STYLIST: Regina Fashion & Style Editor Sequoia Sierra (www.sequoiasierra.com)
PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Meister
LOCATION: Sts. Peter & Paul, Wilmington, CA
In 1909, a small community of farmers purchased some land for a Catholic mission church; after World War II, the area boomed with aviation and aerospace industries. St John Chrysostom Church in Inglewood, California, which seats at least 1,000, was finished in 1959 to accommodate this growing, thriving Catholic population. It is located minutes from … Read more
By Matthew Plese Holiday visitors to ‘the City of Brotherly Love’ may be astonished to learn that the city is in fact a hidden gem of Catholic beauty. Two hundred years of immigrant Catholics have left their mark on Philadelphia with several nationally- known Shrines (St. John Neumann, St. Katharine Drexel, St. Rita of Cascia), … Read more
by Beverly Stevens I knew something was up when Julie called, wanting to know if I would make the trek into Manhattan to meet her for dinner. Though she tried to mask it, her voice sounded strained. I know Julie; she’s my only sibling. Not a day over 30. That’s what you would say if … Read more
Lovely Light Coats for Lasses Showcase Scottish Fashion By The Cathaholic Shopaholic With an eye on the best in Scottish fashion, REGINA Magazine’s Cathaholic Shopaholic has spotted some of the beautiful coats for lasses throughout the country. NOVA SCOTIA: Once again REGINA’s favorite fashion icon, Kate Middleton sets the standard for style on a … Read more
The high art of wood carving is everywhere in evidence in traditional German churches — inspired, many say, by the country’s vast forests. Sadly, in the 20th century — mostly in the years post-Vatican II — iconoclasm swept through the German Church.
In a spasm of runaway clericalism, many churches were denuded of their sacred art. Even today, this work is often sneered at by the German elites, though secretly beloved by the people.
But even ideology and iconoclasm slowly die away. This interview by Donna Sue Berry is one clear sign of this salutary trend — the story of a fifth generation family business in the South Tyrol experiencing an uptick in demand for their astonishingly beautiful work.
After 140 years and five generations, the Ferdinand Stuflesser family continues to create exquisite church restorations, believing that dignified art inspires praying. Their customers include the Vatican, as well as cathedrals and churches throughout the world.
The Stuflessers create all their woodcarvings in their workshops in Ortisei, Italy, where they use raw materials of the highest quality. Their work features altars and hand-carved statues in wood, bronze, and marble.
Fifth-generation Stuflessers, brothers Filip and Dr. Robert Stuflesser are prized by their customers throughout the world for their state- of-the-art craftsmanship, assurance of superior quality, and their continuing dedication to improve.
Q: Robert, have you noticed a growing interest in statues from people looking for a more traditional decoration in their churches? Can you tell me what they are wanting?
Yes, during these last years I have noticed that people are coming back to more traditional statues and interiors. Some like a more modern style, but the trend is going clearly towards a more traditional style. Some also like combining a modern architecture with traditional carvings.
Q: Have you built any traditional altars lately?
Yes, we had the opportunity to realize different altars during these last years. None of them was modern; they all were constructed in a traditional style. One of the high altars we realized was a copy of an altar destroyed during war. Its height was 27 feet and it was created for Vukovar, Croatia. Another altar was for Scotland, and it was actually a reconstruction of an altar we received from the Vatican. We also constructed one for a church in Burleson, Texas.
Our long experience and knowledge passed on from generation to generation for approximately 140 years allows us to form our creations with all the ancient techniques used a century ago. Naturally, these techniques are refined with modern instruments. All projects are custom-made, which allows us to adapt each realization to the rest of the interior perfectly.
Q. What is the most popular statue that people want from you?
This is difficult to tell, for we realize traditional and new statues, but maybe the most requested statues are the Christ figure, St. Joseph, Our Lady in different representations, as well as Padre Pio, Mother Teresa (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta), St. Francis (of Assisi), and St. Antony (of Padua).
Q. Your family history is so interesting! Does your family have a favourite church that you go to? Have you carved the statuary there?
