Design for New Port-au-Prince Cathedral Unveiled

The winner of the design competition for the new Cathédrale Notre Dame de l’Assomption in Port-au-Prince, Haiti was unveiled today. The winning design was selected from among 134 entrants who submitted proposals for the replacement the former cathedral, which was destroyed in the 2012 Haiti earthquake.

Design rendering of the new Port-au-Prince Cathedral, designed by Segundo Cardona of Puerto Rico. (Photo source)

Segundo Cardona and a team of six other architects from Puerto Rico submitted the winning design. The façade of the original cathedral is integrated into the new design and serves as the entry point to a sheltered, outdoor courtyard that leads to the new 1,200-seat worship space. Large, retractable walls will open to the courtyard for special occasions to accommodate an additional 600 worshippers.

The proposed interior of the new Port-au-Prince Cathedral features a centralized altar and circular seating pattern. (Photo source)
The centralized altar and seating plan allow for a large number of people to remain close to the altar. The interior of the new cathedral is marked with creative and abundant use of natural light, as electricity in Port-au-Prince is intermittent and expensive.  The shape of the ceiling emphasizes a movement towards the oculus and also focuses attention on the altar. The Stations of the Cross ring the parameter of the worship space and can be viewed both from the main church and the ambulatory.
The floorplan of the new Port-au-Prince Cathedral. (Photo source.)
It is certainly exciting to see progress being made on the reconstruction of such an important cultural and religious site in Port-au-Prince. Surely, this new cathedral will serve as a beacon of hope and new point of pride of the Haitian people. It’s also quite exciting to see the contemporary arts so creatively engaged in this new project.

To see more on the proposed design, as well as the second and third place winners, visit the Cathedral’s design competition website.

It’s also worth noting that just down the street at Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, the Arlington, Virginia-based Kerns Group Architects has been selected for that reconstruction project. The design for the new Episcopal cathedral will incorporate three surviving murals from the old cathedral that were painted by Haitian artists and include Haitian people in biblical scenes.

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88 comments

  1. How wonderful that fully half of the congregation will be looking at the priest’s back throughout Mass. Is this a possible nod toward SSPX reconciliation?

    1. @Dwayne Bartles – comment #1:

      I was going to make a similar comment. This looks like a really exciting design, but placing the altar in the centre is not a good idea., The Germans did this back in the 60s and 70s, and soon discovered that it does not work. (That did not stop certain US architects persisting with this sort of design into the 90s and beyond….)

      By all means have a central altar, but don’t put seats all 360 degrees around it.

      (a) It’s not possible to preside effectively through more than about 210 degrees at the most, and 180 degrees is better.

      (b) Putting the altar dead centre, on a plinth, means that everything else is automatically in the wrong place. There is then no good location for an ambo, presider’s chair, other ministers, font, etc, etc. This has been proved time and time again.

      Much better, then, to set the altar further back from the centre of the circle (yes, I know there’s an oculus) or have a horseshoe- or fan-shaped layout.

      But I don’t expect Segundo Cardona will listen to the likes of us, alas

  2. What to make of the exterior I don’t know: sort of a pastiche of architecturally incompatible, non-integrated, elements. But interiorly, I think that it is aesthetically dead. Devoid of any sensual beauty. Inhuman. If the Starship Enterprise had a chapel on board, it would look like this.

  3. A plan like this tells me we haven’t advanced much in planning for large churches since the late 1950s. I’m thinking of some of the Italianate designs of the period.

    This design welcomes you as an airport terminal might.

  4. I notice that, as so often is the case in plans for churches, there is no indication of the points of the compass. Where is East? For most of christian history, this was crucial for the planning of church buildings.

    1. @Mgr Bruce Harbert – comment #5:

      The Entrance to the Church will be the old Entrance. So obviously the Church will be “oriented” in the same way that the old Church was oriented.

      On #12 of the Sketches and Designs, a major concern was to provide natural ventilation which comes from breezes from the West. Therefore the atrium which replaces the nave collects breezes from the West through the very large opening into the new circular church.

      If you look at some of the Sketches (#1, #2. #11) you will notice something that looks like a clock with one hand (actually I suspect a compass pointing North) next to the scale indicator. If this assumption is correct, then the original doors were just slightly North of West, and the Church is oriented slightly South of East on the compass. So “orientation’ devotees can relax.

      Note in #11 that a first phase is proposed that will use the atrium replacement for the nave as a temporary church with the altar at what will become the large opening for the new circular church.

      I have no problem with the basic ground plan. The location of the altar at the center of circle appears best given the many uses of the Cathedral, especially when the atrium becomes a nave again for large celebrations.

      I agree with others about the “space age” materials which detract rather than enhance the design but they might have much to do with the fact this will be a naturally ventilated church rather than a closed in church of colder climates and perhaps something to do with making the new church earthquake resistant.

  5. The interior seems devoid of Christian iconography and orientation. It does seem rather like most twentieth century Churches, somewhat embarrassed by the Incarnation.

  6. The austerity of the new design is striking.

    A concerted effort has been made to remove all possible iconography. At eye level, nothing at all remains, save a simple stone altar block and ambo without design or ornament. The crucifix is transformed into a simple, very thin cross, large and yet almost unnoticed. The only sacred art is midway up the walls – what appears to be a series of large, semi-abstract stations of the cross. The tabernacle appears to remain on the main axis of the church, but appears to be undetectable save at close range. The materials used seem to aim for cold neutrality rather than warmth. The modern aesthetic principle at work is undeniable: anything that might possibly distract from the liturgical celebration is removed, and the circular arrangement ensures that the gathered assembly is always present to the eye and to the mind. There is no escaping it.

    There is an old chestnut that a good test for the appeal of a church interior is whether a bride would want to be photographed being married there. My suspicion is that few brides would be very excited at the prospect of a wedding in the new cathedral, if they had a choice.

    The old Cathedral du Notre Dame was a real neo-Gothic treasure – its white stone facing, inside and out, made for true noble simplicity, bright and yet not gaudy or kitschy. Port-au-prince was desperately poor, but in the old edifice it had something to be richly proud of.

  7. It’s also interesting to look through the other honored design submissions. In many ways, the winning design was the least interesting and imaginative of the submissions. The second place design by Cerdeira was much more daring – almost Calatrava-esque. The third place design is an interesting twist on a traditional idiom. There was even a submission for a straight up (but structurally reinforced) reconstruction of the old cathedral.

    I’m curious how the design selection process played out. Perhaps this option was the least expensive.

  8. Yet another cathedral with a teeny tiny sanctuary. It would be helpful if architects thought about the requirements of space for the liturgy! (And there are classical architects who have this problem too.)

  9. What iconography do you expect an architect to place in his design drawings? He has the a place for the stations, but is their design settled?

    Cathedrals have to be large, but I have never been in one that was filled every week. St Patrick’s in NY? So how often will the pews be filled all around the altar? Some pews will end up roped off, or reserved for choir, if space is not a problem I would guess.

    The tabernacle is behind the main altar and behind the chapel altar, a not unusual arrangement, and pretty prominent.

    And how can anybody say that huge cross, hanging over the altar like the sword of Damocles, would not be noticed? I just hope the place is quake proof and the thing never falls! I like the effect pictured above, of two stained glass crosses around the central one.

    I would have opted for 12 sectors of seats instead of 8, for the apostles. And I might have looked for a way to emphasize the cathedra.

  10. I applaud seating in the round. Along with antiphonal seating, it’s the most appropriately symbolic and functional and gives the minimum nod to performance space.

    I’m less troubled by ambo placement than Paul. While it’s true that not everyone can see the lips move and the sound come out, with proper acoustics everyone can see and hear those proclaiming and singing and preaching. That’s what’s needed–not performers.

    And as for art, I caution my fellow commentators that an architect does not sculpt, write icons, or paint. The building seems to provide ample space for devotional art. Want art? Take up a collection to provide some commissions.

