VOL. IV MAY 1911 NO. 2
THE TILE FLOORS IN ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL, DETROIT
MARIAN V. LOUD
The Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul’s, Detroit, of which Messrs. Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson are the architects, is intensely interesting, not only as a beautiful example of modern Gothic architecture, but also, to the craftsman especially, on account of several striking features of its interior. The reredos, choir-stalls, pulpit, in fact all the furniture of the chancel, is of carved wood, done in the style of the finest Gothic traditions; a very notable piece of work. This reredos will be familiar to all Boston readers of Handicraft as it was on exhibition there at the Museum of Fine Arts before being sent to Detroit. The large east window, made by Heaton, Butler & Bayne of London, is a beautiful piece of glass mosaic, decorative rather than pictorial; filling the whole end of the church with a wonderful glow of color, of which the predominant tone is a rich turquoise blue. And finally, the tile floor, the subject of this article. It is interesting to know that the Pewabic Pottery won the contract for supplying this floor tile in open competition with the best potteries in the country; and while the window comes from England and the wood-carving from Boston, the tile is entirely a produd of Detroit.
It speaks well for the genius of the architect and the catholicity of the Gothic style, that all these different elements blend into a whole whose essential unity is enhanced, rather than impaired, by them. Editorial Note.
One of its most notable art achievements has been given to America by Mary Chase Perry and Horace J. Caulkins, in the floors of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Detroit, Michigan. Although departing from long established conventions in paving, they have maintained, consistently, the spirit of the Gothic period, in which style the church is built.
In the three main porches, the square six-inch unglazed tile in soft buffs and ambers, set with the wide grouting characteristic of Pewabic work, give the impression of breadth and stability suitable to the entrance of such a structure.
Unity of design is not sacrificed by the variation in the paving of the Hancock Avenue porch. Four inch natural clay tile are set with modelled inserts. The border, together with those of the other porches are essentially Gothic, consisting of simple arrangements of squares and triangles, in varying tones of brown, soft green and the quiet blue which gives the key-note to the whole design. Standing within the doors of the nave, one is impressed, at once, with what sympathy the designer has worked with the architect. Deeper in tone and smaller in size than the tiles of the main porch from which one has entered, they seem to increase the breadth of the aisles and the loftiness of the ceiling. One is led forward by the narrow border and the instinctive spotting of blue throughout the field until he stands at the steps of the choir. From this point the design is taken up in glazed tile. The delightful irregularities of the handpressed tile add to the beauty of the ivory and brown tones of the field, bordered by large Gothic triangles in mellow green and blue. Three panels, set diamondwise occupy the middle line of the aisle. In the center of each lies a twelve inch tile bearing in low relief an angel form, while the borders are made up of tiles modelled in ecclesiastical designs. The blue note which we have been following is nearly submerged in the clouding of the brown and green of these angel panels, but is sufficiently present to keep us expectant.
Stone steps lead to the Outer Sanctuary, where an ivory and brown field, set diagonally, with modelled inserts, and a staccato border of vivid blue oblongs alternating with square three-toned modelled tile, prepare us for the glory of the Inner Sanctuary. A magnificent border of iridescent tiles, bearing various types of crosses, lies between the Outer Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, significant of the human sacrifices requisite to spiritual attainments. On a field of blue—as blue as those starry ceilings of old Egypt—lies the cross, glowing with the marvelous hues of Pewabic lustre. A halo of tiny tiles in antique gold lies upon the arms of the cross, while the very heart from which the whole design radiates is an iridescent disc bearing the form of a pelican feeding her young with drops of her own blood, symbolic of the mother church sustaining the young churches. Panels bearing the symbols of the four Evangelists lie to left and right, while other panels in iridescent tiles complete a design leaving nothing to be desired in form, color or religious feeling. Nowhere in the world, we believe, does there exist a floor bearing the slightest resemblance to this of St. Paul’s. Perhaps its closest relationship, and this in feeling only, lies with the exquisite mosaics in the ceiling of the Tomb of Galla Placidia, Ravenna. In the one, stately forms move across the vault of Heaven’s blue; in the other the cross with its golden halo glows in the blue of infinite space, symbolic of human life and its divine aspirations.
NOTES ON THE TILE
The tile in general are characterized by freedom in the fashioning, having an undulating plane on the surface, with softened edges and corners. All the irregular shapes were cut in the clay, being made from templets during the progress of the laying, when necessary, so that there was no chipping or cutting of the finished, burned tile. In the unglazed portions aside from the clay colored by nature, those of deep tones like blue or green were composed of solidly colored body, no-slip glazes being employed. Frequently the harder or lighter burning gave great play of tone to these surfaces, often running from a light, greenish-blue to a deep, dull blue’in the same tile. When laid, the slightly uneven surface, besides giving texture to the whole mass in appearance, also gives a feeling of security or “tooth” beneath the feet; which, as the bishop of the diocese expressed it, makes him feel “that he is not about to slip or slide.” In the glazed tile, the color effects are gained mainly by the management of the glazes, chiefly in the use of combinations, sometimes by using two tones of one color, or by superimposing a thin glaze of one color over another, allowing the under glaze to show through, quite in the order of using oil paint on a canvas. Frequently three glazes are used in this way by firing each time between the application of the glaze. In the aisle of the choir especially, the border and center panels are full of color, yet always in subordination to the dominant ivory and brown of the entire field.
