Goodhue's Tomb: Nihil Tetiget Quod Non Ornavit

The tomb of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue—the greatest American architect of his generation—rests in the Episcopal Church of the Intercession in the far northwest of Manhattan. Here we explore the inscriptions and sculptural contents of this "token of the affection of his friends" and "his great architectural creations that beautify the land."

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UTSOA Lecture on St Martin Lutheran, Austin

Information about a lecture given at the University of Texas as part of ongoing efforts to advocate for the preservation of Saint Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Church. This church is by far the best example of non-residential mid-century architecture and holds a special place among the finest modern American churches. The lecture addressed on the influence of the church and the people associated with it on the history of the architecture and building arts community of Austin in the middle of the twentieth century.

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MidTexMod Tour of St Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church

St Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church, Austin

I am excited to participate in an upcoming tour of St Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church with MidTexMod, the local docomomo_us chapter. Despite its relative obscurity in architectural history literature, it is among the most significant churches of its time with local, national, and international confluences and volumes to reveal about both individual, denominational, and universal aspects of church architecture. My lecture will touch on some of the themes from the article I wrote for docomomo as well as examining how it fits into its larger contemporary scenes in the Lutheran church and in modern architecture (including some photos from my trip to St Dominic in New Orleans, built at the same time with stained glass by the same artist). Dennis Cordes, congregant and Preservation Architect, will address some of the preservation challenges the building presents and give insight into the building's continued use. The docent-led tour will give us a chance to dig into some of the particular details of the architecture.

Here are the full event details from MidTexMod:

St. Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Church: Tour and Lecture Date: Saturday, May 16 Time: 2-4pm Location: 606 W 15th St, Austin, TX 78701 Cost: $5 Suggested Donation

Join us to learn about one of Austin’s most striking Modern examples of ecclesiastic architecture – St. Martin's Lutheran Church. Completed in 1960, the church was designed by Robert Mather of Jessen Jessen Millhouse and Greeven as a Modern abstraction of the Christian basilica. The building features an arresting Modern chapel with a soaring vaulted nave and dramatic stained glass, a remarkably intact sanctuary, and sculpture by Charles Umlauf, as well as a more utilitarian education wing including classrooms, kitchens, and a basketball court.

Dedication Booklet Cover
Dedication Booklet Cover

Mid Tex Mod will be hosting a tour of the church with a lecture on the building's design, significance, and art by MTM member Jason John Paul Haskins, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C. Jason is a church-building researcher and design consultant who writes about liturgy, architecture and history on the blog Locus Iste. He holds a B.S. in Architectural Studies and an M.Arch from University of Texas with additional course work at Columbia University and a research emphasis on the architecture of the 19-20th century liturgical movements. Jason’s lecture will be followed by a presentation on the building’s preservation by Dennis Cordes, congregant and Preservation Architect (retired from the Texas Historical Commission and Texas Parks & Wildlife).

Mid Tex Mod is excited by the opportunity to highlight this remarkable Modern resource. Our tour will be in conjunction with Preservation Month, established in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to highlight historic preservation across the country.

Please email to RSVP by May 14. Tickets are not required, but we will be accepting donations at the door (with a $5 suggested donation).

Schenectady's Grotesque Grotesques

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

While traveling during the holidays I visited a fascinating (and slightly disturbing) church in Schenectady. Completed in 1899, St John the Evangelist, in the Union Street Historic District (NHRP), is the result of a collaboration between the pastor and architect. The pastor, Monsignor John L. Reilly, outlined the design of the church from inspiration collected while traveling in Europe. Many American churches have been inspired by their pastors' European grand tour, but the end result in this case is not the obvious replica that resulted in the vast majority.

The "supervising architect" (as he is credited in multiple accounts) was Edward Loth, an architect from Troy. This is the most dramatic and unusual of his church designs. Loth also designed a number of churches in the towns around Albany, including my parent's current church in Ballston Spa and St Patrick, Watervliet which was torn down in 2013. Loth studied in Germany, and I wish I knew where and with whom. I would also love to know what specific examples Monsignor Reilly saw and which ones he referenced in the design.

I visited for an evening mass on a cold overcast day as the sun was setting and with the streetlights and exterior lighting on, the lights made for some interestingly lit and colored, if grainy, photos.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

Then as I flew out of the Albany airport, I saw it again. It was hard to miss the dramatic verticality of its presence in the urban fabric.


The axis mundi drew my eye immediately, even before I realized what town we were flying over. It has a similar impact diving up to it.

The striking monumentality and the geometric composition of the building were some of the reasons I wanted to see this church. Another reason was the seating on the interior, with its steeply raked main floor below a circular balcony of more than 180 degrees. Naves based on auditorium seating and balconies are common features of American churches in the late 19th century, but both are rare features among Catholic churches. But even among the auditorium-type churches, the densely stacked configuration inside a square tower is very unusual.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

Unusual among auditorium churches, too, is the configuration of what stands in for the "stage." Since the majority of these churches were for spoken word-centric celebrations, the focal point was generally a raised dais with a pulpit. But here, the focal wall is an elaborately developed tripartite wall of altar apses. The openness of the central apse, its interlocking composition with the circular balcony, and the boolean formation of the volumes combine to strike an easily legible balance between the unity of the interior space and the hierarchy of the liturgical components. Compared to the more typical contemporary basilicas, including those designed by Edward Loth such as in St Mary, Ballston Spa, celebration at the high altar is extremely immanent without losing its dignity and distinction. My sense is that the apse and altar here results in a posture more appropriate to the Tridentine liturgy.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

Of course now we have the two-part altar with the high altar as a principally decorative function and the altar of sacrifice free-standing in front. It is a necessary adaptation both for celebration versus populum, when appropriate, and for churches which were designed such that the rubrics of the Rite of Consecration could not be followed to the letter. In the Rite in the 1895 Pontificale Romanum—which was in effect for the consecration of this church, assuming it had made it over and been put in use locally—the Bishop sprinkles the altar while circling it (circuit altare) and sprinkles the church "starting behind the main altar" (incipiens retro altare majus). I do not have the text of the 1596 Pontificale, but I understand it gives the same instructions.

This arrangement should never be designed for new churches, but does not need to be a regretted adaptation. This is a perfect case where it could be an effective arrangement, if only the forward altar of sacrifice were treated with due dignity and give stature appropriate not only to its function but also to the scale of its sanctuary. This is true of both the Extraordinary and current forms of the liturgy and for the celebrant standing both toward the apse and toward the nave.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

The composition of the focal wall gives a clear hierarchy between the high altar and the two side altars while achieving a balance between the elevation and integration both proper to the sanctuary. At the same time, there remains something slightly off about the whole that I can't quite identify, but that may just be the fact that it is unfamiliar or overflow from the issues with the ornament. Unfortunately, the current usage does not retain the clarity of the composition; there were a number of oddities that reflected a disappointing attitude of apathy in the celebration that did not live up to the nature of the liturgy or reflect the intriguing structure's attitude toward worship.

The church is extremely "modern" in a number of different senses of the word and with both positive and negative results.

On the positive side we have a sophisticated composition of volumes where space (in its modern conception) is a primary element in the overall design. The exterior prefigures some of the geometric Backsteinexpressionismus, with the obvious difference in material. In particular, it reminds me of the early work of Dominikus Böhm, leading up to the Abdij Sint Benedictusberg (1922).

Cloister Exterior | Abdij Sint Benedictusberg

Works such as these highlight continuity of the later architectural developments often characterized with an over-emphasis on rupture and revolution. Something about the proliferation elongated abstractions of gothic windows suggest an active engagement with the precedents not seen in Loth's other designs.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

And St John the Evangelist, Schenectady also has a far greater consideration in structure; we see this most notably in the metal and glass dome within the central spire. (Since I visited in the evening, I did not get to experience the effect of that component. There are some good photos on this page, and if I am able to visit in daylight I will add more photos then.)