    Thanks, Jim, for your sensible #12 comments. Twelve sections of seats would be great.

    My criticisms: a bit more room for those two reconcilliation “chapels.” Can we please drop the term Rec Room? Cathedra off the altar platform, please.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #13:

      Cathedra off the altar platform, please.

      Agreed. Eight sections of pews could symbolize the fullness of the people of God. I would provide a front row of seating in the two sections labeled choir as a symbolic presbyteral bench something like those sometimes seen behind an altar along the wall of the apse of a church. The front of this choir stall like bench could have wood cuts of the apostles similar to the wood cuts of the way of the cross surrounding the circle.

      I would place the cathedra in front of the presbyteral bench on the side near the ambo, and have another presidential chair on the other side for others who preside. Like many orthodox cathedrals it would give a strong impression of the bishop seated among the people rather than somewhere separated from them.

      It is good that people will be able to see and make the stations of the cross from the walkway even if a service is taking place in the church. One could easily expect that visitors might come during a service and walk around the outside circle without disturbing the service. There is also a screen between the main church and the tabernacle so that people could also come into the chapel for adoration while a service is being conducted at the main altar.

      1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #32:
        I like this idea for the Cathedra and presbyterium.

        How would the choir/schola cantorum figure into all of this?

        I wonder what sort of vision of musical leadership informs the plan as it stands.
        I also wonder who the acoustician is or will be (or if there is or will be one).

  11. Hello Jim,

    What iconography do you expect an architect to place in his design drawings? He has the a place for the stations, but is their design settled?

    I have to go with what’s rendered. And it’s common for architects of churches to give some detail of ornamentation – or even a place for ornamentation. Here – it’s utterly barren. Aside from the stations of the cross – far above eye level – the only other ornamentation depicted is a completely abstract apse stained glass (at least I assume that it is stained glass). Even Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light – a pretty austere design by an airport terminal architect – depicted some sacred art. There is not even any real building detailing – just flat surfaces all around.

    The goal here here seems to be minimalism. No distraction from the liturgical action whatsoever. Of course, that’s been a common principle in modern sacred architecture for some time now.

    In fact, to look at this, there’s nothing to identify the church as Catholic. It could be almost any Protestant denomination – though I imagine Baptists would remove the altar. But that does seem to be the effect desired by the archdiocese.

    And how can anybody say that huge cross, hanging over the altar like the sword of Damocles, would not be noticed? I just hope the place is quake proof and the thing never falls! I like the effect pictured above, of two stained glass crosses around the central one.

    Well, the cross is just that – a cross. It’s not a crucifix. It’s vanishingly thin, which is why I said it seems easy to miss, notwithstanding its size.

    The design does have verticality, and it does make an effort to preserve the original frontal edifice of the old cathedral, albeit largely detached from the main building.

    Hello Todd @comment 13:

    My criticisms: a bit more room for those two reconcilliation “chapels.” Can we please drop the term Rec Room?

    On these points, I am in full agreement. There’s plenty of room for more confessionals.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #14:
      There’s plenty of room for more confessionals.

      Confessional is a worse term. Reconciliation chapel is able to carry the weight of a sacrament and its special location. And besides, there is a bit more going on in the sacrament that confession.

      Scott, thanks for the complete comment.

  12. I applaud the use of natural light and ventilation. The exterior plaza serving as an extension of the nave is very smart. This doubles the seating capacity for large celebrations without doubling the cost of the building, probably a serious limitation on the design of the building.

    I would like to see more representational artwork, but the architect’s role does not include interior decoration. Roman basilicas were built with plain stone walls, which over the centuries were adorned with marble, mosaics, frescoes, etc. I object to the idea that a church has to be “complete” before its dedication.

    For those who are only satisfied with high-baroque design, perhaps you’d like to write the check to afford such luxury?

  13. Hello Scott,

    No one here has suggested that Port-au-prince had to go with “high baroque” – in fact, no one has suggested any alternatives beyond the other submissions (which are mostly post-modern or deconstructivist).

    In fact, there are plenty of genres within the classical idiom.

    And classical idioms don’t necessarily cost more money. You could execute a creative Romanesque or Mission Revival design for the same money as the Cardona design – in fact, it could, possibly, cost less. It’s a myth that “traditional” must be expensive. Unless you’re going for rococo. In that case, you might have a point.

    The difficulty here is that there does not seem to be even any possible accommodation for sacred art. There’s no place for it to go. If you wanted to place statues of the Blessed Mother – this is, last I checked, a cathedral dedicated to the Assumption – where would you put them? If there’s to be any sacred art, it seems to be not just an afterthought, but a disruption of the smooth-faced interiors.

    Given the design, that doesn’t seem to be a bug. It’s a feature. The focus is entirely on the liturgical action (which, as Sam points out, had better not be too large), and the gathered assembly. Anything else seems to be a distraction.

  14. Hello Todd,

    Why is confessional a worse term? We’ve used it for long enough.

    I concede that “reconciliation chapel” is preferable to “reconciliation room.” And let’s put the screens back, please.

  15. “Why is confessional a worse term? We’ve used it for long enough.”

    It’s an inaccurate term.

    “If you wanted to place statues of the Blessed Mother … where would you put them?”

    Where they left the space for them.

  16. “We’ve used it for long enough” – just love it. Justifies anything and everything.

    Have to add that to some of my favorite church secretary sayings:
    – we’ve never done that here (end of subject)
    – I decide those things
    – the people don’t like that
    – but we’ve always done it this way
    – you can’t change that (applies to everything from mass times to sacrament preparation)

    Guess it is all part of the *new hermeneutic in continuity*.

  17. I think that in this discussion on the new Cathedral’s accommodation of art, we’ve uncovered an important question: Is a church building’s primary function liturgical or devotional? I’m inclined to believe that the church building should be completely at the service of the liturgy, yet still allow for areas of private devotion.

    If you look closely at the various design renderings, you’ll see that two side shrines are located on the north and south sides of the building. Obviously, these spaces will house some art. The way I interpret the structure is that the cylindrical area defines the primarily liturgical space, while the areas outside of this lend themselves to more private, devotional areas.

    While the main liturgical space is somewhat lacking in traditional artistic mediums such as paintings or sculpture, I do believe that well-crafted architectural features comprised of beautiful materials can profoundly communicate the divine realities we encounter in the liturgy.

  18. Hello Bill, Todd,

    Well, I’m not going to die on this hill of nomenclature, though I find it interesting that others – not to say “you,” but others – seem willing to; seem so offended by how the Church had been doing it since the Middle Ages. I’m familiar enough with the diversity encapsulated in the history of the sacrament of penance.

    I suppose “reconciliation” is fitting for the age: soft, therapeutic, clinical, non-threatening. I have wondered why, if “confession” is inadequate, the true name of the sacrament isn’t employed – a penitential? (“Paenitentiae,” SC 72). But that wonder is usually just momentary. Few people are keen on doing something called “penance.”

  19. Bill,

    It’s replies like yours here (where a snark-free question meets a ridicule-filled non-answer) that diminish the authority and credibility of your thoughts. I wish I could say it was out of the ordinary of the blog-comments I’ve seen you leave, but I cannot.

  20. Hello Chase,

    Is a church building’s primary function liturgical or devotional? I’m inclined to believe that the church building should be completely at the service of the liturgy, yet still allow for areas of private devotion.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – and that’s exactly the paradigm of sacred architecture that I was glossing. As you undoubtedly know, it’s one shared by many modern architects of our churches. The focus is solely on the liturgical action – everything else is seen as a distraction from that. And I do think that this is the paradigm operative in this design.