Since we all are living in Ortisei, where our workshops are located, our preferred church is our local parish church. We are not far away from this very beautiful church, which is full of carved art. Yes, there are some “Ferdinand Stuflesser 1875” statues and also a high altar that was constructed and donated from our workshops.
Q. Is there a ‘special’ project that you are working on or that you would like to do in the future?
At the moment we are working on an interesting project. We are restoring a Gothic high altar, which we bought some time ago. We are adapting it to the specific needs of a church in Holland: The existing parts will be completed by new parts to fill the space harmonically.
My dream for the future? A lot of custom carvings of each sort, which will make a lot of people happy and maybe one for Pope Francis.
Q. Do you have a precious treasure from the earlier generations carved by Ferdinand Stuflesser I or II or Johann Stuflesser?
Yes, there are some beautiful pieces that we all particularly love: A Pieta statue, a St. Ann figure and a Christ figure. These are my favourites.
Q. Robert, if there is anything you would like to add to these questions, please tell us.
To add: I thank all the people who love our carvings and pray to them. I also want to say thank you to our precious Facebook followers who see so many of our new statues.
To tell: I love to communicate with so many people all around the world and there is one thing that bonds us: Our Catholic Faith!
A Visit With the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Richmond, Virginia By Patrick Clark With three universities, countless historic sites, and the seat of the Bishop of Richmond, the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia is a vibrant cultural center. Of course it goes without saying that this Southern lady has spent over four … Read more
You’ve felt it — the coldness of cement-washed walls; the barrenness of faceless paintings; the vertigo of bizarrely-angled ceilings. Whether you put it in words, or whether, like me, you have simply been mired in a mélange of confusion, anger, sadness, and shock – you, dear reader, have felt it.
The Modernist takeover of our visual and architectural patrimony and its legacy is fully metastasized. Its appropriation of Sacred Art and Architecture in the Church is monolithic. Its faceless, ominous ramparts are insurmountable.
Or are they?
A Catechism in Paint, Mosaic and Stone
Duncan Stroik’s The Church Building As A Sacred Place makes a persuasive case for, and offers a way to reclaim, the traditions that have defined sacred architecture for centuries. Eminently accessible in the clarity and ease of his language, Stroik successfully argues that Sacred Architecture is not merely a preference for an aesthetic, but a means whereby the timeless truths of Catholic theology are communicated to the faithful.
To the architect, designer, and layman alike, Stroik shows how a church building is a “catechism in paint, mosaic and stone,” supporting all the Sacraments, the tenets of the Faith, public liturgy, and private devotion. He then demonstrates how Modernism has dulled or in fact eviscerated the sense of the sacred in church buildings. Nevertheless, Stroik maintains that a return to the principles which made the constructions of centuries “sacred” to the senses is both possible and necessary in our time.
A return to the principles which made the constructions of centuries “sacred” to the senses is both possible and necessary in our time.
Sacred Place takes a polemical tone almost by default, given the predominance of Modernist architecture in the Church today. This is inevitable, as Stroik must reiterate what had been understood for centuries — à voir, millennia — in a way that is palatable to the contemporary reader.
Perhaps not since Rose’s Ugly as Sin, or Bess’s Til We Have Built Jerusalem, has writing on this topic been so clear: “[T]o compare even the most critically-acclaimed modern churches with typical early Christian or Renaissance examples”, writes Stroik, “is to call into question any notion of progress in the arts.”
INTERIOR CHAPEL of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, California.
Marginalizing the Sacred
If Sacred Architecture is to be recovered, the causes of its marginalization must be exposed. Stroik critiques the fruits of the “open door policy” of Vatican II. He also calls into question the guiding principles of architectural Modernism in Environment and Art as Catholic Worship, and Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture and Worship – both published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
What is the problem with these documents? Stroik observes that their primary failing is their overly “liturgical” focus. He convincingly argues that liturgy is only one of the concerns that a church architect must consider. It is critical that architects also understand that churches are sacramental, devotional, symbolic, and, above all, sacred.