And the seating arrangement may be classified as modern because of its emphasis on perceptibility of the celebration in the sanctuary. Closed-minded anti-modernist types might reject this arrangement outright, but with the juxtaposition within the more dominant components of the interior there is much more going on here. In person it really does not feel like an auditorium, in the ways that detract from the "higher" forms of Christian worship. The congregant in his or her seat is much more caught up in the milieu of the whole building. Ultimately the arrangement reinforces the clarity of orientation toward the altar.

Though I have mentioned them together, the auditorium style seating is one thing and the balcony quite another. Balconies in general are problematic for participation because they emphasize the posture and spirit of a "spectator" for those sitting there. This is among the least offensive balconies I have seen, mostly on account its integration and imminence, but it still has problems.

The church is also profoundly modern in its separation of its ornament from the structure. The disunion is particularly evident in the interior; and the very fact that it is more evident in the interior reflects a further disjunction between the interior and exterior.

The church exhibits the problematic type of 19th century eclecticism (where complexity does not lead to richness) in its ornament and a tendency towards individualistic sentimentality in its art. The stark whiteness of the whole composition was interesting, especially since I visited in the middle of writing my piece on the Chartres Polychrome Controversy. I guess it imparts something of Wincklemann's "noble simplicity," but that is ultimately annihilated by the sculptural exuberance of it. On the other hand, this formal exuberance is only possible because it is monochromatic.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

(I'm tempted to do a false color version of one of these photos just to see how ridiculous it would be...)

This is one of the best examples where the ornament is essentially frosting. The clustered columns are clearly false, and only occur as a framing device clearly divorced from any structural function. Note the difference between these and the single slender metal columns supporting the balcony. What is worse, it is all made of poorly constructed plaster with an infill executed in a grotesquely inflated grotesque. The word "grotesque" immediately sprang to my mind and has not departed since. I've since determined that four distinct meanings of "grotesque" apply here. In this case, I mean a "distorted" version of a "fanciful combinations of intertwined forms" that began life as a Roman infill painting technique.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

The commitment to the texture is admirable; its ubiquity is unifying. And I wanted it to work. I kept thinking how wonderful it could have been in the hands of someone more skilled in the composition of organic field textures. Someone like Louis Sullivan, who exhibited greater creativity, more sophisticated subtlety, greater variety of scale, a more effective shallow relief, and, of course, generally worked in terra cotta instead of plaster:


This is something I would like to try to make work even today.

The tendrils in the transepts are much better, since they continue and heighten the rhythm of the actual structure, tie this part of the building to the focal wall, and engage the negative space of the concave ribs.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

Which brings us to the most ridiculous (and grotesque) part of the whole thing: the grotesque grotesques (using two additional meanings, in the sense of "abnormal and hideous" or "absurdly incongruous" rendition of a "face used as architectural element").

The cherubs.

St John the Evangelist, Schenectady

Or more properly, the putti, which are mistakenly called cherubs. The cherubim are awesome beings depicted as multi-winged living creatures attendant to the majesty of God. They originate in Hebrew scriptures and are thus proper to those aspects of Christian worship which cry "Gloria!" and "Alleluia!" and "Sanctus!"

Putti, on the other hand, originate in Classical paganism and come to the fore in Christian art in its lowest and most extravagant period, and more importantly, among the trends that most severed the liturgy from devotion and personal piety. By the late 19th century, any depth that might have existed in their Quattrocento iterations had been reduced to the most pathetic and sentimental. Thus they are two faces of the humanist individualism that is poison to the fullness of Christian worship.

The proliferation of putti—supposedly more than 500—inside St John the Evangelist, Schenectady simply come across as distracting and more than a bit creepy. The intent was most likely to represent the "heavenly host," and childlikeness (not childishness) is certainly an aspect of the Christian ideal; however, the this depiction is of a milksop host and a sentimentally pandering image of an inordinately comforting heaven.

One other item that I would like to investigate further is the electric lights. There are lamps oddly placed in the putti's foreheads and a few in the perimeter of the central apse. Given that Schenectady became the home of both the Edison factory and General Electric in the decades prior to the church's construction, it is possible that they are original, or at least early additions. Their placement seems to be more for effect than for general lighting, which would suggest a different approach to the use of electric lights—one fitting to a city interested in showcasing its technological prominence—than the more utilitarian approach of the last half century.

This was going to be a short post sharing a few photos, but as you can see there is quite a bit to chew on in this one. Much of its interest and peculiarity derive directly from standing among the transitions at the turn of the century. Thus it encapsulates a number of trends in the period of church building (1833–1962) I find the most fascinating and under-appreciated.

Orders of Service: Design Strategies

Design for liturgy shares certain principles and methods whether the object of the design is a building, vestment, or some typographic expression of prayers and songs. In the past year I had the opportunity to design worship aids for my local parish, and I want to share them here as an example of the kind of thought that goes into design from liturgy (and a bit of what I mean by that phrase). I hope this will also aid others tasked with the design of worship aids. The first book is for the Triduum—the sequence of celebrations beginning with Good (Maundy) Thursday, continuing through Good Friday, and culminating in the great solemnity of solemnities that is the Easter Vigil—and is a full bilingual order of worship for the various services.


The second is a supplemental music booklet for the season of Advent.


This first part examined the Liturgical Principles guiding the design. This second part will look at the Design Strategies used and some of the specific decisions made to bring those principles to fruition.

Good design requires development over time and trial and error, so it is not something easily taught in this format. And I only claim to have started down that road. But I would like to share some of the strategies that guided this work in the hope that they will help others tasked with similar designs, especially those without a design background.

The most important step is to establish the guiding principles behind the design that will be the ultimate criteria for every decision along the way. Failure to do this leads only to haphazard, uncoordinated designs based solely on the whims of taste. A few of the strategies we will explore are extreme users & universal design, good typography, flow & hierarchy, consistency, and sustainability.

We have described at length the liturgical principles that must be the basis of design. From these, especially the accessibility of the liturgical texts for full and active/actual participation, follows what is the most important consideration of design generally: the use and experience of the end user. IDEO calls this "Human-Centered Design," and their free Design Kit is an incredible resource for learning and implementing creative solutions to any problem. Theirs is just one way to describe this approach; their methods and mindsets are similar to the toolkit I use in my participatory pre-design process of strategic planning for the built environment, Stewardship of Place.

To that end, I designed these booklets while keeping in mind a few hypothetical extreme users. For the Triduum booklet, my first extreme user was a grandmother named Gloria. Gloria hasn't been to church in about ten years, for unknown reasons, but is considering coming back. Her eyesight is beginning to weaken, is hard of hearing, and English is not her first language. Others included visitors who had never been to a mass before, and a self-centered regularly-attending family who are put off by long services with "extra" rites and who think they know everything. For every design decision to be made, from paper size to punctuation, I considered the implications for these users in light of achieving the liturgical principles from their perspective.

For the Catholic church, the method of considering extreme users meshes well with our "preferential option for the poor and vulnerable." The preferential option may give cause for alternate versions, but what works for well for the the elderly or less-sighted—from the readability of the text to the ease of manipulating the form factor—will also benefit the more conventionally-abled. Hence "Universal Design" reaffirms the unity of the assembly. Multilingual booklets are a similar consideration, where one common version of the will reinforce the unity of the celebration.


The perennial problem with worship aids is text size. No matter what you do, someone will complain that the text is too small (while your pastor complains that it's too long and expensive and can you squeeze it down a bit). The real answer is not "larger" but "more readable." For clarification, legibility is the ability to distinguish letter forms, which depends on both the form and its spacing; whereas readability is the ability to distinguish words as well as lines or blocks of words for the purpose of comprehension. Legibility changes as the size changes (which is why really good fonts change at different sizes, too), and the size of the letter forms is only one element of readability. Legibility is your font designer's job. Readability is your job, and that requires the entire discipline of good typography.