    For my part, I have never quite understood why it is seen as an “either/or” formulation. That if there is devotional art, it *must* be inconsistent with liturgy. And it’s certainly a mindset that is alien to all of the history that we have of sacred art and architecture, East (especially) or West – at least up until the second half of the 20th century. Bill can quibble about the history of confessionals, but when it comes to artistic adornment – even of the most austere Benedictine abbeys (and few of us are monks) – the record there goes back as far back as we have evidence. With one exception, no previous generations of Catholic Christians thought that art detracted from liturgical action; indeed, to the extent that it was attempted at all, it resulted in anathematization by an ecumenical council – Nicaea II; and even the iconoclasts were only opposed to iconic representations, not ornamentation. At the least, that should give us pause.

    As for the side altars: You might be right; we don’t know that there won’t be any sacred art in them, and it’s not unreasonable to think that there might be. But my guess, based on the rest of the design details that we have, is that these will be rather minimal – if there is art, it will be more of a token nature.

    To me, this design is a real missed opportunity. It didn’t need to be St. Patrick’s or St. Mary Major, but it could have been more. I think Haitians will be pleased to get a new cathedral, but I doubt that many will really come to love it as they did the old.

  21. This is a most interesting discussion. I applaud Chase’s differentiation between the liturgical (functional) and the devotional.

    The liturgical space needs to give pride of place to the primary symbols. The first of these is the assembly itself, gathered to celebrate. The others are altar, ambo, font, chair. Anything which distracts from these main foci is just that — a distraction. While it might be very nice to have a huge painting/statue/icon/whatever of Mary (for example) in the main space, the fact is that Mary has only a peripheral role in the liturgy. She is not one of the primary symbols, and a large image will be a distraction from the action of the liturgy. The place to emphasize Mary and honor her is elsewhere, and I imagine that one of the ancillary spaces in the building will be devoted to that purpose. The same applies to other expressions of devotion.

    The first symbol is the assembly gathered, and it is always difficult to tell exactly how a building will look and feel when looking at illustrations or mock-ups in which there are no people present.

    While I am not a great fan of the ugliest expressions of the Bauhaus style of architecture, there is something to be said for large neutral spaces on walls whereon the worshipper can project his/her imagination, rather than having various images intruding on the imagination. Buildings with little in the form of decoration are full of potential for those who use them. They are waiting for the worshippers themselves to decorate them in their mind’s eyes. The Cistercians knew this very well, as anyone who has visited the three Cistercian monasteries in Provence (for example) will be well aware. There, the buildings are almost completely devoid of ornamentation. But the effect is not stark or austere but supremely beautiful. Shapes and proportions take on a bigger significance, and the acoustics benefit from the absence of distracting reflective surfaces too.

    I must confess that when I am in a Baroque or Rococo building, replete with so much in the way of gilded scrollwork and ornamentation and artwork that it is sometimes difficult even to make out the main lines of the building, I long for the cleaner lines and surfaces of somewhere like Clifton Cathedral, Bristol, or St John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

  22. Paul Inwood: “The liturgical space needs to give pride of place to the primary symbols. The first of these is the assembly itself, gathered to celebrate.”…”the first symbol is the assembly gathered”.

    I don’t think so. The assembly is not the primary symbol. It is foremost the presence of Christ, who calls the assembly into existence. The assembly is “ekklesia”, meaning it is called. The first symbol should therefore be that which (who) does the calling.

    Noting, of course, that the assembly is “the body of Christ”. Yet the distinction is that it is still Christ the Head who calls, who summons his Body together and so it remains that the assembly, even as Christ’s own Body, can not be the primary symbol of liturgy.

    1. @Jordan DeJonge – comment #26:

      Jordan, all the primary symbols are also symbols of the real presence of Christ.

      First among these is the assembly gathered together to celebrate (“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them”). Without this symbol, there can be no others. That is why it is primary.

      Then you have the presence of Christ in the word proclaimed (at the ambo), the presence of Christ in the sacrificial meal (at the altar), and the presence of Christ in the person of the priest (at the chair). Next the presence of Christ in the waters of baptism (at the font). And so on.

      The first mistake that many liturgical architects make is deciding where to put the altar, ambo, chair, font, etc. Before doing any of this, they should be deciding how the assembly will be configured and how its members will relate to each other. Only then can you start to think about where the other primary symbols will be placed in relation to the assembly.

      All this has been normative in liturgico-architectural practice for well over 40 years.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #30:

        My favorite solution for the assembly is seating along the walls of the nave. These could be built in with cushions. All at immense savings too.

        Permit everyone else to stand where they wish. Some will choose to be far from the altar and ambo. Others will select a place close to the sanctuary, or wherever they can find a place at a crowded liturgy.

        This was one of the reasons why after the era of the domus ecclesiae even the smallest church had some kind of barrier or chancel screen. To keep the crowds from pressing in too close to the sanctuary area, to keep out stray animals, and control refuse from the streets. It made sense then and still does. Such screens serve a much more practical purpose than a mere altar rail.

        Also, get rid of the sea of pews and keep seating to a minimum. Restricting seats to those who need them. Until well into the 15th century ,few churches had much use for pews.

  23. The place to emphasize Mary and honor her is elsewhere, and I imagine that one of the ancillary spaces in the building will be devoted to that purpose. The same applies to other expressions of devotion.
    ——————————————————

    With respect to “other expressions of devotion”, we’re now seeing here in the U.S. and, I suspect elsewhere, a return to the altar as display case and a theatrical tableau in stone, wood, or plaster. A shrine for the tabernacle and other cultic centers of devotion.

    In some cases with gigantic tabernacles, often with adoring angels, overpowering the altar itself. If this isn’t an example of returning to the “bad old days” before Vatican II, I don’t know what is.

  24. “Well, I’m not going to die on this hill of nomenclature, though I find it interesting that others – not to say “you,” but others – seem willing to; seem so offended by how the Church had been doing it since the Middle Ages.”

    Count me less offended and more disappointed. The Reconciliation Chapel in my parish is large enough to accommodate form I behind a screen or face-to-face, a form II confessor, and even spiritual direction. “Chapel” is a term that is appropriate for the variety of rituals that take place there, and suggests that it is also a place to pray. And celebrate liturgy, which is what Penance is. Not so much the laundry list of sins with the magical anonymous absolution.

  25. The new part of the church reminds me of the Hagia Sophia and other similarly designed eastern churches that combine a strong circle and square design with a lot of light streaming from above.

    The interior circular design, especially the walkway around the outside of the circle, reminds me of the circular Ethiopian churches with a covered veranda. Will there be liturgical dancing in this outside circle? I think it would be a good place for it rather than center stage, making it more of a performance by the people rather than for the people.

    I am thinking of special occasions when overflow crowds of people from parishes might be in the atrium area but be able to process in groups around the circle during the entrance, the Gloria, the responsorial song, the Gospel acclamations, the sung Creed, the sung prayers of the faithful, the offertory hymn, the Sanctus, the Eucharistic prayer., the Lord’s Prayer, the Agnus Dei, and during communion. If the parishes brought their choir or choirs, each choir or choirs might lead one of the songs above.

    This might be an outstanding way to give many parishes a small opportunity to really participate in such events. Also give people an opportunity to stand up, walk, sing, and do something during the liturgy. Perhaps a revival of the processional nature of the liturgy among the people, rather than processions as things people watch. Maybe a new liturgical model for a cathedral church, emphasizing the diocese as a pilgrim people.

    My whole impression is of a new church arising in the East from the ruins of the old church in the West. That the old nave becomes the entry way to a new beginning.

    The Americas are the New Christendom, where most Christians and Catholics now live and constitution the highest portion of the continents. We should not be slavishly imitating European Christendom. Only time will tell whether this building becomes a cathedral worthy of a New Christendom. But I will pray and be open to that possibility.

  26. Hello Paul,

    Jordan, all the primary symbols are also symbols of the real presence of Christ.

    With respect, however, I do think that Jordan has a point. Christ *is* present in the assembly, but not in the same way (or in as important a way) as he is in His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. And there is nothing symbolic, or at least not in the sense that excludes the underlying reality.