Stroik smartly avoids entanglement in the knots of all-too-familiar liturgical debates, deftly avoiding the false antagonisms created by Modernist liturgists. Throughout, he elegantly and consistently orients the discussion to the fullness of Sacred Architecture. He reminds us all that a church space should support all seven Sacraments, respect their hierarchy, understand their inter-relation, and explicate their spiritual worth.
Stroik smartly avoids entanglement in the knots of all-too-familiar liturgical debates, deftly avoiding the false antagonisms created by Modernist liturgists.
Stroik ringingly affirms the necessity of a sacral architectural perspective in creating a truly sacred space — even more, a space that is truly reflective of the fullness of the Catholic faith. In peeling away the layers of complexity, Stroik gives poignant voice to our long-suffering intuition:
“The worshiper is left with fragments and disharmony. The focus of the church is always in question. [..] the iconoclasm of the [Modernist church] offers us complicated abstract parts rather than richness of iconography, materials, colour, and meaning.”
A Practical Guide for Rebuilding the Catholic World
The church is not just a space of utility for our human, liturgical needs. The “ultimate patron” of the architect, writes Stroik, “is the Father above, to whom he must eventually answer.”
CATHOLIC CHURCH or corporate office building? Sacred Heart Church, Munich, Germany
This perspective serves as a guide for what is, in my opinion, the most valuable aspect of Stroik’s work. Sacred Place is also a practical guide for Catholic architects, clerics, and laymen interested in the revival at the local level. The experienced Stroik is sensitive to the economic concerns of any major construction or renovation project. Hence, he examines every aspect — from finding the right architect to planning a reasonable budget — of a successful project.
Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, Ca
Overall, Stroik’s book is full of mature optimism as well as a lively hope smoldering, despite the bleak reality we must all live in. Sacred Place points to the ebbing tide of reaction to Modernism as well as new trends of appreciation for all that Sacred Architecture signifies and can accomplish.
Construction of St. John the Apostle in Leesburg, VA
Stroik closes with a series of predictions for the future of Catholic architecture that I hope will come to fruition. Stroik predicts the long-awaited demise of Modernism, the return of lost sheep to the fold and the building of new towns, schools, colleges, and convents in the Catholic world. I think this is a worthy goal all Catholics of good will can commit to.
Sacred Places closes with a series of predictions for the future of Catholic architecture that I hope will come to fruition.
Rick Murphey lives just outside of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, tucked away in the woods with a small herd of sheep, a few chickens and other critters. Rick grew up working in his father’s construction business in Carson City, Nevada, learning cabinet-making skills. Over the years, he came to appreciate the character and beauty of the different grains, blemishes and knots of wood.
Today, Rick is a man with a unique vision. In the long cold winter months from November to May, Rick can be found in in his woodshop, crafting this vision into reality.
“Originally, I set out to create a series of wayside shrines along roads and pastures, to revive the old European custom, “ he says. “These shrines promoted holy adoration and property protection.” However charming this idea, Rick found little interest beyond a few relatives.
FSSP priests Father Gordon (left) and Fr Kemna (with glasses) admire Rick’s altar in his Idaho home.
“Originally, I set out to create a series of wayside shrines along roads and pastures, to revive the old European custom.” Rick Murphey is a man with a unique vision.
“I got a new idea at dinner one night, from Rev. Dennis Gordon, FSSP, our pastor at St. Joan of Arc Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, “ says Rick. When Father Gordon visited to bless one of Rick’s wayside crucifix shrines, he asked Rick to make a portable altar, designed to house an altar stone he had obtained from the chapel of the Monsignor who had baptized him. Father Gordon wanted to use the Cristeros-era stone and the portable altar on occasions when he had no access to a church to say Mass.
Rick eagerly responded to the challenge of designing and building such an altar.
“First, we built a prototype and over the course of a couple builds, a smaller, lighter model — based on feedback from the parish priests. This resulted in a more compact 14”x22”x9” size weighing about 35 lbs., with a sturdy handle for ease of carrying. It fits within the maximum dimensions for a carry-on with most airlines.”
The wood for Rick’s altars is selected using quality and beauty as priorities; hemlock is his wood of choice, for its durability. It looks most beautiful stained with an antique-style finish.
