Renovation of the sanctuary of the cathedral of St. Gall (Sankt Gallen) in Switzerland is encountering opposition, KIPA/APEC reports. A petition, “Stop, Pause to Reflect” was begun on February 16th by the “Friends of the Foundation Church of St. Gall.” As of Friday, February 22nd, about 500 had signed the petition.
Work on the renovation project began on May 21st. The new altar was to be solemnly consecrated this coming fall. Estimated cost is 1.65 million Swiss francs, about 1.77 million U.S. dollars.
Adaptation for the new liturgical prescriptions resulting from the Second Vatican Council was never carried out in entirety, and the renovation was to improve upon a provisional solution. Moving the altar nearly in the middle under the cupola and placing a golden ring above it was the plan of the London architectural firm “Caruso St. John Architects.” (See the firm’s sketches here.)
The golden ring has encountered opposition among the people, and also with the government office for historical landmarks. Niklaus Ledergerber, leader of that office, said that the ring intrudes upon the space. “This is contrary to a fundamental principle of historical landmarks, that intrusions should be kept to a minimum.” Ledergerber does not believe that the ring is truly necessary in order to highlight the liturgical space.
The petition expresses opposition to the “construction of a new concrete altar with a floating gold ringlet, which is a foreign body under the cupola of the baroque Cathedral of St. Gall.” The petition warns of an “expensive and risky experiment” and calls for a pause for reflection to find a solution which “fits harmonically with the interior of the church.” The “Friends of the Foundation” say that they are open to anything which serves the general interest of the cathedral and its preservation.
UPDATE 2/24: The administrative council of the canton of St. Gall issued a statement Friday pointing out that the golden ring is not part of the approved plan and will not be installed, at least initially, when the sanctuary is renovated. The statement says that the “Friends of the Foundation Church of St. Gall” argued with false data, and their expression “concrete altar area” is a false accusation. The lower layer will be of poured concrete with terrazzo over it.
The administration does not understand why opposition is being mobilized now, since the project was announced two years ago and approved “with overwhelming majority.” Work on the project will begin May 21st. The London architectural firm “Caruso St. John Architects” has agreed for the plan to go forward without the ring, and so it is misleading to act as if the plan includes the ring.