    The risk, if we are not careful, is that we too closely identify ourselves with Christ, flirting with self-worship. Or as Pius XII put it in Mystici Corporis Christi (c86): “For there are some who neglect the fact that the Apostle Paul has used metaphorical language in speaking of this doctrine, and failing to distinguish as they should the precise and proper meaning of the terms the physical body, the social body, and the Mystical Body, arrive at a distorted idea of unity. They make the Divine Redeemer and the members of the Church coalesce in one physical person, and while they bestow divine attributes on man, they make Christ our Lord subject to error and to human inclination to evil.” The Council, in LG 3, makes the same point, prioritizing the Eucharist.

    Is it possible that at times in the past some in the Church made too little of Christ’s Mystical Body? Certainly – and I think this is why Pius XII wrote the encyclical. But I can’t help but think that attitudes like these – like the one apparently embodied in this design – make the mistake of going too far in the other direction. Christ is in us, if we are open to Him, but he is also distinct from us, as the groom is from the bride (Eph. 5:23). But his True Body is a unity. And without Christ, there can be no others – because He, as the Word, is the cause for all the rest. Or as Fr. John Hardon put it: ” Without the Eucharist, all agree, the pneumatic life of Christ in the members of the Mystical Body cannot be sustained.”

    The focus must be on Christ, I humbly submit. Too much emphasis on the assembly risks losing this focus.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #33:

      With respect, however, I do think that Jordan has a point. Christ *is* present in the assembly, but not in the same way (or in as important a way) as he is in His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

      Richard, I suggest that reading Paul VI’s Mysterium Fidei 34-39 might be helpful here. It would also help to explain why the Real Presence of Christ in consecrated bread and wine in the Eucharist is different, yes, but not more important than other modes of his presence. That mode of presence is indeed special for us, but that’s not to compare the relative importance of different modes of Christ’s presence. It’s special for us because it is the only form of the presence of Christ that we can actually consume.

  27. The line of thought you are arguing Paul, that the the assembly is a primary symbol, is where I see the slip into an inadvertent secular humanism (not claiming that you yourself make that slip). The Presence of Christ in the assembly, to be sure, but that assembly has to be gathered around a symbol that is other than itself, around the symbol of that (who) is also external to it and does the “calling together” that makes it an ecclesia. The assembly can not symbolize Christ to itself.

    This is why, probably, I see these “clip art” illustrations scattered throughout my “Living with Christ” Sunday Missal. The images tend towards this: hands, people hold hands, people jumping for joy, people standing in a room holding candles, among others with more concrete and religious specific images. At any rate, a tendency to show people standing around together. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but why isn’t a crowd of people in a circle standing face to face holding candles for world peace in front of city hall also a symbol of Christ’s body? What? Because they don’t all identify as Christian? Because they haven’t come together in Christ’ name? Because there’s no ambo?

    The distinction is easily lost on people and is the reason that many people “on the ground” so easily and intuitively move from a public display of grief or solace to a service in a church and effectively consider that they have done the same thing– whether or not Christ has been invoked. Again, I would reiterate, the assembly can not represent Christ to itself liturgically. Surely, when I see a person in need, a homeless person on the street, this person represents Christ to me– but not liturgically. The primary liturgical symbol ought to be construed as independent of the assembly, as its reason and ground for being an assembly at all. That the proclamation from the ambo represents Christ– sure, of course even. But really, much more simply and directly, if the centre of my vision is a crucifix, well, hey that does the job alot…

    1. @Jordan DeJonge – comment #35:

      “The primary liturgical symbol ought to be construed as independent of the assembly…”

      Yes and no. Liturgy should not be about alienation, and what you describe is pure alienation of assembly from God. If this independence is taken as an initial step in a process of reconciliation, that would be fine. But that is baptism and other sacraments, while Eucharist is about the reconciled community as well as the people of that community being in need of reconciliation.

      If Christ is not present in the community, there is no hope of reconciliation in any symbol. The Head beckons with voice and gesture, not independent of the Body. The offer of forgiveness comes from the community where Christ dwells, not from the crucifix. The crucifix can be a sign of Christ being among us, of the people assembled in response to him, but that people is the primary symbol. If there is no community gathered together in Christ, there is no hope of gathering together with Christ in a community.

    2. @Jordan DeJonge – comment #35:
      Right, having the assembly be the symbol to itself doesn’t really work, because that’s a contradiction. The assembly has to be gathered around a symbol, like the “stone in Stone Soup.” Yes, the “soup” may really be the point of it, but the stone is still the initial symbolic initiation that allows that soup to come together, to coalesce (if you know the story), like the dust particle the snowflake forms around, etc etc. The assembly needs a reason to assemble other than “assembly itself.” Yes, assembly itself may be the ultimate goal, “the journey is the destination” etc etc…but a journey still needs a goal, a telos, a destination (even if that is an eschatological reality) or else it’s not a journey, it’s just wandering.

  28. “The risk, if we are not careful, is that we too closely identify ourselves with Christ, flirting with self-worship.”

    An interesting statement. There is far more danger for individuals to closely identify with Christ, apart from the Body. The assembly at worship is indeed a manifestation of the Body of Christ. That’s biblical. Denial of this reality runs the risk of infusing a false humility into our practice of the faith.

  29. Hello Todd,

    There is far more danger for individuals to closely identify with Christ, apart from the Body.

    Well – respectfully – I can’t help but observe that’s far from the danger in *our* age. Quite the opposite!

    The assembly at worship is indeed a manifestation of the Body of Christ. That’s biblical.

    It is. And more than that, it’s magisterial – as I noted above. Pius XII said it. The Council said it.

    But it’s important to understand how this is so properly. It has to be balanced with a sense of Christ’s distinction from the Church, as the groom to the bridegroom (Eph. 5 again). And I think this is one reason why Jordan’s post (#35) about the difficulties this can pose in the liturgy is on point.

  30. Did the Haitians who will worship there have any say about the winning design? The Miami Herald article suggests a small panel of experts in Miami picked it for them.

    The design in too evocative of trendy apartment complexes for my tastes.

  31. Bride and groom is a metaphor. Also head and body. Vine and branches. Sheep and gate. Or shepherd. We get into difficulties when we permit one favored image to overpower everything else. God is all of it, and more.

  32. Hello Paul,

    Thank you for the reminder to read Mysterium Fidei – I ought to have thought about that (it has been a while since I looked at it).

    Perhaps I’m missing something – because Pope Paul does stress the Eucharist as the most important (and unique) way in which Christ is present. After detailing the different ways (34-38) in which Christ is present in the body of the Church, he stops to insist: “But there is another way in which Christ is present in His Church, a way that surpasses all the others. It is His presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is, for this reason, “a more consoling source of devotion, a lovelier object of contemplation and holier in what it contains” than all the other sacraments; for it contains Christ Himself and it is “a kind of consummation of the spiritual life, and in a sense the goal of all the sacraments.”

    And, to underline (I think) Pius XII’s warning in Mystici:

    39. This presence is called “real” not to exclude the idea that the others are “real” too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and entire, God and man. And so it would be wrong for anyone to try to explain this manner of presence by dreaming up a so-called “pneumatic” nature of the glorious body of Christ that would be present everywhere; or for anyone to limit it to symbolism, as if this most sacred Sacrament were to consist in nothing more than an efficacious sign “of the spiritual presence of Christ and of His intimate union with the faithful, the members of His Mystical Body.”

    Again: The Magisterium is consistent on this point: Christ *is* present in the gathered assembly. That should not be lost sight of. But Christ is present in the Eucharist par excellence. And we must, as Paul VI says, be wary of stressing the Mystical Body as present everywhere in the same way. I am not saying you are doing this; but the language you have chosen is vulnerable to that.