What constitutes good typography? The balance of technical factors—including typeface selection, point size, line spacing and length, kerning, and proper punctuation—that puts the logic and content of the text above its appearance. For a primer, I highly recommend that you start with Butterick’s Practical Typography. This e-book is covers in accessible depth the key rules of typography. It is intended to help lawyers look decent and professional. While this is a rather different use than designing worship aids, the principles and techniques he clearly lays out are also a perfect resource for someone who is not a typographer but who is still concerned with producing quality documents. This makes it perfect for church office staff and ministry leaders well. Among the basics, I want to highlight the importance of whitespace for clarity and for drawing attention to sequence and structure.

A few notes on typeface selection. For this type of booklet where the primary use is reading responses, I look for larger x-heights compared to overall height and then compensate for the density with more generous line heights. This tends to result in greater clarity and impart gravity and dignity to the text.

The first question you'll probably face is serif or sans. Sans serif fonts are usually assumed to be more legible and contribute to better readability. This is generally true for body text, but only means that if you use a sans serif font for large blocks of text, make sure it is optimized for legibility. Of course a crisp humanist sans will be easier to read than an overly dramatic serif (like Didone or Romantic). If you can find a "superfamily" that includes both serif and sans-serif fonts it can greatly help in achieving a variety for different types of information while maintaining a visual continuity. With the titles, texts, rubrics, and references all contained in a tight area, the ability to differentiate makes a huge difference.


Fonts cost money. Don't resent this fact. It will be worthwhile to pick on a solid and flexible font and stick with it for years.

Reliable stalwarts that I recommend considering for this application include Garamond, Sabon, Palatino, Quadraat, and Minion (even through Butterick recommends against using it). Note that there are multiple versions of some of these, especially Garamond, which is more of a historical class of typefaces than a particular font. FF More is a large serif family, which includes a nice condensed version. A solid condensed version is a powerful tool when setting lots of text. Sumner Stone has a fascinating set of fonts that I would love to see used in this context. Basalt, which has a great architectural character, and Munc, which is a clean uncial that could bring a bit of medieval character, would make for nice titles. Similarly, the work of Hans Eduard Meier has a stately character from a strong basis in historical craft (writing and carving) combined with a minimalist aesthetic. This is just a starting point.

A few font interdicts. Never use Papyrus under any circumstances whatsoever. It contains every fault a typeface can possibly have. It draws attention to itself, is massively overused, and represents precisely the kind of vague sentimental spirituality which is anathema to the liturgy. Unfortunately that means it gets used often for religious purposes, which is why I bother mentioning it specifically. Its legibility is miserable, and nothing can be done to make it readable as body text. Its faux grunge is too mechanical to have any meaning. In general, avoid novelty fonts and instead ask for dignity. It doesn't hurt to consider what designers consider to be terrible and avoid some pet peeves.

Also avoid Times New Roman, except as comparison for x-height size. At a minimum, set a more readable font such that the x-height matches 12 pt Times New Roman as a standard for what “normal” people are “used to.” But its familiarity connotes apathy, and its origin in newspapers emphasizes fitting characters on a line above readability. Here's more in Practical Typography and some alternatives.

I am personally partial to typefaces designed by architects and people who get architecture. It is not that I have sought these out; in most cases, I have discovered the architectural connection after appreciating the face. This includes the fonts in use on this website (Herb, Lapiture, and Facit by Tim Ahrens, which I found looking for legible modern blackletters), the digitization of van der Laan's stonecutting face, Goodhue's Cheltenham, and of course Eric Gill's designs, especially his lesser-known serif faces. Gill's An Essay on Typography remains a seminal work on the subject.

The Advent booklet uses Garamond Premier Pro, mostly because it is used in the Simple English Propers that constituted the majority of the booklet. Body text is 12pt with 15.75pt line height; explanatory texts were set in 11pt italic with a 14.5pt line height. Body text is minimal in this book, replaced instead with musical notation. When setting additional music, I matched the style of the Simple English Propers and reset hymn texts in Garamond for consistency. The result is only two formats of music, one for neumes and one for modern notation. Each has a consistent size, weight, and set of glyphs throughout the book, despite the hymns coming from different sources. This required a good bit of manual adjustments, which I was not able to do for the Triduum booklet due to schedule and its sheer size, but makes a huge difference in the the continuity of the whole. The Triduum booklet benefits from the body text providing the continuity. It would also be possible to use a consistent style in Finale or Sibelius or similar, but this would require setting every piece of music. In general, I was able to make the music in the booklet larger and significantly more readable than the hymnal we use, a clear benchmark that should minimize complaints.


From a typesetting standpoint, Gregorian notation is so far superior to modern notation. The way the notation, like the music, emphasizes the text itself is beautiful. Modern notation is like a straitjacket, constricting the text, just as conforming the translation of the text to rigidly formulaic music leads to some awkward and unfortunate phrasing. For what it's worth, I advocated for Missa XVII, which is the Ordinary setting specified for Sundays in Advent and Lent in the Gradule; XVIII is for weekdays in Advent

The title lines are a complex block above each piece of music created by nested GREP styles in inDesign. This technique uses the automatic application of text styles depending on rules that look for tabs, line endings, etc to specify which styles are used for each bit of text. 20pt Medium Italic gives the title of the music; 13pt Bold Caption gives the music's type in all caps; 13pt Medium Caption gives the date of its usage; 10pt Medium Caption in small caps gives the text source, hymn tune, or other supplemental information.

Thus this text (with hidden characters shown):




and prints as:




The numbers are the Great Primer Uncials from Hoefler's Historical Allsorts, which also provide the drop caps for each section:


To accompany the booklets, we also made letter As (in the same Uncials used on the cover) for use on the hymn boards in the church:


The Triduum booklet uses a suite of typefaces from Hoefler&Co. including: 11pt Hoefler Text Roman for the body at 15.75 pt line height, with 10pt / 13.5pt line height for readings; Hoefler Text Black for the people's responses; Hoefler Text Regular Italic in gray for explanatory texts; 10pt Hoefler Text Black Small Caps for musical designations; 14pt Hoefler Text Regular Italic for in-line titles; and 16pt Hoefler Black Italic (with Swash alternative capitals) for major section titles. The scheme is relatively simple for the complexity of the texts.

For the remaining distinction between parts I relied on the page layout and a few special design elements as banners for each day and each set of rites. These use a combination of Fell Type and Great Primer Uncials from Hoefler's Historical Allsorts, including some of its punctuation and symbols, and different combinations of Italic Hoefler Text according to the hierarchy of the rites. Each day has a consistent layout with the day on top and the celebration below. Each section has an appropriate emblem and its title in one of two formats (one for sections with special Latin names and one for the remainder). The symmetry of the composition relates directly to the two column layout for the two languages.


The imagery used throughout both books comes from a collection of digitizations of engravings provided by Corpus Christi Watershed. I used them primarily because they are published under a Creative Commons license (so are free to use), are a single source of a wide range of imagery in a consistent style, and are provided as vector files. They were originally produced for black and white printing and digitized for modern publishing, so they are well suited for the type of printing used in creating these booklets in as cost-effective manner as possible. The visual vocabulary of the imagery informed the choice of the Historical Allsorts for titles, which are themselves an impeccable digitization from similar sources.

The traditional language of the images nicely elevates the overall composition, but is not necessarily better than another language. The selection came down to what I had available that was of sufficient quality.

To incorporate the images into the page layouts, I offset the images on the covers and the major section divisions in a way that activates the contrasting negative and positive space inherent in woodcuts. It would have been nice to do more of the same on the section header blocks, but it clearly marks each day with the focus of its celebration. Note that in both these and the section header blocks, the multilingual titles are not afterthoughts; they are integral parts of the composition.


For the Advent cover, I extracted some angels from the prints and simply replaced the text with the names of the O Antiphons. The visual symbolism for Advent (and Lent, for that matter) is not as rich as the Triduum and Easter. Which really is not surprising, since the liturgies of the Triduum and Easter rely so heavily on material symbols while abstinence from the material characterizes the penitential seasons.


