"Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion." John Adams

Featured Posts

Creative Minority Reader

Short Video on Edward Schulte Churches in Cincinnati

Last week I had the good fortune to go to Cincinnati to give a talk on architect Edward Schulte, who lived from 1890 to 1975. He started out as a traditional church designer and lived long enough to branch into certain modern tendencies while always insisting on the theological nature of the church building. Even if some of his designs are often a bit modern for some people's taste, he always insisted on using real stone, sculpture, painting and symbolism. He designed nearly 80 churches and chapels, including the cathedrals in La Crosse (WI), Lexington (KY), and Salina (KS), as well as the sumptuous1958 renovation of Cincinnati's St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. A Cincinnati photographer, Robert Flischel, put together this fine short video of some of Schulte's churches in Cincinnati that span nearly 50 years of his work. Enjoy!

Your Ad Here


Mom of 4 said...

Is it just me, or does anybody else think this should be subtitled something like "The Devolution of Church Architecture in the 20th Century"?

Assuming that these are presented in chronological order, the early churches are so beautiful, and the later ones so like penitentiaries. I've visited Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina. It's similar to Our Lord Christ the King church shown in the video, and I found it hideous. Schulte literally intended it to resemble a grain elevator. I swear I'm not making that up -- see their website at http://www.shcathedral.com/Architecture.htm.

IMO, Schulte contributed to the death of beauty in church architecture.

D Mac said...

I think Schulte's work requires a bit of supple thinking. It is easy to dismiss his later work as too modern, and the grain elevator thing at Salina is indeed true. But the difference is that Schulte, unlike other leading architects of the day, didn't give in to the demand for abstract concrete boxes. The Salina cathedral is built of limestone, not concrete, it has a tester, custom-designed marble, mosaic, mahogany, and bronze furnishings inside and sculpture outside. It was clearly intended to be a *church* even as it took on some of the Modernist movement's demands. If Le Corbusier had designed it (remember--he was THE leading architect in the world in the 1950s) it certainly would have been made of concrete and had very little or no religious ornamentation. Schulte's churches always insist on an eschatological orientation as well--with images on the rear wall of Christ in glory or similar motifs, no matter how "modern" they become. (The last church in the video was finished by another architect, by the way, and in a lesser fashion than Schulte intended). Is his later work objectively "ideal"? Perhaps not. Is it practically a miracle that he could muster the alliance of painters, sculptors, marble workers, representational stained glass designer and such at the height of Modernism's influence? absolutely. And for that I think he should be respected. I would try to avoid the temptation to see his work as being in the same category as either the leading industrially-inspired Modernism of the '50s or the empty house churches of the '70s. His own writings attest that he took considerable heat for wanting to insist on all the traditional things in his churches in a time when they were not highly desired by clients.

John F. Kennedy said...

I have a lot of experience with most of these churches.
- I was a parishioner and was married at St. Monica's
- I became a parishioner of St Cecilia's for several years (after my parish merged with Saints Peter and Paul). Two of my children were Baptized at St Cecilia's.
- Holy Trinity (formally Saints Peter and Paul) is a neighborhood parish (last man standing in a three parish merger) It is very small building and there were two problems every time I attended. There never was enough space. It was standing room only. The second thing was some of the “views” proclaimed by the pastor in both his words and actions. He may have left the priesthood since that time.
- Christ the King is near my own parish. Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII) blessed the school’s cornerstone.
- Church of the Nativity is also nearby and was the home parish of my mother's family (she and most of her siblings were married in the old basement Church). I attended the parish many times when I was quite young and did not understand why they did some things differently there.
- I have also attended St. Peter In Chains Cathedral and St. Gertrude's several times.

I’m an Industrial Designer that specializes in environmental graphics and I work extensively with architects on all of my projects. I have an ample knowledge of architecture history and styles and can hold my own in a heavy discussion of architecture’s purposes, pros and cons. Therefore I have to, in some degree, agree with “Mom of 4” in her title "The Devolution of Church Architecture in the 20th Century.”

I loved St. Monica’s (now St. Monica’s/St George’s), it’s a beautiful building and a holy space to worship God in it’s Neo-Byzantine style. It was for several years the Archdiocese Cathedral, probably the years St. Peter In Chains was being renovated (nearly condemned from what I understand). Too bad the heretics of St. Georges got there hands on it! There was a parish merger between a relatively empty, graying, but faithful parish (St. Monica’s) and the more numerous, experimental, heterodox, university Newman Center parish (St. George’s). Everything was put of for a vote and the more numerous votes won. St. George’s just got a new location. Their Parish priest became the new parish priest. I stopped attending when the Priest refused to correct the readers/lectors from changing the words of the Mass’s readings.

St Cecilia’s is also very beautiful but has more of an English country feel with elaborate paint details. The priest there is young and very faithful. We can expect many years of faithful service and the parish will no doubt be the source of several priests. Hopefully he can correct the school’s faith teaching’s problems.