  33. I like it, believe it or not, as I have a special place in my heart for modern architecture that is designed well. In a sense the seating around the altar is no different than what is at St. Peter’s in Rome. I would just suggest a baldacchino for the altar, the Benedictine altar arrangement and enlarging the sanctuary for the other rites of the Church that happen during or outside of Mass, like weddings, ordinations, RCIA and the Liturgy of the Hours and having multiple levels below the altar for these and and not calling it an “altar platform!”

  34. I like the way in which medieval cathedrals have small side chapels between each buttress. They’re versatile spaces and each has its own charm. This building, on the other hand, is designed with a grand scale in mind, but seems to be missing smaller scale places for more intimate events. There is one chapel, but the other side places seem purely utilitarian. For example, the “confession waiting areas”: what is going to make those areas a privileged place for prayer, meditation, or devotions? Is there room for a piece of art, or a window, or something, or will it have to be just an add-on? The other corners are empty, boring. If a small group wished to gather in an intimate space within the cathedral, where would they go?

    Aesthetically, I like the way in which medieval cathedrals look grand from a distance or as one walks in, but also have details that are worth looking at from up close. They’re interesting at every scale. That’s my big criticism of much contemporary architecture: the architect does not appear to have taken into account the look, feel, and atmosphere of each little part of the building from up close.

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #47:
      Actually, I had not paid as close attention to the photo as I should have as the entire congregational is under a baldachinno-like structure which includes the oculus–now that is artistic! I wonder if that is intentional and meant to capture the marital aspect of the Church with her Bridegroom?

  35. Pews are essentially the modern form of crowd control which help keep families together, children from wondering, etc. This form of crowd control is essential (I have no romantic illusions of what happened before pews) but often gets out of control and denies us the flexibility that is also needed in liturgical action. However that is not the case with this church whose circular ambulatory gives a lot of flexibility.

    While I have no desire to remove all the pews in a church, converting some to more flexible use is usually helpful. The concerns about the size of the altar area (the equivalent of the bema) can easily be taken care of through flexible pews in the first several rows which could be removed for certain occasions.

    The altar already has a ciborium and certainly does not need another one which might upset the natural lighting arraignments and leave the altar in the dark.

    Hopefully the clutter of the Benedictine candle arrangement will be banished from this cathedral!

    The best place for the candles is help to define the bema area something in the manner of the altar carpets in some orthodox churches. I would suggest four permanent candles on large pedestals near the altar steps in a boxed pattern replicating the circle box design of the new cathedral space.

    On special occasions part of the procession of the gifts would be six acolytes with very large candles (more like our paschal candles) who would take up positions in front of six of the pew areas. Once the altar has been incensed the people would rise and having been incensed and their candles symbolically lit (represented by the acolytes) they would be readily for the heavenly banquet.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #49:
      When I visited the Republic of Georgia in 1999, we toured many Georgian Orthodox Churches on a Sunday and most if not all of them had no seating whatsoever for their Divine Liturgy and people came in and went out at will and many were praying before icons and lighting candles as the long liturgy was in progress.

      I told the person taking me to all these churches that I felt extremely uncomfortable going in and out of these historic churches while the Liturgy was in progress, but she assured me that everyone does this and she was right! So I suspect I had a real, first hand medieval if not older experience of the Liturgy!

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #51:
        Fr. McDonald, I’ve had a similar experience in Greece and Cyprus. The Greeks are more likely to confine their going in and going out to Orthros, or during the lengthy Sunday Matins. I can’t speak to Slavic practice.

        I went to the metropolitan cathedral in Athens once for Matins at 6 am. The priest was chanting behind the iconostasis, the people were lighting candles and kissing icons, the deacon was incensing the whole cathedral, and many women were going up to the metropolitan’s stall to chat with him, present babies to him for a blessing, but I don’t recall any of this happening during the eucharistic liturgy itself. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where Matins, Orthros stop and the eucharist begins.

        I would only add, it struck me more as a family reunion. Gramps playing with the kids while everyone else is doing his thing in preparing for the family feast. Somehow it all comes together as a great corporate act of worship with things beginning to settle down and focus is given to the dinner party which is about to begin and everyone moves into the dining room.
        Some will be late, dawdle, or are engrossed in some activity, but eventually everyone moves to find a place at the table.

    2. @Jack Rakosky – comment #49:

      Jack: Hopefully the clutter of the Benedictine candle arrangement will be banished from this cathedral!

      While I respect your position, a “Benedictine arrangement” would be quite appropriate for this cathedral. If I’ve read the compass rose correctly, the main doorway of the proposed cathedral will stand vaguely to the west. This is the opposite of the earlier Roman basilicas but congruent with medieval and later church plans. A “Benedictine arrangement” would better orient worship to the east, as the position of the crucifix and candles would unmistakably denote orientation.

      As it is, the sanctuary chairs face west in the architect’s proposal. Perhaps it would be better to place the chairs on the other side of the altar and have Mass said facing east. If desired, more people can sit on the semicircle of the nave best positioned for Mass versus populum.

      Benedictine arrangements need not block the face of the celebrant. The EWTN television chapel Benedictine arrangement allows the viewer to see the face of the celebrant. Even the EF could be celebrated in the configuration I have proposed for the future cathedral, although from what I understand the greetings at a freestanding altar are said to the altar, without turns.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #54:
        And yet, the Benedictine altar arrangement has yet to move beyond the scope of being a liturgical fad. It’s less about the face of the bishop or other clergy, but about the whole sense of erecting a barricade to the sacred elements. Prison bars do not prevent the seeing of inmates, visitors, and guards, but they do mark off territory.

        Six free-standing holders with candles on the platform (or any sanctuary area) or at its periphery accomplish a respectful locus without the sense of bars, or nervousness about their accidental topple, or a clutter on the altar itself.

        The Benedictine arrangement, I hope, will go the way of canvas banners. Well intentioned, but not well-considered.

      2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #55:
        Todd, I agree with you — and I have argued elsewhere that the so-called “Benedictine altar” simply leads to clutter.

        A paradox in many papal Masses done this way that the assembled worshippers cannot easily see the celebrant or the sacred gifts — but television viewers can! The camera is often positioned above the crucifix and “prison bar” candles or is able to zoom past them.

      3. @Jonathan Day – comment #57:

        Jonathan: A paradox in many papal Masses done this way that the assembled worshippers cannot easily see the celebrant or the sacred gifts — but television viewers can! The camera is often positioned above the crucifix and “prison bar” candles or is able to zoom past them.

        I would say that the better camera angle would be from the position of the altar of the chair, facing east. Until recently, the curia sat behind the altar, which makes sense from a clerical standpoint (presbyterium). The “action” of the liturgy is not what is seen from the nave looking westward, but what is seen from the apse looking eastward.

        The faces of Pope Benedict, his concelebrants, deacons, and servers are quite irrelevant to the liturgy. Seeing the gifts, as well, is not intrinsically important to the liturgy either. I would much rather watch the Mass looking eastward at the pontiff and his ministers celebrating Mass, even if this would mean “looking at their backs” the entire time.

        I am interested in celebrating the eschatological banquet by looking with the ministers towards the eschaton. I derive no spiritual benefit from looking at the Pope’s face or his chalice.

        I have long thought that the more recent emphasis on “seeing” — the celebrant, the offerings, the body and blood — is one weakness of liturgical reformation. More later on that point.

      4. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #68:
        Jordan, for years I have found myself lowering my eyes at the consecration. It seems like the right thing to do. I don’t for a moment think is is normative. Some may derive spiritual benefit from seeing the Pope’s face.

        SImple analogies with Orthodox liturgy don’t seem right to me. Yes, there is an iconostasis — although in different Orthodox traditions it will be more or less opaque. But Orthodox churches are usually shallower than their western equivalents — the footprint is often square or even wider than it is deep. Of course there is a distinction between “the holy” (the sanctuary) and the rest of the space, but during the liturgy the priest and deacon will move freely around the church, and members of the congregation will come very close to the iconostasis, to kiss an icon or say a prayer. A lot of the action takes place in front of the iconostasis, in full view of the congregation.

