Back in May, the Catholic diocese of Raleigh, announced scaled-back plans (from $75-90 million to $41 million) for its new cathedral.
Now “Under the Dome” gives you three interesting little videos on the plan:
Part 1: Site and Layout (4:43)
Part 2: The Sanctuary and the Spirituality of the Architecture (4:55)
Part 3: The Internal Layout (10:11) – first 6 minutes are a bit of a fundraising appeal from the bishop.
This is a beautiful plan, and I predict that most people will like it. So much is so beautiful here.
The question I would raise, though, is whether the plan allows the worshiping people to be, as the U.S. bishops put it in built of Living Stones, a “liturgical assembly gathered as one body in Christ.” Some of the people won’t be able to see each other in this plan. That is a functional problem.
I know, I know, worship isn’t just a horizontal gathering of people – but it is that in Catholic theology, in addition to a lot of other things. Ideally, architecture of whatever style brings together beauty and functionality. Ideally, the congregation feels itself to be one body as it participates in the sacred rites where worship is offered to God and his saving work is made present to his people. It’s not an either/or – either congregational unity or focus on God.
The path-breaking architects, including those who work in traditional styles, are those who are able to bring about a new synthesis that overcomes such false oppositions. What a shame that didn’t happen here.
I think the good people in Raleigh might have gone west about 2,000 miles and taken a good look at the renovated Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City. There, they had to work with what they had (it’s a renovation), but the overall sense is of a gathered assembly and the sight lines are good. Beauty and functionality come together there.
For your reference, here is what Built of Living Stones says about the space for the liturgical assembly. It is the nature of the document not to issue specific rules (“Everyone must be able to see everyone else!”), but to give principles and a vision. My question is whether the floor plan of the new Raleigh cathedral fits that vision.
The Building: The Place for the Liturgical Assembly Gathered as One Body in Christ:
50. The church building is a sign and reminder of the immanence and transcendence of God—who chose to dwell among us and whose presence cannot be contained or limited to any single place. Worship is the loving response of God’s People to the mystery of God who is with us and who is yet to come. “As visible constructions, churches are signs of the pilgrim church on earth; they are images that proclaim the heavenly Jerusalem, places in which are actualized the mystery of the communion between man and God.”[66 GIRM 294: Ibid.: “Even though all these elements must express a hierarchical arrangement and the diversity of functions, they should at the same time form a deep and organic unity, clearly expressive of the unity of the entire holy people. The character and beauty of the place and all its appointments should foster devotion and show the holiness of the mysteries celebrated there.”] In addition, the church building manifests the baptismal unity of all who gather for the celebration of liturgy and “conveys the image of the gathered assembly.” [67 GIRM 295: “The sanctuary is the place where the altar stands, the word of God is proclaimed, and the priest, deacon and other ministers exercise their offices. It should clearly be marked off from the body of the church either by being somewhat elevated or by its distinctive design and appointments. It should be large enough to allow for the proper celebration of the Eucharist which should be easily seen.”] While various places “express a hierarchical arrangement and the diversity of functions,” those places “should at the same time form a deep and organic unity, clearly expressive of the unity of the entire holy people.” [681 Cor 11:26; cf. Rev 19:9.]
The Congregation’s Area: 51. The space within the church building for the faithful other than the priest celebrant and the ministers is sometimes called the nave. This space is critical in the overall plan because it accommodates a variety of ritual actions: processions during the Eucharist, the singing of the prayers, movement during baptismal rites, the sprinkling of the congregation with blessed water, the rites during the wedding and funeral liturgies, and personal devotion. This area is not comparable to the audience’s space in a theater or public arena because in the liturgical assembly, there is no audience. Rather, the entire congregation acts. The ministers of music could also be located in the body of the church since they lead the entire assembly in song as well as by the example of their reverent attention and prayer.
52. Two principles guide architectural decisions about the form and arrangement of the nave: (1) the community worships as a single body united in faith, not simply as individuals who happen to find themselves in one place, and the nature of the liturgy demands that the congregation as well as the priest celebrant and ministers be able to exercise their roles in a full and active way; and (2) the priest celebrant and ministers together with the congregation form the liturgical assembly, which is the Church gathered for worship.
53. The body of the church is not simply a series of unrelated sections. Rather, each part contributes to the unity of the space by proportion, size, and shape. While various rites are celebrated there, the sense of the nave as a unified whole should not be sacrificed to the need for flexibility.