I can only comment further on the Church of the Nativity. The interior is hideous. The interior is a radial plan with the far wings facing each other and the sides of the Sanctuary. The parish from the 70’s onward was (is?) a hotbed of discontent and liturgical abuse. NONE of my cousins who attended there (and there are many) are now Catholic and in most cases even Christian. One Aunt and Uncle are still part of the Church but are also conscientious objectors to many of the teachings of the Church. That is the fruit of that parish.

So while I can appreciate much of the Architect’s earlier work, as showcased in the great video, I’ve found more times than not the orthodoxy of the parish is directly reflected in the architecture, whether it is in the more abstract and modernist architecture or in the “renovations” of an older building to a more “modernist taste.”

Anonymous said...

Some of the later images in the video are indeed hideous. I'm not opposed to modern materials and styles being applied to contemporary church architecture. In theory there's no reason why a "modern" building shouldn't "work" as a Catholic house of worship. Trouble is, I've yet to see one that does.

John Vicente

Kim Luisi said...

Very interesting. I assume that this video is a good representation of his style,right? What strikes me, then, is not so much the presence of traditional elements through the decades, but that his style is very geometric. It seems to me that the squareness of it works better with the more traditionally-styled churches, and didn't translate as well with the more modern.

Personally, I'm a fan of Gaudi and his vision, which is more in tune with Creation while maintaining orthodox traditionalism.

Here's a link to some of Gaudi's style. You'll see that the Crucifixion facade of la Sagrada Familia is more geometric in shape than the rest of Gaudi's architecture. This is because Gaudi did not live long enough to finish la Sagrada Familia and another artist did it. Clearly the artist did not respect Gaudi's vision.


John F. Kennedy said...

La Sagrada Familia is considered to be an example of the Art Nouveau architectural style. I prefer the French and Belgian plant/vine like version rather than the sand castle / eruption from the soil look of Gaudi.

I hope in the future, when it's complete, to be able to attend an Extraordinary Form Mass.

Kim Luisi said...

Well, that may happen soon. Benedict XVI will consecrate la Sagrada Familia in November.

Red Ligerton said...

Firmness, commodity, and delight. We can condemn an architect over failures of the first two but be careful with the last one. The client he has to please is the one who commissioned him, not necessarily the public at large. Or even the Catholic community at large. If the parish was happy with the work then the project is a success despite what outsiders think.

I am amazed at the range of styles Schulte mastered. You may not be a fan of the post modern and brutalist churches but you should still appreciate his ability to switch to them from the neo-romanesque and other classical forms the video started with. I mean, if someone is going to pick one of those transient styles at least they had a master capable of salvaging something pleasing out of it.

Having said that St. Bernard's is hideously proportioned on the outside. He should have lost his license over that miscarriage.


DM Reed said...

St. Monica's had a bunch of Christian crosses etched into the tiles on the floor of the church that were in the shape of swastikas. Of course the swastika is a symbol that pre-dates Nazism, and they were meant to depict the cross. When lots of people asked questions, instead of explaining this to them, St. Monica's (actually the parish is called St. Monica/St. George) eventually just had the crosses removed from the floor of the church. Sadly, I wasn't surprised this liberal parish slouched to this conclusion, destroying a little bit of authentic Catholic art/architecture in the process...

John F. Kennedy said...

As I said in an earlier post, they are heretics at St. Monica / St. George. Now I know they are also deface historical buildings.

We were told that the symbols on the floor were ancient Jewish symbols. They were not Nazi Swastikas because the arms were in the opposite directions, but most people can't see the difference.

DM Reed said...

Wikipedia, (decide for yourself how trustworthy of a source...) shows the following when you look up swastika Christianity and Judaism:

In Christianity, the swastika is used as a hooked version of the Christian Cross, the symbol of Christ's victory over death. Some Christian churches built in the Romanesque and Gothic eras are decorated with swastikas, carrying over earlier Roman designs. Swastikas are prominently displayed in a mosaic in the St. Sophia church of Kiev, Ukraine dating from the 12th century. They also appear as a repeating ornamental motif on a tomb in the Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan. A proposed direct link between it and a swastika floor mosaic in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens, which was built on top of a pagan site at Amiens, France in the 1200s, is considered unlikely. The stole worn by a priest in the 1445 painting of the Seven Sacraments by Roger van der Weyden presents the swastika form simply as one way of depicting the cross. Swastikas also appear on the vestments on the effigy of Bishop William Edington (d. 1366) in Winchester Cathedral.

An unusual swastika, composed of the Hebrew letters Aleph and Resh, appears in the 18th century Kabbalistic work "Parashat Eliezer" by Rabbi Eliezer Fischl of Strizhov, a commentary on the obscure ancient eschatological book "Karnayim", ascribed to Rabbi Aharon of Kardina. The symbol is enclosed by a circle and surrounded by a cyclic hymn in Aramaic. The hymn, which refers explicitly to the power of the Sun, as well as the shape of the symbol, shows strong solar symbolism. According to the book, this mandala-like symbol is meant to help a mystic to contemplate on the cyclic nature and structure of the Universe. The letters are the initial and final characters of the Hebrew word, אוֹר, or "light".

Post a Comment