        As Met Kallistos writes,

        There is in Orthodox worship a flexibility, an unselfconscious informality … people can come and go far more freely, and nobody is greatly surprised if one moves about during the service. The same informality and freedom also characterizes the behavior of the clergy: ceremonial movements are not so minutely prescribed as in the west, priestly gestures are less stylized and more natural. This informality, while it can lead at times to irreverence, is in the end a precious quality which Orthodox would be most sorry to lose. They are at home in their church — not troops on a parade ground, but children in their Father’s house. Orthodox worship is often termed ‘otherworldly,’ but could more truly be described as ‘homely:’ it is a family affair.

        A sharp contrast, in my view, to a Mass in a church with a long nave and a deep sanctuary, especially where the priest faces the apse. In some “reform of the reform” or self-consciously “trad” parishes Kallistos’ “troops on parade” simile seems entirely apt.

      5. @Jonathan Day – comment #71:
        In most of these long “naved” churches prior to Vatican II, the altar was very high and the ambo for preaching was in the congregation and very high as well. Many liturgists misread the “height” issue as making these furnishings aloof, whereas it made them visible and from the point of perception, very close to those who saw these, even if they were at the back of the church.
        Post Vatican II reorienting of these old churches and the designs of new churches usually have the altar and ambo no higher than two or three steps which in a full church makes these furnishings invisible to everyone except those in the first two rows of pews or chairs. I would propose that in these modern adaptations, the altar and ambo in a full church is hidden better than in a large orthodox church with a wall of an iconostasis.
        Keep in mind too, that the biggest critique I read here about the pre-Vatican II liturgy is that the laity did their own thing, came late,left early and were quite comfortable doing things that seem odd to others, such as kissing the feet of statues that were accessible to the congregation, touching them, lighting candles and praying private devotions and ultra pious body postures during Mass, especially after Holy Communion as one knelt with their forehead leaning on the pew in front of them as they contemplated the Mystery they received. The clergy were seldom concerned about what the congregation was doing behind them unless there was a ruckus. I think the post-Vatican II reformed liturgy and reformed architecture has stripped this creativity from people as the priest acting as policeman corrects those who are not in lock-step with what modern liturgists expect of the congregation in terms of uniformity and a narrow view of full, conscious and active participation. When I celebrate either the EF or OF ad orientem, I am liberated from giving a flip about what is happening behind me and I find that psychologically refreshing and very “Orthodox.” 🙂

      6. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #72:

        In most of these long “naved” churches prior to Vatican II, the altar was very high and the ambo for preaching was in the congregation and very high as well. Many liturgists misread the “height” issue as making these furnishings aloof, whereas it made them visible and from the point of perception, very close to those who saw these, even if they were at the back of the church.

        Allan, height does not make things closer. In fact it does the reverse. It is well established that there is a peculiar optical illusion operating in many of our churches. When you, as presider, are standing on a sanctuary raised up by a number of steps, the people below you appear to you to be rather closer to you than you, raised up, appear to be to them from their lower position.

        That is why the most successful church designs since the 1960s employ raked floors from back to front, which counteract this illusion. The cathedral in Los Angeles would be a good recent example. St Bartholomew’s Church in the city of St Albans would be another one, if you ever have occasion to visit.

        In other words, what is desirable is not the pop concert set-up, where the performers are raised up on a stage and the audience is spread out on a lower level, but the Roman amphitheatre layout (but with a lower rake), where the participants are at a higher level than the principals on the “stage”.

      7. @Paul Inwood – comment #79:
        What you write is true in an empty church not a church full of people , and only a few churches are built as the ones you describe and the slope of the floor has to be minamal to allow for comfortable standing and kneeling unlike a movie theater that can be more dramatic in its sloped floor. In addition if you go into a traditional church that still has its old altar with a newer one in front of it, the older higher altar appears more prominent and thus from the point of view of optical perception or illusion it appears closer even at the back of a full church than the altar thrust into the nave on a lower axes. As for the Los Angeles Cathedral where I’ve been groom the last pew when it is full, the altar is hidden by the people in front of you but the last pews to the altar’s side which have a gradual elevation and are thus higher than the altar are quite visible and close “looking.”

      8. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #80:

        Allan, I was not talking about empty churches but full ones. And your comment about what looks more or less prominent shows that you have misunderstood my point, which was about the perception of “closeness” when affected by different altitudes. I was talking about the perceived closeness of people, rather than artefacts.

        As for “the Los Angeles Cathedral where I’ve been groom the last pew when it is full”, this surely doesn’t mean that you got married there?!!!

      9. @Paul Inwood – comment #81:
        Had posted that on my iPhone, which is a mistake to do, and saw it, but for whatever reason I could not edit it using my iPhone. I have no idea what groom means in what I was writing or how my fingers typed it, but maybe it was the Holy Spirit suggesting that we are “groomed” at Mass when we understand the spousal relationship of Jesus as Bridegroom and congregation as Bride? And to tie into another post on Scripture in the Mass, isn’t the bridal symbolism of the Mass quite scriptural too and the baldacchino in many churches and cathedrals, which appears to be over the entire congregation in the photo above in this Haiti rendering, scripture through art and architecture?

      10. @Jonathan Day – comment #71:
        In some “reform of the reform” or self-consciously “trad” parishes Kallistos’ “troops on parade” simile seems entirely apt.

        Sigh… his “troops on parade” remark either needs to be understood very loosely or it suggests that he is either not really familiar with troops on parade or not really familiar with the Roman Rite liturgical practices.

        There’s this well-known quotation from Martinucci as cited by Forteescue:

        A remark by Martinucci about the behaviour of servers in church may be noted with advantage here: ”They should avoid too much precision or affectation, or such a bearing as befits soldiers on parade rather than churchmen. They must certainly do all gravely and regularly ; but if they behave with too punctilious a uniformity the sacred functions look theatrical.”

        Yet perhaps in England the danger is in the other direction, lest servers (generally young boys) behave carelessly and irreverently. Considerable tact and good taste are needed in the priest or M.C. who trains the boys, to find the right mean between slovenliness and affectation.

      11. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #54:
        Watched the pope with his peek-a-boo altar setup tonight. A completely inappropriate arrangement with these massive golden candlesticks and cardinals Sodano and Bertone peering through the golden jail bars.

        I think two massive standards, or floor candlesticks on either side of the lower step, and two rather large candlesticks on either side of the cross–a Sarum arrangement–would be more effective. What with the flowers and the lamps over the confessio, much more than this in liturgical lighting is visual overkill.

  36. The natural place for the choir is in the two rows behind the altar since their voices need to project into the atrium. Again extra seating for a larger choir could fill the aisle that goes in the direction of the tabernacle (which of course would be hidden by its screen during large liturgical celebrations). Perhaps that screen could be made to project sound out toward the atrium.

    A key question would be the acoustics especially with all the light baffles. They could also be sound baffles. I guess Bose uses baffles to enhance sound in some of their equipment, so maybe if designed well they would enhance the sound.

    A lot of the sound results might have to do with the square box which accompanies the circular design. I also note there is no place for an organ. However the four corners of the box might be good places for pipes. Just think about being surrounded by organ pipes!

    Of course there is the unreliability of the electricity. Hopefully the acoustics will be designed to minimize the need for electricity for sound amplification, and that a rather small generator would run the organ bellows and provide some microphone amplification for the celebrant during a power outage. Perhaps several speakers could be well aimed into a well designed sound structure to take care of celebrant and reader amplication. Of course if we sang everything that might not be important.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #50:
      I see the two rows for the choir behind the altar. Narrow deep columns are hardly ideal for a larger choir, and two rows is the maximum depth at which singers can hear one another well on the same level (i.e. without risers).