The page layouts used are based on the hierarchy & flow of the rites. A common size for these booklets is a legal sheet folded in half, giving a squat 7″ × 8.5″ page. One problem with this format is that the line lengths become too long, making it difficult to read multi-line text. Hymns also tend to have a taller proportion, which means that they either need to be reset in a wider format or a majority of the extra surface area is lost to blank space that does not contribute meaningfully to the layout. Using a folded letter sheet, with a 5.5″× 8.5″ requires small margins to prevent the shortening of line lengths. But the length of the page means that little else will fit with a hymn, and leads to frequent page breaks or splitting up prayers (widows and orphans) and similarly wasted space at the bottom of pages.

For the Triduum book, I wanted to emphasize the integration of the chants and hymns in the rites. Using a longer page meant that more of the musical settings would be to remain with their preceding text. In cases where multiple hymns follow each other, the length allowed them to be on the same page while keeping them at the size of our pew hymnal. I kept the 5.5″ width (a folded 11″ sheet width) and tried a number of different lengths for the fit of different critical pages, like the Exsultet, litanies, and multiple hymns in a row. I also physically tested prototypes of the lengths for balance and ease of use. The form factor also provided a nice stiffness and balance when held in one hand and a lit candle in the other. Wider sheets would tend to flop sideways awkwardly, making it more difficult to turn the pages. Igniting the booklet is not a huge danger, but fumbling to turn pages will lead to singed hair. The finished size of the Triduum booklets was 5.5″× 12″ created by trimming a tabloid size sheet. The extra length saved a number of sheets.


The line lengths were set by the Exsultet, which I set as two facing pages, English on the left page and Spanish on the right, in order to highlight its importance. Most of the rest of the pages were set in two columns, English and Spanish. This meant that the line lengths were shorter than ideal and the longer lines in the prayers had to be broken. In almost all cases, the phrases of the texts were already clearly separated, so the meaning was not impacted. The Exsultet was an exception and benefited from stretching out a bit more. I would have liked to have done more with these pages, harkening back to the medieval Exsultet Scrolls. Maybe next time.

Whenever possible, I prefer to keep the psalm lines unbroken and prayers consistent to the line breaks in the Missal. To test the page layout, I extracted some of the longest lines in the Missal to see what would fit. The longest line is 71 characters ("come to the aid of these our brothers and sisters in their blessed hope"), which incidentally is one of the very few lines broken in my Liturgical Press Roman Missal Chapel Edition, which I thought was the best designed of the new editions in 2011. The longest line in the Ordinary of the Mass is 65 characters ("you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us"). Another one to look out for is "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, ✠ and of the Holy Spirit." This can obviously be broken into multiple, but that would take up more vertical space. It also points out that your font needs to have a maltese cross, or you will need to borrow one from another complimentary font. On that note, symbols versicle (℣) and response (℟) will be very helpful.

But back to line lengths, the following block of text is a good sample to use as a lorem ipsum while test page layouts.

for whenever the memorial of this sacrifice is celebrated
and in communion with those whose memory we venerate
and command that we be delivered from eternal damnation
O God, who by the Passion of Christ your Son, our Lord,
may persevere with steadfast faith in confession your name.
may keep him safe and unharmed for the Lord’s holy Church,
they may be added to the number of your adopted children.
Let us also pray for all our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ,
who bestowed your promises on Abraham and his descendants,
listening to his word and celebrating his mysteries,
bestowed upon the faithful the fire of our glory
Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
when the things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
who are wonderful in ordering all of your works,
look with favor on the wondrous mystery of the whole Church
come to the aid of these our brothers and sisters in their blessed hope
so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water
in the name of the Father and of the Son ✠ and of the Holy Spirit,”
Now that the days of the Lord’s Passion have drawn to a close,

Lines with this length (70 characters) will not only give an ideal length for reading and comprehension, it will also reduce the need for indentation on broken lines that give an inconsistent edge and increase the vertical efficiency of page use. Space between paragraphs can then be more effectively used to reveal the structure of the components of the celebrations.

Consistency is a theme throughout these strategies: consistent fonts, formats, layouts, source of imagery, etc. Keeping the base format consistent will go a long way to creating documents that are clear and dignified. Consistency is an important component of the best expressions of simplicity. The same type of information in the same format every time, such as a regular title format, helps the user navigate and use the order. With enough fabric of a consistent flow, a rare break from the format becomes a powerful tool for emphasis.

That said, consistency and simplicity are particularly important because these booklets are not themselves objects of the liturgy. They can add beauty and truth to the celebration of the liturgy, but they can also obscure what is actually going on if they draw too much attention to themselves. Undue attention can come whether it is good or bad from a purely graphic design perspective.


To close, here a few considerations for producing the books. We intended these booklets to be reused in future years. This meant not printing specific dates and the like, but it had a bigger impact on planning for the music ministry. This means committing to a repertoire for future years. And for Advent this included licensing the Introit Hymns. This was also in the interest of maintaining the sustainability of the material, cost, and effort.

Printing one-time use documents is not trivial. If you're going to use the material, use it with dignity, make it worthy of reuse. We've also found that when they are useful, informative, inspiring, they tend to walk off. This is a great problem to have! It means they are having a second life beyond their seasonal use and that they are bearing fruit in the personal devotion of parishioners. Someone actually told me they took some to give to friends who were asking what was going on at the church over Easter. Liturgy as evangelism; what more could you hope for? So we may need to reprint a few additional each year to replace the shrink. And babies chewing on them (at least, I hope those teeth marks were from babies...).

How much did these booklets cost? Printing is not the only expense involved. Licenses for texts, music, artwork, and fonts need to be considered. Creative Commons and public domain content can be an excellent resource. Quality is a concern with free material, but fortunately there are people who publish under a Creative Commons license for the good of the church. (Chant Cafe has excellent commentary on copyright issues related to liturgy and music.) The printing costs for the Triduum booklets came out to about $2.00 each; the Advent booklets were about $0.62. It is possible to produce some of these in house, but a professional printer is a worthwhile investment for trimming and assembly, print quality, and paper quality. But that is the commitment necessary when access to the liturgical texts and active/actual participation are important.

Design is work; graphic design is the labor of a specialized technical craft. It is valuable in many measures, not the least of which is a means for providing for the life of the designer. To quote the Catechism:

CCC 2428. In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary. Work is for man, not man for work (Cf. CA 32; 34). Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community.

Based on average billing rates, the fee for design work for the Triduum was at least $5,900 (note that this is more than 5x the cost of printing considered as a unit cost). The Advent booklet was smaller and built on the work for the Triduum booklet, so it would have been about $1,200. I say "would have been" because both were done pro-bono. These numbers are based on average fees and generously billed hours (the actual time spent was more than what was recorded).

St Albert the Great | Easter Vigil
St Albert the Great | Easter Vigil

The design of worship aids should be well thought-out with dignity, not slapped together with whatever default formatting and clip art could be had at the last minute. These versions are not perfect, but hopefully they illustrate the liturgical principles and design strategies intended to illuminate the Truth and Beauty of Christian worship.

Orders of Service: Liturgical Principles

Design for liturgy shares certain principles and methods whether the object of the design is a building, vestment, or some typographic expression of prayers and songs. In the past year I had the opportunity to design worship aids for my local parish, and I want to share them here as an example of the kind of thought that goes into design from liturgy (and a bit of what I mean by that phrase). I hope this will also aid others tasked with the design of worship aids. The first book is for the Triduum—the sequence of celebrations beginning with Good (Maundy) Thursday, continuing through Good Friday, and culminating in the great solemnity of solemnities that is the Easter Vigil—and is a full bilingual order of worship for the various services.


The second is a supplemental music booklet for the season of Advent.


Since these were designed for a Roman Catholic parish (St Albert the Great, Austin), the following specifically references Roman Catholic documents and instructions. But I believe the principles are sufficiently ecumenical that they will benefit any church with an established liturgical tradition and be of interest to those whose worship is more locally and creatively defined.

This first part will examine the Liturgical Principles guiding the design. The second part will look at the Design Strategies used and some of the specific decisions made to bring those principles to fruition.

The three guiding liturgical principles in these designs are:

accessibility: "the fully conscious and actual/active participation by all people" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14; Pius X, Tra le Sollecitudini)

catechesis: "the liturgy as the first school of spiritual life" (Paul VI, address at the closing of the second session of the Council, 4 December 1963)

noble simplicity: "clear and obvious, yet stimulating and erudite" (Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy)

The first two speak to the function and content of the booklets; the third concerns their execution in a manner befitting that content.

Since these books are intended explicitly and exclusively intended for the use of the congregation, the reason they were made was for the benefit of the congregation. Therefore, their contents and their format needed first to foster the actual/active participation of the faithful.

As fits the original uses of the phrase actuosa participatio, they especially needed to enable the people to sing those parts proper to them. But there are other modes of participation no less actual or active. It is therefore important to also include texts to which the congregation responds (not just the responses) and those texts she is asked to affirm with an "Amen" or other acclamation. Chief among these are the Collect and the Preface, whose inclusion are recommended by their lack of familiarity and universal character. These are treasures of the church too often omitted in other sources that elucidate the purpose of the celebration of the day, conform the worship of the faithful toward the communitarian nature of the liturgy, and provide perfect models of personal piety. Greater access to the texts of the prayers heard will only reinforce their importance, comprehension, and fruitfulness of devotion.


Both Mediator Dei and Sacrosanctum Concilium are clear in the importance of "necessary" liturgical instruction as a means to achieving the "right and duty" that is actual/active participation.

SC 14. Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.

MD 186. We earnestly exhort you, Venerable Brethren, that after errors and falsehoods have been removed, and anything that is contrary to truth or moderation has been condemned, you promote a deeper knowledge among the people of the sacred liturgy so that they more readily and easily follow the sacred rites and take part in them with true Christian dispositions.

Therefore, our second principle stems from the fact that the liturgy is her own best teacher, and the best teacher of the faith. In explaining the relationship between faith and the celebration of the sacraments, the Catechism of the Catholic Church invokes the ancient saying lex orandi, lex credendi: "the law of prayer is the law of faith," sometimes rendered as "what we pray, we believe."

CCC 1124. The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles—whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]).45 The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.

Simply making more of the texts available will provide greater understanding what the church does and prays. The Advent booklet was an important component of a larger effort to provide the church with access to her liturgy in the form of the propers. In order to highlight different aspects of the great mystery that is the Eucharistic celebration, certain texts of the Mass change in order to reflect the character of the season or a specific feast. Just as the Collect and Preface said by the Celebrant and the readings from the Lectionary vary from day to day, each liturgy includes three chants—the Introit (Entrance), Offertory, and Communion—specific to the day’s Mass. The Introit, Offertory, and Communion chants are integral parts of the Mass, even though they may be replaced by other texts and music. But as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in The Spirit of Liturgy, “the biblical and liturgical texts are the normative words from which liturgical music has to take its bearings.”

For this Advent, the parish elected used the Introit Hymns by Christop Tietze (with some hymn tune replacements) for the Introits to be sung by the congregation and the Simple English Propers for the Offertory and Communion with the antiphons provided for optional congregational singing. For a typical parish, this arrangement provides a nice balance of the authentic texts and "pastoral" familiarity in order to take steps to educate and elevate the assembly to the level of the liturgy.


There is also an opportunity to supplement with explanatory texts. The General Instructions of the Roman Missal, in the interest of bringing to greater fruition the Council of Trent (GIRM 11), includes among the lay ministers a commentator who "provides the faithful, when appropriate, with brief explanations and commentaries with the purpose of introducing them to the celebration and preparing them to understand it better. The commentator’s remarks must be meticulously prepared and clear though brief" (GIRM 105). Texts included in an order of worship serve the same purpose and should follow the same directive. By virtue of their unobtrusiveness, they have the advantage of being appropriate in more situations.

Explanatory texts should be focused first on fostering the spirit in which the church desires to celebrate (the "true Christian disposition" mentioned in Mediator Dei 186) and then on the immediate context or content of the rite. As hard as it is for the liturgical nerds who tend to get tasked with creating worship orders (myself included), historical and ceremonial explanations (especially those of a polemical nature) should be limited.

My method for preparing these texts is to cut and paste as much as possible and always draw from as close to the ritual as possible. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and this is a sure way to prevent the creep of sentimental individualism. The rubrics themselves can be an excellent source, such as for the preparation of the Paschal Candle:


The diagrammatic nature of the rubrics suggests this use; here I have merely reproduced what is included in the Missal. The General Instructions are also excellent sources; they often provide greater detail and references to scripture and ecclesial documents that may be woven into the Missal rubrics. It may also prove fruitful to reference another part of the liturgy when, for example, a contrast between an antiphon and a particular prayer or action illuminates both.

For the Baptismal Liturgy, it was not feasible to include the full text. Instead, each distinct action/section has its name as defined in the Ritual and a characteristic line from its formula. Other explanatory texts come from the RCIA and its General Instruction.


The catechetical efficacy of the liturgy is enhanced by its inherent beauty. In The Spirit of the Liturgy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) wrote:

"The liturgy possesses a tremendously compelling form of expression, which is a school of religious training and development to the Catholic who rightly understands it, and which is bound to appear to the impartial observer as a cultural formation of the most lofty and elevated kind."

The design of liturgical artifacts should likewise follow the character of the liturgy itself if they are truly to contribute to that "tremendously compelling form of expression." That is a daunting task; perhaps a good first goal is not to detract from it. From there, craftsmen starting from that same "true Christian disposition" required of participation in the liturgy may strive to from objects of most lofty and elevated cultural formation while remaining subservient to the actions and words they embody, since these are of a higher formal order than liturgical objects (cf. Dom Hans van der Laan, The Play of Forms).

Once again Guardini's criteria for the liturgy itself, which he concludes is exactly how the prayer of liturgy has been formed, works as a criteria for the design of liturgical objects:

"it must be rich in idea and powerful images, and speak a developed but restrained language; its constructions must be clear and obvious to the simple man, stimulating to the man of culture..."

As a design criteria for orders of worship, this suggests something that is at first glance clear and simple (following a familiar form for those following along) but that also rewards a repeated and deeper reading.


When it comes to the specifics of executing design for the liturgy, the Roman Catholic church is relatively broad. Both Mediator Dei and Sacrosanctum Concilium are make the point that no particular style should be rejected outright (MD 195) and that the Church has not selected any style as her own (SC 123). The Constitution on the Liturgy gives positive directives that sacred art be worthy and fitting of the liturgy and that they exhibit a "noble beauty" (SC 124) that follows from the "noble simplicity" (SC 34) of the rites themselves.

The liturgical principle of "noble simplicity" is a potentially challenging paradox because taken individually each term suggests divergent material manifestations. Depending on the artifact in question, there are different way to achieve that balance. For these designs, simplicity meant emphasizing clarity, functionality, and readability. Simplicity does not mean merely absence. Here it takes the text as the primary formal element and seeks a harmonious straightforwardness in its presentation that reveals rather than obscures the formal structure of the rites. Nobility meant aiming for an elevated dignity, crisp cleanliness, consistency, and appeals to the history of the church's printing. The synthesis of these goals depended heavily on the principles of good typography and the design strategies which will be the focus of Part Two.

Chartres Controversy

There is an article this week on the New York Review of Books blog entitled A Scandalous Makeover at Chartres by Martin Filler (and a subsequent follow-up) that is generating quite a bit of discussion. The makeover in question is the painting over of the interior stone. My own reaction follows most that I have seen online, namely something like "WTF, srsly?" It is almost inconceivable that such a drastic measure would be proposed, let alone approved or executed, in such a valuable site of religious and cultural heritage. Given my inclination to be contrarian, and interested in (but also suspicious of?) my own reaction, I want to poke at the outrage a bit.

Here is another opinion on the matter:

Without doubt, Our Lady of Chartres is still a majestic and sublime edifice. But for all the beauty she has maintained with age, it is difficult not to sigh with indignation before the damage and countless mutilations to which men have subjected the venerable monument.

Thus was Victor Hugo quoted in Cecil Headlam, The Story of Chartres (London: Dent, 1902).

The discussion of the treatment of Chartres comes down to the specific evidence available in this case—which I do not have, along with the expertise to interpret and implement it—as well as differing theories and techniques of historical preservation and conservation. An article on New Liturgical Movement provides a response to the critiques with more grounding in the evidence, though it too leaves out the complexity of the previous frequent reconstructions and alterations to the building. This will be more stream-of-consciousness reflections on the reactions to the restoration and a general muddying of the waters.

Chartres Crossing

First, why the controversy? (In case you look at the photo and simply think, "how nice, they've cleaned it up.") The NYR article gives one explanation of what's going on here, but it is not a matter of cleaning. The reasoning behind the apparently drastic change is that there is now substantial evidence that there was paint on the stonework at one time. A 2009 article in The Independent goes into a bit more detail about the this evidence. But as Martin Filler points out, the chemical compositions of the paint are unknown, so it is impossible to know how the paint would have been in its original state. And there is reason (founded or not) to doubt that the current scheme is anywhere near the character of the 13th century original.

The point about the impact of electric lighting is an excellent one. Even if this polychrome scheme were completely authentic, viewing it in full light would be a dramatically different experience of it. It is not enough to merely restore the surface without considering the fullness of architectural experience. (How far does that go? Should we also be discussing restoration of the Gallic Rite?) The overall level of lighting is a problem in churches generally. The vast majority of churches are over-lit to the point of meaningless dilution. Instead, lighting should be a tool to reinforce the hierarchy of the interior and direct focus. Moreover, the symbolic potential of light, which was of principal concern to Abbot Suger (from Pseudo-Dionysius) and the Gothic builders, loses its significance when washed out by indiscriminate floodlights. Light only has perceptible significance amidst darkness, at least until we reach a city which needs no light (Rev 21:23).

There are two phases to consider: one of potentiality and one of actuality. It is one thing to say that the interior was originally painted and quite another to actually do it. With a work of art--in the sense of a work where evidence of the hand of the artist is a more integral component and the width of a single brush stroke is a larger percentage of the whole--someone else adding to the work would be doubted even more. But the stark contrast contributes to the reactions. And that would be true regardless of whether the change is correct or not. The reaction is to the change itself, a reaction which always seems to be exaggerated when it comes to church architecture.

The severity of the painting also seems the more drastic as we watch the steady improvement of more ephemeral means of reconstruction such as digital reconstructions and augmented reality. A perfect example is found by walking outside Chartres Cathedral where light projections on the exterior of Chartres Cathedral which can both give the impression of polychromatic reconstructions even without the degree of certainty required of actually applying paint ...

Chartres en lumiere

... or create an entirely new experience of the building ...


... without permanently altering the structure.

There have been many different theories of historic preservation over time and conflicting approaches today that all need to be mapped out to fully understand what has happened at Chartres over the years and what is happening now before we can really have a discussion about what should be happening. Unfortunately, I'm not well-versed enough in that complexity to provide such a framework here.

If you're interested in the dramatic potential of artistic rehabilitation, I recommend the book Dark Water: Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces, which left me intrigued but of many minds about the proper approach. The restoration of the Cimabue Crucifix described in the book attempted to balance restoration of the experience of the work without negating the event of its damage. The impulse is not unlike the Japanese technique Kintsukuroi or Kintsugi (lit. golden joinery), and in general an aesthetic reference that embraces (authentic) weather, imperfection, and decay. In architecture, Kintsugi has its analogs in works such as the reconstruction of Frauenkirche, Dresden (though the distinction will likely fade with time) and the Neues Museum project. Both case have an obvious interest in not obscuring the damage of the past.


But Chartres is not a matter of restoration after disaster. So to take a dramatic action seems to come from nowhere. Or compare the recently unveiled facade of St Patrick Cathedral, New York which began as preventative maintenance to maintain the integrity of the stone.

But I think the real reason the work in Chartres is so shocking is that we have had a few centuries of the sublime austerity of the raw structure exerting a dominating influence on culture. Each generation brought about a new interpretations of existing works of architecture; most of these away from valuing the colorful Chartres for different reasons at each stage. Here are a few episodes that are influencing critical assessments of the Chartres work.

Chartres, Pier(ing) Up

The Reformation brought with it an iconoclasm in varying degrees in different places; more generally the aesthetic influence of Protestantism led to greater restraint in imagery. Except where it didn't and instead inspired the exuberance of the Counter-Reformation, an equally extreme reaction in the other direction which Included the addition of Baroque sculptures, chapels, and altar pieces to older Romanesque and Gothic churches. This happened at Chartres (more on that later).

A later political iconoclasm accompanied the French Revolution, with the prototypical French Gothic church at St Denis among its victims. Fortunately, Chartres Cathedral fared both of these relatively well.

With the 18th century came the rise of an austere Neoclassicism as the standard of culture and taste. Johann Joachim Winckelmann praised the "noble simplicity and quiet grandeur" of the pure white forms of Greek sculpture as the pinnacle of ancient art and the highest model for imitation (though not slavish copying) for contemporary works. Winckelmann was either unaware of the importance of color in the sculpture of the Ancient Greeks (and their temples) or chose to ignore what evidence remained as perversions of the perfection of form and line. (He was also working more from copies of Greek sculpture.)

This was the original Polychrome Controversy, and more to the point of our discussion here, it extended to the temple buildings themselves which like the statues were originally painted. It is hard not to see the reaction against the work at Chartres as a parallel, at least insofar as the expectation for the Gothic cathedral is as an expression of purity of form. The familiarity of of the gray stone facades makes it as difficult for us to imagine them otherwise, just as the white marble would have seemed natural to those primitive archeologists. It at least must be a cautionary tale.

Of course while exhibits of colorful replicas of Grecian sculptures based in high tech chromatic analysis are not uncommon, we don't tend to see people painting the originals. Is it (and should it be) different for buildings? The preservation or conservation or restoration or reconstruction (and what precisely these terms mean to different people) is more complicated with buildings, especially when they remain in active use. Statues remain what they are, but for a building in use to remain what it is, it must change. When I see the liturgical artifacts in the treasury of the cloisters, it is possible to appreciate their material form and the craft of their making. But it is a bit like observing a taxidermied animal stuffed and posed instead of in the wild. Buildings are closer to a craft than an art in this regard, which makes their preservation more difficult.

It is not surprising that the Gothic was held in disdain for those who followed Winckelmann. Nonetheless, the subsequent repetition of the "pure form" version of Neoclassicism (think the Louvre; Washington, D.C.; St Paul Cathedral, London... all definitively cultural behemoths) also would have tinted the appreciation of a gothic structures especially since by this time many would have either lost their color to time or the active removal of the Reformation iconoclasm.

Working from better archeological information than Winckelmann (and in fairness we should probably say from information only possible because of His pioneering work), Gottfried Semper was among the apologists for a polychrome antiquity. In the 1834 pamphlet Preliminary Remarks on Polychrome Architecture and Sculpture in Antiquity, Semper acknowledged the taste for monochromatic while challenging its assumption: "The frequent abuses so easily made in painting and coloring should not be a reason to ban all color and simply to declare garish everything that is not gray, white, or pale earth."

Semper gave four reasons for the validity of color in architecture. The first two appealed more to aesthetics: a reduction in glare and inherent human appreciation of color. The second two reasons spoke more to why color is not foreign or superfluous to buildings: it is the result of necessary protective coatings and materials, and it is an integral component of the aesthetic whole which helps give a building its meaning.

As archeology progressed (for better or worse) and the grand tour became more common, attitudes toward historical forms shifted. One result was the proliferation of what we now consider scandalous archeology, a shady antiquities trade, and speculative reconstructions. How much does the desire to not repeat these mistakes play into the reactions against the Chartres effort?

Another result was that tastes shifted again. The 19th century saw a rise in stylist eclecticism generally and the gothic specifically gave us both the architectural Gothic Revival and the Romantic / Victorian Gothic literature. The prevailing image of Gothic as dark and brooding originated there. The interrelations of these movements and the contradicting motivations for reviving or alluding to medieval life were complex; here we are only concerned with the remnants that have remained to influence the interpretations of our experiences in Gothic churches.

Gothic Revival architecture occurred in both the literary monochromatic:

Trinity Church, Wall Street
St Patrick Cathedral, New York

and the richly adorned polychromatic:


The colored Gothic Revival churches were still somewhat subdued and restrained. The patterns were a combination of paint, masonry, and mosiac, in keeping with the more integrated approach to ornament of pre-modern architecture. And to express its integration into the fabric of the building, it occurred on the interior and exterior, given the propriety of each location:

All Saints, Margaret Street
All Saints, Margaret Street

Looking through potential examples of both monochrome and polychrome Gothic Revival churches, I can't help notice that the latter are more common among those who were concerned with not only restoring the architecture of the Middle Aged but also the liturgical and ecclesial practices: Pugin, Butterfield, the Cambridge Camden Society/Ecclesiological Society, etc. In contrast, the raw stone versions tend to be those buildings more concerned with their status in the urban (and social) fabric: Renwick, Scott, etc. The distinction also falls along high (Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic) and broad (Episcopal and broad Anglican) church lines.

In the 20th century, the Gothic church took on a new significance with emphasis on the structural honesty of its tectonic expression. This phase had its origins in Eugène Viollet-le-Duc approaching Gothic Revival predominantly through the lens of structure. (He was also a creative/controversial restorer of Gothic structures himself.) So even amidst the (over-emphasized) anti-historical components of 20th century modernism, the structural expression of medieval architecture left a foothold for appreciation.

As the modern emphases on minimalism and structure progressed, Cistercian architecture came to prominence. It was given the epithets "Architecture of Light" and "Architecture of Truth," documented poetically in photography of Lucien Hervé, and influenced architects such as Le Corbusier and John Pawson. Although the "beautiful ruin" was at work here to some degree, Cistercian architecture valued the craft of precise stonecutting as and kept plastering and painting to an minimum, so the ruined monasteries were not very different from their original state. In St Bernard of Claivaux's Apologia, the founder of the order gave his arguments against the vanity of lavishly adorned churches. It was a conclusion that rang true with many 20th century designers, even if the reasons were different.

The fact that extant Cluniac monasteries, striped of their gold and painted ornament, resembled Cistercian monasteries meant that the Cistercian version of medieval architecture became the expected image. So the reaction that Chartres does no look "Medieval enough" might also contain a dubious conception of what Medieval should look like as it filtered through centuries of reinterpretation.

Chartres High Altar

But the greatest part of the striking incongruity of the images in the all of restoration coverage is the view within the chancel toward the high altar. The effect there with the marbling of the columns and the dramatically active carving of the Assumption looks distinctively Baroque. Which it is, though that fact is not addressed in any of the coverage of the restoration work I have seen.

So really the greatest offense to the integrity of the medieval fabric of the cathedral occurred around the 1750s. It is difficult to find much reference to the altar and choir renovations in the historical summaries, almost as if it is embarrassing. There is one balanced account in Cecil Headlam, The Story of Chartres (London: Dent, 1902):

"The Chapter, about 1750, was composed of men with much taste, all of it bad. A terrible mania for ugliness had seized mankind. Men like Bossuet, Fénelon, Montesqieu and Racine, enamored of the classical style, declared the Gothic barbarous. At that inopportune time crisis of taste the Chapter began to 'decorate' the choir. The result is simply nauseating. … Italians were sent for from Milan to wash the grand old stone of Berchères a sickly yellow; the noble simplicity of the piers, capitals and soffits of the arches disappeared beneath a mess of stucco, gilding and sham marble. The choir was treated like an eighteenth century drawing room."

In addition to illustrating the vigour debates about the Gothic stir up, this passage suggests that the author viewed covering the "grand old stone" as an offense, as he would have been unaware of the original medieval paint.

Again, the view of the choir is the emotional hook of the critique (at least for me), and there is no indication that the reason for the incongruity of the choir and the medieval cathedral has nothing to do with recreating a medieval color scheme. It also makes the assertion in the New Liturgical Movement article that what you see now is what has been there for 800 years false and a bit silly. There has been paint for 800 years, but it's appearance has changed dramatically over that time and been replaced with reconstructions. There have been reconstructions after fires and various reorderings and changes throughout the building's history. All of this brings us back to the question of the period of significance, the idea of the building as a living entity, and ship of Theseus paradox.

For comparison, here are some examples of what I expect to see in medieval polychrome. First, a nice example from Amiens, a relief of Jesus Cleansing the Temple dated ca. 1527 (a full 300 years after the completion of Chartres).

Shouting abuse at the moneylenders

It is interesting to look at what parts of the buildings are depicted as painted and unpainted in the representation of the Temple as a Gothic church. The columns and ribbing certainly stand out and there is certainly the gilding Headlam balked at. It is difficult to discern the treatment of the infill panels, but they are certainly more plain.

Polychrome Walls of the Jacobin church

In general, the painting shown accentuates rather than conceals the underlying structure. This suggests that color was not considered an additional element. Whereas by the time of the baroque altar color was a tool for a transformative effect used to give the impression of a an entirely different type of stone. We see the early stages of the ability to conceive of structure and ornament as separate entities.

But can the painting still be considered integral to the structure even when the painters "perfected" the pattern of stonework such that it differs from the actual masonry? According to an article in the Independent, one technique uncovered was a "white pattern of "fake" stone joints, which do not follow the lines of the real masonry. They were painted on to give the walls a more uniform look." This is visible in photos of the choir, but the article suggests it is a medieval technique.

As I've been visiting the Painted Churches, I've been trying to resolve the tension (from a modern perspective) of paint as a material and the principle of material honesty. Is paint by its nature dishonest and concealing? Or can it be viewed as an integral component of architecture, based on various notions of authenticity?

Consider these examples with the obvious disclaimer that I don't know the extent of restoration done on them and therefore the authenticity to their original state. But is authenticity to the original intent the only authenticity that matters? Consider the absolutely gorgeous texture remnant on the back of Our Lady's robes on this Medieval sculpture in the Cloisters museum:

The Cloisters

The current craving for authenticity (see The Dream of the 1890s is Alive in Portland) would value and benefit from imminent antiquity. In material terms, the kind of actual weathering that reveals the longevity (and suggests the continuity) of the church's worship. The active use of ancient structures represents better than anything else the permanence and yet impermanence that is characteristic of the church in our age, the already but not yet. That continued reuse makes renovation and restoration necessary, but at the same time values the narrative contained the natural decay of material and structure. For a culture that wants to ignore death and decay and whose architecture reveals its hubris, this lesson is all the more valuable, especially on artifacts whose craft allow for beautiful (and useful) ruins.

The question of the apparent authenticity of paint also depends on the particular technique and execution. In the case of Chartres, the moment that puts it over the top is the marbling of the columns.

Chartres interior

As we have seen, this was most likely an 18th century technique. In the Painted Churches too this is my least favorite technique, but there is something less offensive about marbling a wood column in the context of a fully painted interior where all of the patterns derive from the underlying structure.

And there is something to be said for the whole component painted as a single unit. As a local example that is entirely unacceptable, I recently came across the inexplicable painting of a faux green marble square inset on a veneer of yellow marble, complete with beveling and shadows. So it could be worse?

Marbled Marble?
Marbled Marble?

Again, this is only an attempt to put into play some important issues that have been missing from what has been a fairly shallow discussion. Those better versed in the range of approaches to historic buildings. But this is clearly not the restoration to a single original state that it is being presented as by those involved with the work. Nor is it quite the ruination the critiques present.