The front panel on the altar is engraved with the “IHS” and is hand-painted with antique gold, highlighted with black. “Invisible” hinges allow the wings of the altar to fold out, yet still appear to be a long solid piece of wood. The wings are supported by two pullout drawers, lined with felt for storage of a mass kit and the crucifix. The top flips up, and a wood inlaid crucifix mounts atop in full view of the priest as he celebrates the Mass.
“Rick has found that priests prefer to have their own altar stone installed, but these altars can also be built without altar stones, in which case the priest would use a “Greek corporal” when he says Mass. This is a piece of cloth with relics sewn into it, usually used in military settings.
The wood for Rick’s altars is selected using quality and beauty as priorities; hemlock is his wood of choice, for its durability. It looks most beautiful stained with an antique-style finish.
“Unfortunately, due to the amount of labor required and the quality of materials, these beautiful altars are expensive. Rick’s altars are fairly complex, consisting of more than 50 pieces of wood to assemble, but he doesn’t have a blueprint for them. Each one is custom-made, and he works off a “general” plan. At the advice of his parish priest, he has added a more simplified model, the “monastic model” without all many coats of polyurethane, for those priests who cannot afford the high gloss original model. This has enabled him to charge significantly less.”
Unlike most commercial artists, Rick recommends that other carpenters put their skills to work for the Glory of God. He envisions carpenters crafting these for our priests, or for parishes so they can present them to their priests.
“Perhaps with the proper skills, tools, and motivations, more people can step forward,” he says. “There is a need for travel altars, and many priests would love to have them.”
Rick’s altars can be found at his website: stjosephsapprentice.com
Rick recommends that other carpenters put their skills to work for the Glory of God. He envisions carpenters crafting these for our priests, or for parishes so they can present them to their priests.
Duncan G. Stroik is an American architect, Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and founding editor of the Sacred Architecture Journal.
In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Duncan Stroik discusses what’s happening today, at the cultural nexus where Catholic culture and architecture meet.
Q. Do you think that Catholic church architecture is at a turning point in America today? If so, why?
The movement towards traditional Catholic architecture is certainly building momentum in the United States. There are many bishops, pastors, and lay faithful who support the movement, and a growing number of architects with the understanding and training to design beautiful churches.
However, the modernist mentality also continues to influence some parishes, liturgical consultants, and architects. It is a constant tension experienced in each new building project, but I believe more people are becoming aware of the need for beauty and tradition.
Q. Where do you find the greatest support for this classical architecture movement?
I find that younger bishops, clergy, and laity are enthusiastic in their support of the traditions of the Church, not limited to architecture, but also including music, sacred art, and all aspects of liturgy. Those middle-aged and younger grew up with the “brave new world” of abstraction and so-called liturgical participation and have found it unfulfilling.
Q. From whence does the impetus for this movement arise?
I believe it comes from a rediscovery of love for the tradition and the artistic patrimony of the Church. The experience of living in traditional cities also reinforces the movement towards Classical architecture, while the experience of the recent decades of architecture encourages us to seek what has been lost.
Q. Is this extending outside the US, to your knowledge?
It is extending to England to some extent. Europe remains in the hands of the cultural elite. Africa, Asia and South America are next, though. The economics have made it difficult for them to build but that will change eventually.
Q. What is the roadblock in many countries?
The Catholic faithful in most countries would prefer the tradition, they just don’t think they can have it due to the control of art and architecture by the cultural elites.
Q. You founded a journal on church architecture, which you have been editing for 15 years. Can you tell us about why you created the journal?
The Sacred Architecture Journal was conceived in response to the many phone calls and letters I have received from pastors and laity requesting literature to read or architects to hire. The people of God have expressed a great desire for an architectural publication which will draw on the riches of the Catholic patrimony and articulate the principles for a sacramental architecture.
A respected cleric pointed out to me that while we have drama, music and art critics in our major journals there is little serious criticism of contemporary church architecture. Thus the intention of this journal is to sponsor substantive debate about this crucial subject.
Q. Where can you be reached?