      Electricity could easily be an option for winding an organ, with a treadled, mechanical wind-raising system being the norm. The musical advantage of organ wind resulting from bellows that actually close rather than acting as a reservoir are often desirable in instruments which otherwise depend on the power grid.

  37. Two thoughts:
    1. Am I missing the cathedra? Where is it? Is it the row of 3 squares by the altar? If so, that seems way off. Frankly, the entire altar/ambo/presider chair arrangements seems an afterthought, and needs more consideration.

    2. I am usually the last person to say “think of the cost!” when building churches. I think they pay for themselves over time and the value of a beautiful church is without measure. But the sketch of this church, with the ruins of Port-au-Prince all around it, makes me a bit sad. Yes, the Archdiocese needs a suitable cathedral and a suitable place to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. Yet I’m a bit perplexed that they are undergoing this right now, when there seems to be more so much poverty and suffering in the area.

    1. @Chuck Middendorf – comment #56:

      1. Am I missing the cathedra? Where is it? Is it the row of 3 squares by the altar? If so, that seems way off. Frankly, the entire altar/ambo/presider chair arrangements seems an afterthought, and needs more consideration.

      Exactly. See my remark above (# 2). Once you put the altar in the very centre of a circle, there is no good place for anything else. In this scheme, the altar, three chairs and the ambo all seem to be jammed tight onto the central plinth under the hanging cross. That doesn’t work either. And, as you say, there’s no cathedra anywhere on the plan that I can see.

      But I still think the illustration of the interior of the building gives a sense of excitement.

    2. @Chuck Middendorf – comment #56:

      This is the advantage of the antiphonal seating, or what one finds in the early Syrian churches, or Moroccan or mid-eastern synagogues. Where the ambo and cathedra are on a bema in the middle of the nave facing the altar/Ark With the altar either within a defined sanctuary area of low walls and steps, or within an apse with its ciborium magnum.

      Ambo, chair, a throne for the gospel book, font,and altar can be seen more easily by everyone and acoustic problems common in a long nave can be solved this way.

      The era of the “great choir” with the altar at the far eastern end of the sanctuary beneath a soaring reredos should end. It’s a needless expense contributing to the notion of liturgy as a theatrical performance . It made sense in an ago of vicars choral, an army of chantry priests, canons, etc. attached to cathedrals, but outside of religious communities, I don’t see much use for these great choirs and sanctuaries far removed from the laity.

      1. @Dunstan Harding – comment #66:
        You must, then, hold in equal disapprobation the oriental iconostasis, behind which the priest does the work of sacrifice cut off from view, before which the people wait passively and are not able to enjoy ‘full and active participation’. The western version of this is the high altar beyond the great choir. Give me either of these any day over happy-clappy music and Fr Good Morning Folks. Thus am I a full and active participant rather than an incredulous and unhappy beholder of foolishness.

  38. My objection to the Benedictine arraignment is as clutter on the altar, especially when as in this case there are far better ways of how candles might be used effectively in this church.

    Ad orientem is a completely separate issue.

    When Mass is said in the chapel at the East end of the building, presumably it will be said facing the people and the East at the same time. That is how they have it set up.

    When Mass is said at the main altar, and the screen is open for the overflow crowd in the atrium (and presumably the screen is closed in front of the tabernacle in the East so that people might pray there before and after Mass), it is logical to say Mass facing the most people in the atrium and the West.

    However if the atrium is not being used, and its screen is closed, it seems just as logical to face East as West at the main altar since the people equally surround the altar on all sides potentially.

    Of course in practice they may gather mostly on one side, if they did then Mass should be facing them. Of course the atrium screen may often be left open for the light and breezes and people will tend to congregate there.

    If the atrium screen is closed and the East chapel screen is open, Mass should be said facing the tabernacle and the East.

    One might also say Mass facing the East say in Advent and Lent, and say Mass facing West during Christmas, Ordinary Time and Easter.

    “Orientation” is something that to me at least makes little sense now that we know we live on a globe that rotates. However it may be useful to acquaint people with how people thought in times past about the East. However if we begin to treat “ad orientem” as if it is an important aspect of faith and become strict about it, it just becomes a form of idolatry.

    My favorite church is oriented north south rather than east-west. I like the morning sun that comes through the windows of the east during morning masses and the evening sun that comes through its western windows during evening Masses. I would not give any consideration to the east in designing a completely new church, but would respect the eastern orientation of this existing one.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #58:
      One of our Sunday Masses is ad orientem, the rest facing the people. We have four huge candlestick on the floor that are moveable, but usually we don’t move them. Our old high altar has the traditional six candles and crucifix, but when facing the congregation these are behind the priest and seems to me to be the best arrangement for a traditional look when facing the congregation. We have a crucifix dead center on the altar facing the priest, but it is low, there are no other candles on the altar unless we use it ad orientem and then not always.

  39. “One might also say Mass facing the East say in Advent and Lent, and say Mass facing West during Christmas, Ordinary Time and Easter.”

    In my parish, the altar is central, with pews facing north and south. The priest can face in any of four directions: toward 200 seats North, toward 400 seats plus balcony South, and West or East. Under the previous pastor, the presider would shift every liturgical season, East then West then back again, and so on.

    Funny story … My first “switch,” our more conservative associate kept with the program and switched to West. I was confronted by an older parishioner, “That Fr N.! He has no respect for the pope or Catholic tradition! He celebrated Mass with his back to Christ!”

    Poor N. He’s about the last guy in the diocese who would disrespect the pope. Or the Lord Jesus.

    We decided to continue with Sunday Mass facing East more or less permanently–the big open windows in our narthex. And it *is* East.

    I like that facing East in our church makes the priest orientation with regard to the assembly irrelevant. Even in the TLM, it can just as easily be about the performance of the clergy. And it often is.

  40. To the east in this building means toward the stained glass, which should be impressive for those facing that way in the morning. ( congregation)

    Noon will bring light shining through the oculus onto the altar like a spotlight. I trust it will be accommodated there somehow. (it is not a real oculus so maybe it will have some diffusing glass like below it)

    Sunset will be behind the rose window beyond the atrium

  41. Noble simplicity. Nothing should detract from the altars of Word and Eucharist. The reliefs encircling the Assembly welcome all with the embrace of God’s mighty deeds, in which we are invited to participate. The only question at present is whether or not people will go hungry for the sake of building a house for the Church.

  42. “Seeing the gifts, as well, is not intrinsically important to the liturgy either.”

    Technically true, but not in keeping with the human and Catholic desire to encounter God with the senses, to experience the incarnation.

    “I have long thought that the more recent emphasis on “seeing” — the celebrant, the offerings, the body and blood — is one weakness of liturgical reformation.”

    So much for Eucharistic adoration.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #69:

      Todd: So much for Eucharistic adoration.

      Yours is a point well taken. Certainly western European Christian spirituality has long valued “gazing” or “looking” as an authentic and even greatly esteemed spiritual action. The medieval cult of Eucharistic elevation is a notable example. Benediction is another strong example of the value of sight or gaze in Catholic devotion. Even the custom of giving a crucifix to a dying person for his or her spiritual comfort represents another aspect of the centrality of the visual sense in western Christian practice.

      “Sight” and “seeing” represent more than the light and reflection processed by a human visual cortex. Persons who are visually impaired often possess a spiritual understanding which greatly surpasses many sighted persons. Though some might not ever physically see the gifts and the sacrifice, do they not frequently believe as fervently as the sighted devout? What, then, is the value of the “mind’s eye” of those without the sense of physical sight?

      Metaphorical sight expands well beyond what is apprehended through raw cerebral processes into the deepest recesses of a contemplative and intuitive mind. As Richard Malcolm [December 27, 2012 – 1:39 am] writes of the ecce Agnus Dei before the communion, “for the turning of the priest toward the people for the “Ecce Agnus Dei” in an ad orientem EF or OF – we finally behold, clearly, the Lamb of God, after the consecration. Before that, it is only bread – and wine.” The presentation of the sacrificial banquet to the assembly after the anaphora in ad orientem celebration emphasizes an understanding of the holy sacrifice which is primarily intellective and recollective. The priest’s turn to reveal the sacrifice to the assembly merely reassures of Christ’s salvific act. This reassurance is in no way amplified by merely viewing every manual motion of a priest as he says Mass. A human mind can encounter the sacrifice without physically viewing the physical actions of the anaphora directly at every moment. The mind also knows that Dominus vobiscum is an eternal greeting and not significant only because the priest addresses the assembly at a particular point and because he faces the assembly at that very point.

      The emphasis on making explicit every gesture of a priest, deacon, or ministers during Mass has elevated cerebral and physical sight over intellective and recollective sight. The need to see what the priest is doing throughout the liturgy, rather than at times purposefully contemplate what is known only to the mind’s eye, has suppressed the elevation of the contemplative mind beyond the immediate moment of visual apprehension.

  43. Hello Todd,

    Technically true, but not in keeping with the human and Catholic desire to encounter God with the senses, to experience the incarnation.

    A fair point, but one that would only apply to the Eucharist itself, not the priest’s face.

    In any event, there is something to be said (I have always thought) for the turning of the priest toward the people for the “Ecce Agnus Dei” in an ad orientem EF or OF – we finally behold, clearly, the Lamb of God, after the consecration. Before that, it is only bread – and wine.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #70:
      Well, seeing the priest’s face is the issue negativa for some traditionalists. It’s never been an issue for me, nor have I ever noted it as an issue other than a negative one for the priest turning away. It’s a body gesture thing, and what that communicates. Still, I’m fascinated to hear how Mr Zarembo is going to blow up visual adoration.

      “Many liturgists misread the “height” issue as making these furnishings aloof …”

      I think unnecessary distance and hiding is more the issue than height and distance. I’ve heard “aloof” attributed more to performance music from the organ loft.

      As usual, I find amusing Fr M’s misdiagnosis about what other people are thinking. Interesting also the temporary relief from being a shepherd. You can be “relieved from giving a flip” just as easily by sitting in one’s private study, lounging in a recliner with one’s cigar, brandy, and dvd of the Father Dowling Mysteries.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #73:
        But Todd you misdiagnos what I was doing as I was actually sitting in a comfortable recliner taking a couple of days off at my mom’s little townhouse now mine but not drinking or smoking as appealing as these things are, but blogging and actually giving a flip about things of faith, hope and love all experienced in the OF and the EF.

  44. Jonathan Day :

    There is in Orthodox worship a flexibility, an unselfconscious informality … people can come and go far more freely, and nobody is greatly surprised if one moves about during the service. . . . This informality, while it can lead at times to irreverence, is in the end a precious quality which Orthodox would be most sorry to lose. They are at home in their church — not troops on a parade ground, but children in their Father’s house. Orthodox worship is often termed ‘otherworldly,’ but could more truly be described as ‘homely:’ it is a family affair.

    ### A sharp contrast, in my view, to a Mass in a church with a long nave and a deep sanctuary, especially where the priest faces the apse. In some “reform of the reform” or self-consciously “trad” parishes Kallistos’ “troops on parade” simile seems entirely apt.

    Hello Jonathan,

    The analogies are made because, so often, they have been used to justify major changes in both rubrics and architecture in the Roman Rite.

    To be more candid, it seems to me that reformers are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. They like the greater “informality” and movement in the Divine Liturgy, and the more compact layout. And yet, for the Eastern Rites, the necessary complement to these elements *is* a greater sense of the sacredness and distinctiveness of the sanctuary – and greater resistance to liturgical change than even the old (so-called) Tridentine period. The laity may move around and even up close to the iconostasis (even confessing in front of it), but they don’t enter the sanctuary unless they are acolytes. Indeed, when there is a ful iconostasis, they can’t even see what is going on most of the time!

    And the result seems less like a ressourcement of early liturgy than something quite new – and modern.

  45. I was in Port aux Prince in April 2012 and had the chance to visit the ruins of the cathedral. Still impressive even in its destruction. A woman with two very young children was there. She asked for money. They were hungry. We gave her some money, bottles of water and bread that we had. Looking back on that and thinking to the future, I wonder if the new cathedral will really feed the people? Will the concern about design overtake the concern about the people? Will the people be fed both spiritually and physically by this new structure? And what do the people of Haiti want? Theirs is a world of vivid colors, sights and sounds. It is also a world of suffering, empty stomachs, and extreme poverty. Will this new building be made up of all of that? Will it be a refuge? Will it inspire? Is this cathedral really of the Haitian nation and its people? Or is it just another thing imposed on them by someone outside of their world? At the new cathedral I expect you will see dogs, birds, beggars, saints and sinners, people plugging in their cell phones to charge, seeking a place of refuge from the heat, the sun, the rain, hunger and thirst. Will the new cathedral provide all that AND inspire their spirit? Perhaps those in charge should think about these things and go back to the drawing board. BTW, I think the earthquake was in 2010, not 2012 as stated in the introduction above.

  46. It is not surprising to me that they chose a design so vastly different from the original building, given that even before the earthquake, the Church took little interest in preserving the beautiful and historic cathedral they had.

    Afterward, despite the almost miraculous survival of much of the stained glass, no steps were taken to conserve it, not by the Church, or ISPAN.

    As long as ten months after the disaster, the windows remained, still salvageable – but with not so much as a protective wall erected, or a guard posted to deter scavengers, by the end of the year it was too late; all the art glass had been smashed for the metal surrounding it.

    A relatively slight expenditure would have saved the stained glass for re-use in the new cathedral, preserving at least a small part of the grandeur that was.

    I think the Church did not appreciate the beauty, the history, or the value of what they had, not for themselves, or for future generations of Haitians.

    No, the new design doesn’t surprise me at all.

    If anyone is interested, the Smithsonian Institution has put out a book detailing first hand accounts of the experience, successes, and failures, of post-quake efforts to conserve Haiti’s cultural heritage. It can be accessed at this link:http://haiti.si.edu/docs/saving_haitis_heritage_book.pdf

  47. Oh noooooo. Another earthquake, or worse. Nothing to do with sensitive contemporary architecture. Who’s the jury, seriously???? Poor Port-au-Price.

  48. I agree with Anthony Lehman (#83). I have been to Haiti and not much has changed since 2002 I suspect. The country has been the poorest in the Northern Hemisphere, and no doubt still is. They have been living in the shadow of voodoo and evil for centuries. But the people of Haiti (who TRULY know Christ in their hearts) have a joy and peace in spite of their physical poverty. I have seen it with my own eyes. They have the ‘bread of (true) life,’ Jesus living inside ( Jn. 6:35, Jn. 3:1-17). In their poverty they are ‘rich’ inside, even more so than those of us in the United States. The real question I would ask, is If Christ were to show up in Haiti, what would He do to meet the needs of the people, spiritually, emotionally, and yes physically. Would He spend millions (I imagine it will cost this much) to build a beautiful structure? And will this give the people hope, or cause them to compare their plight with the structure. Why not a simple basic structure to meet the TRUE NEEDS of the people of Haiti? A combination of Clinic(many are sick there), a School (to teach and educate in work skills and small business), and Spiritual Guidance and principles from the Word of God about ethics, integrity, character, honesty, truth(God’s), and most important, how to find God and live to please Him. This new ‘structure’ will undoubtedly encounter another earth quake, but that which God can build and change in the human heart can last for eternity. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” Jn.14:6

  49. Is this a joke?
    Please someone tell me this project is not going to built in Haiti.
    It’s so bad. Who was the jury???

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