The critiques of the restoration work at Chartres are ultimately an emotional response to the loss of a particular beloved experience of the cathedral and is based on centuries of changing attitudes toward and conceptions of the masterpieces of Medieval architecture. But they are also based on a simplified version of the building's history that fails to take into account the complex and dynamic interior life of the building. We could also (and must also) relate the various changes made to the building to the changes from the medieval liturgical practices, the Gallic Rite, it suppression, the rise of the Tridentine form of the Latin Rite, its development (as it corresponds to the 1750s alterations), and its continued use as a Cathedral. For we must remember that this is not just the cultural monument at Chartres, but the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres.

Docomomo Central Texas Tour Day 2014

This Saturday (11 October 2014), the MidTexMod chapter of docomomo_us will host their component of the national Tour Day event which highlights modern architecture across the country. Last year's tour featured the architecture of John S Chase in East Austin. This year's will focus on the midcentury houses and churches of Milton Ryan. I will be speaking on Ryan's church architecture and its relation to the concept of domus ecclesiae in modern church architecture as we visit University Presbyterian Church. Adjacent to Trinity University, O'Neil Ford initially designed a lift-slab church with translucent marble windows for the congregation before Milton Ryan drew from the best of modern residential architecture to create the award-winning tent-form building that was eventually built. We will compare the two designs and explore the history of this church and Ryan's other church in Victoria.

University Presbyterian Church, San Antonio

Here are the event details and schedule from MidTexMod:

Mark your calendars and join us for docomomo Tour Day 2014. Mid Tex Mod is pleased to partner with Nest Modern to host a tour of three Milton Ryan properties in the San Antonio area.

Milton Ryan, born in Rockport in 1904, was an architect who started his career designing neo-classical tract houses before turning to Modernism in the 1950s. Ryan is best known for his Mid-Century Modern houses in the Terrell Hills neighborhood. As his work has often been overshadowed by that of his San Antonio contemporary O'Neil Ford, our organization is excited to highlight some of Ryan's residential and institutional work.

We are thrilled to begin Tour Day with lectures about Milton Ryan by Stephen Fox and Jason John Paul Haskins, followed by tours showcasing three of Ryan's commissions. Below is a general schedule of the day's events. A brochure with more specific information and addresses will be provided at University Presbyterian Church. Tickets are not required, but we will be accepting donations at the door (with a $5 suggested donation).

Please email to RSVP.


1:00 p.m. – Meet and tour University Presbyterian Church at 300 Bushnell Ave., San Antonio. (The church's parking lot is accessed from Shook Ave.)

1:30 p.m. – Lectures on Milton Ryan and his work:

The Architecture of Milton A. Ryan” by architectural historian Stephen Fox, Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas.

“Milton Ryan and the Domestic Modern Church” by Jason John Paul Haskins, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C.

2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. - Tours of two Milton Ryan houses in Terrell Hills. The houses are located on Eventide Drive. More specific information and directions will be provided at University Presbyterian Church.

5:00 p.m.- Reception at NEST Modern, 340 East Brasse Road in San Antonio, with light refreshments and wine

NYC and Princeton Trip (A Preview)

The Cloisters Since it is probably going to be a while before I can process all of my photos and write longer reflections on the places I visited during my time in New York City, here is a preview made up of some of the photos posted to Instagram while on the road. It was admittedly an unusual New York City trip; a co-worker was quite disappointed that I neither partied nor went to a Broadway show.

What I did do was to visit churches, of course. But one of the stand out highlights was a day trip excursion to visit Jean Labatut's Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, New Jersey.

Sacred Heart, Stuart Country Day School, Princeton

Joinery Details, Stuart Country Day School, Princeton

The school hosted a series of events marking their 50th anniversary over the past year that included a lecture given by Jorge Otero-Pailos and J. Robert Hillier. Hillier served as draftsman and designer on the project as a recent graduate in Princeton. Otero-Pailos wrote Architecture's Historical Turn as a history of the development of phenomenology within the American architectural discourse. He credited Labatut—and specifically Labatut's Catholicism—with providing the ground for Princeton to become "the first academic hotbed of architectural phenomenology and soon thereafter a major center of postmodern architecture."

Until I am able to write a more full reflection on the building, here is the lecture:

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After the 50th anniversary, the maintenance staff rediscovered the original model of the school (built by Hillier) in storage. Seeing the unrealized design for the "Cor Unum" chapel that was to be the heart of the school was a highlight of the highlight of the trip.


Venturi Scott Brown Associates eventually built a much larger multi-use space in that spot. Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown were students of Labatut at Princeton.

There is a small chapel in the cloister wing of the building (now used as offices as there are no longer nuns in the faculty). A narrow stair winds its way around this chapel from the basement to what was a an accessible roof for the cloistered sisters.

Ascending the Stair of Spirituality

And two more material teasers:

Glazed brick


I can't wait to spend more time parsing this incredible building and the ideas behind it.

The New York City portion of the trip became an inadvertent celebration of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. My only plan was to spend time thinking, reading, and praying in beautiful spaces. It turned out a few that I had pre-selected were designed by Goodhue. I briefly visited St Bartholomew on a previous trip, and spending more time there was a high priority. It happened that they had an evening service on the Feast of the Transfiguration, which meant celebrating that important occasion (and important to my conception of liturgical architecture) beneath this:

Transfiguration apse mosaic, St Bartholomew

The mosaic is the work of Hildreth Meière, who is a new hero of mine. Her work is absolutely brilliant and occupies a similar position between originality and continuity that Goodhue's architecture represents (especially when compared with Ralph Adams Cram's stoic perfectionism which is actually more abstract). Her work occupies part of what I'm coming to view as limb of early twentieth century art that was largely chopped off by what we might call the onslaught of history and the desire for abrupt change.

One of my favorite aspects of St Bart's is the proliferation of lettering on the building. Since Goodhue also designed fonts, I'm assuming the inscriptions are his own designs as well, but I want to look into that more in depth.

Double capital with inscription, St Bartholomew

When I found out Goodhue's tomb was, well a thing, and then also on the island, I had to try and visit that as well.

Goodhue's Tomb, Church of the Intercession

The church second from the right is St Vincent Ferrer, the Goodhue-designed Dominican church attached to the headquarters of the Eastern United States Province of the order. The Friday of my trip was the Feast of St Dominic, which was a perfect day to celebrate at the church. Here is an excerpt from the Sequence:

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Among the fun surprises were seeing the interior of Central Synagogue, which happened to have one of its open times when I walked by:

Central Synagogue

and Xu Bing's Phoenix in the nave of the Cathedral of St John the Divine, which was absolutely gorgeous:

Xu Bing, Phoenix, St John the Diving

I also visited the campus of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. O'Neil Ford designed a new campus for the school in the 1960s, so it was interesting to see his work in an unusual climate and the impact that had on the designs. His buildings there are a study in unity of differences and how to compose a cohesive campus without simply repeating form. One of the most distinct is another little chapel in the woods: the only exclusively timber structure on the campus.

Wilson Chapel, Skidmore College

The chapel features light fixtures and wooden screens by Lynn Ford (presumably). And look who else was there:

Light fixtures by Martha Mood, Skidmore College

We also visited the art museum by Antoine Predock, which was by far one of his best works. It was formally bold, but its form did not overshadow its role as a museum. The galleries were well lit and distinct enough to be interesting and provide space for exhibits to interact with, but not so much as to overpower what was on display.

While we're on the subject of non-ecclesial architecture, Morphosis is exquisite in the sunset:

Morphosis in the Gloaming


Demolition Imminent: O'Neil Ford University Lutheran Center

Plans are in place to demolish the University Lutheran Center serving the University of Texas at Austin this fall and replace it with high-rise student housing with a ground-level store-front Student Center. While the project is an opportunity to advance the center's ministry and satisfy students' needs, the destruction means the loss of a unique structure with a strong ministerial character and a place significant to Texas heritage.

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