look horrible.  There are some nice ones around here, and there are a few I admire, but sometimes they have what is for me a cold aesthetic.  I'll do another day jaunt around with my camera in a month or so and take a few pictures of some and let you decide for yourselves.  In the meantime, I've been looking around the net for pictures of some outlying churches that seem to have escaped the renovation craze, or were at least sympathetically renovated.  It is actually rather difficult, as most churches do not seem to have websites, and those that do rarely have any photos of the interior of the church.  Typically, they have more photos of the basement than of the church.  With that in mind...

Here is St Boniface.  Like almost all of Ontario's older churches, it is Gothic in style.

If you were to hand a kid from around here a box of crayons and a sheet of paper and ask them to draw a church, this is what they would draw.  It is a pretty church in a country setting.

I wish I could tell you more about the church, but there is no website for it, and the other information is somewhat limited.  I can tell you it celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 1977.  Beyond that, little.

The photos I found (all of which were copy written) of the interior reveal a set of spectacular altars, but at some point the church was renovated.  The pews are of a seventies style, and look oddly out of place, and the altars themselves appear to be also a little out of place, too ornate for the new toned down (but still well done) paint job. (I assume it is toned down from before, but I can't say for certain.) It's like two lovely things that somehow don't go together.  I can't tell from the photos what this church would really look like if I were there in the flesh.  I imagine I'll have to go and see for myself one day.

Here is St. Clement's, in the town of St Clements, Ontario.  I can't describe how hard it is to Google "St. Clement's St Clements", or "St. Agatha's St Agatha" or any of the other similar names and come up with meaningful results.

There actually is a website for this one, which gives us a little information.  The church opened in 1848.  It's steeple had to come down for safety reasons in the 1960's.  From it's rather plain exterior, you wouldn't expect much from the interior, and you would be entirely justified in so thinking, but you'd be absolutely wrong.

A pleasant surprise indeed.  I will definitely be going here, soonish.  According to the small website, many of these decorations were the work of a Father Becker. Well done, father.

Here is the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in Formosa Ontario.  It is one of the churches built by Joseph Connolly, a local architect whom I have mentioned several times before as having built several of the most beautiful churches in Southern Ontario. 

Built in the 1870's and 1880's, it had an interesting construction.  Originally, an wooden frame church stood on this site.  The priest did not wish to go into debt building this church, so they kept the old one, and built as funds allowed.    The new church was actually built around the old frame structure, and when the walls and roof were complete, the old church was dismantled and carried out the front door.   The money for both the new church and the old came in part from donations from Ludwig the First of Bavaria, on behalf of the German immigrants who lived in the area.  Sadly, he is not the Mad King Ludwig, which would have meant this church had a connection to Neuschwanstein, which, you have to admit, would have been really cool.  The building of this church is the backdrop of Jane Urquhart's novel, The Stone Carvers.  I haven't read that one myself, but if anyone else has, chip in.

The costs of the church ran to about $28,000 dollars. A large portion of the cost came from shipping stone from quarries in Guelph.  Local stone was used in the building, but it was not of sufficient quality for the finer work.

Here is the interior with the original church removed.

The altars were built by Nicholas Durrer, a parishioner and local craftsman.  Think about that:  a tiny town in the middle of nowhere had craftsman capable of this.  I wonder how many there are in the entire country would could do this today, if any.  I m definitely going to see this one.

These churches are not exactly mind blowing, like Notre Dame is (for me, if not for my mother), but they are moving in their beauty, in the fact that they are very pretty and have survived.  They are, all of them, away in small towns, built out of small funds raised out of the parishioners pennies and sweat.  The original parishioners also most likely built these churches in the most literal sense:  they rolled up their sleeves, strapped on their tool belts, and got to work placing one stone upon another.  These were built not from their money, but from their love and their devotion and it shows.  Our churches today are often built from money stuffed into an enveloped and tossed indifferently into a basket, and it shows.

That is all for now.  There will be more, later.

PS., In case you were interested, here is St Andrew's, the church that sort of blew my mother away with its prettiness.

No comments: