“Designing a Church for Saint John’s in the Mid-20th Century: What the Architect and the Monks Had in Mind”

Now here’s a spirited presentation on the architecture of the St. John’s Abbey Church!

Br. David Paul Lange OSB, faculty member of St. John’s University in the art department, spoke to interested university faculty and staff recently over lunch. Sponsored by the Benedictine Institute of the University.

The introductions are long but in the background are interesting shots of the dedication of the church in 1961. (People sure dressed up for church back then.) Along the way, you’ll get a brief tour of architectural history in the 20th century.

Hint: This was shot in fairly high detail. Put the video into “full screen” mode and you’ll see a LOT more of the detail.  (Thanks, Jonathan.)  – awr



  1. This is a wonderful presentation, not long enough! The enthusiasm of Br. David Paul is infectious. I commend this presentation to our viewers. Brother mentions a book, Marcel Breuer and a Committee of Twelve Plan a Church by Hilary Thimmesh, OSB; it is a great read.

  2. What a stunning presentation! I learned more about 20th century architecture in one hour than in a semester class. Bro. David’s knowledge, excitement, and oratorical prowess give a brilliant backdrop for the design of the church. I may not agree with all of the decisions made in the design, but understanding their origin and the process is one giant “Aha!” moment. Thank you.

  3. Exciting, jubilant presentation by Br David. I’d love to be younger and able to take one of the art courses offered by Brother. How fortunate to have such a wonderful multi-talented monk in your Community, and member of the univeristy faculty.
    I imagine his students must truly come alive in the course with such a mentor and ‘formator’. . .David’s own love for his work must stimulate the budding artists in his classes and ‘fire’ them to create beautiful things.
    Thank you, Fr Anthony, for sharing this presentation-education with us.

  4. Splendid! Is there any chance of getting the slides so that we can look at them in more detail, and directly without going through the video camera?

    Thanks so much for sharing this terrific talk.

    (Edited to add: just discovered that this was shot in fairly high detail. Put the video into “full screen” mode and you’ll see a LOT more of the detail.)

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #4:
      Alas, I’m told that the slides aren’t available for public distribution. I hope everyone does OK watching it in “full screen mode.”

  5. I was about ten when the Minneapolis Star ran color pictures of the spanking-new abbey church. I was alarmed by the lack of Communion rails. (The freestanding doubled altar was okay, because our parish church had one.)
    Within a few years, I had gotten over that shock and had decided that this building was the finest church in the world. I have felt no need to change that opinion since.

  6. My first trip to St Johns was just after the monastic wing had been finished, but before there was even a hole in the ground for the Abbey Church. I was enthused about the design, seen photos of the model, and in successive visits watched the structure rise into reality. It was one of the most exciting projects I have ever seen. For a “pre-Vatican II” church it was/is amazing! Yes it is from the 1960s but it already seems serene and “timeless”. As with Mr Lincoln, we say “Now it belongs to the ages.”

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