The process followed for the production of the tile with designs in relief, was the most simple one, that of dire modelling where only one or two were to be used, or, where many duplicates were required, a plaster mold was made, and the tile were pressed.
In the case of the Pelican in the Sanctuary center, a great number were made, one after another, before the one which seemed right in color, brilliance and iridescence was secured.
In laying the tile, the test was always followed of noting whether a given group of tile tied together well, or whether any one refused to stay in its place; in which case it was immediately discarded, or removed to another position where it would relate itself more harmoniously with its neighbors. This meant a constant oversight of the tile layers, who, thanks be to them, fortunately worked in sympathy with the spirit of the undertaking, even though oft times with most untraditional methods of tile setting. It has been asked how the scheme for the general design was worked out, and the infinite number of shapes and patterns developed. It would almost seem that the idea worked itself out, or “grew” of itself. After letting the general plan of the floor shapes and areas of the different portions simmer in mind for several weeks, together with much reading and sketching of the various emblems and symbols of Christian art, resolutely letting alone entirely all modern efforts, and closing one’s mind and eyes to currently acceptable traditions with their purely decorative intent, the conceptions of the best period of ecclesiastical decoration soaked in, and fairly embued one with their spirit. Then the general treatment of the whole floor, together with the detail, and the various designs, rearrangements, and conventionalizations of world-old subjects, suggested themselves freely and quickly, so that after all, the entire outline and cartoons were hastily sketched in, in half a day. Thereafter there was no sense of worry or difficulty in the execution of the main idea in mind, nor were any changes made during the progress of manufacturing and installing. In other words, it was a notable example of the actual work having been finished by the time the design was clearly and theoretically defined in mind. From that point on, the carrying out of the idea was perhaps merely skilled labor, or artizanship if you will.
“The bringing together of the two existing parallel groups of organizations in which there were duplicate officers for every post was a matter of great delicacy and presented difficulties which might have wrecked the whole project. But the fine, generous, self-effacing spirit of the leaders and people of both St. Joseph’s and St. Paul’s in the matter of merging and making single organizations where before there had been two groups, assured the success of the whole undertaking. What seemed the most difficult problem, in reality became the easiest. The same can be said of the fine, generous spirit of the Grace Church congregation when later they merged with the Cathedral.”
Excerpt from Building the Cathedral by The Very Reverend S. S. Marquis
This society was organized and incorporated July 12, 1867. The first service was held on Sunday afternoon, September 2, 1867, in the Lafayette Avenue M. E. Church. Afternoon services were subsequently held in the Congregational Church, and then St. Andrew’s Hall was rented, and here the congregation remained until their church was completed. On December 21. 1867, Rev. M. C. Lightner was called to the rectorship, and exactly three years after, on December 21, 1870, their brick church, on the northeast corner of Fort and Second Streets, was opened for worship.
The lot, seventy-five by one hundred and thirty feet, and then worth $13,000, was given by E. W. Hudson. The building is sixty-six by one hundred and twenty feet, and with its furnishings, cost $75,000. It will seat twelve hundred persons. In 1879 a mortgage of $16,000 on the property was paid by J. W. Waterman, who presented the society with the canceled document. As the church was now free from debt, on January 7, 1880, it was consecrated.
The average attendance at Sunday morning services, in 1880, was 300. The rector’s salary was $3,500, the choir cost $1,500, the sexton was paid $350, and the total annual expenses were $6,000. The pew rents amounted to $4.500 per year. The value of property was $90,000. Number of members in 1870, 409; in 1880, 535.
Rev. Mr. Lightner resigned September 13, 1873, and on September 28, 1874, the Rev. Lewis P. W. Balch was elected as rector. He died on June 4, 1875, and on June 11 Rev. C. H. V. Stocking was chosen his successor. He resigned in 1883, preaching his last sermon on August 5. In January, 1884, Rev. J. McCarroll accepted a call to serve as rector.
St. Joseph’s Memorial Chapel
This chapel is located on the northeast corner of Woodward and Medbury Avenues, and cost about $9.000. The lot was donated and the chapel erected by Mrs. I.. R. Medbury. It was consecrated July 9, 1884. The rectors have been: Rev. W. J. Spiers, November, 1884, 10 February, 1886, and Rev. B. Hamilton since.
The original building in this complex, St. Joseph’s Memorial Chapel, was a gift of Mrs. L.R. Medbury, and was built on the corner or Woodward and Medbury (now the Edsel Ford service drive).The chapel, consecrated in 1884, soon proved too small, and a larger church, completed in 1896, was erected facing Woodward. The church, built from 1893 to 1896, is a massive rock-faced, cross-gable-roofed, sandstone Romanesque Revival structure. The gabled facade is flanked by two towers: a tall, square, pyramid-roofed tower to the south and a round, conical-roofed tower on the north. The entrance between the towers is into a one-story vestibule; it is surmounted by a large rose window.
In 1906, St. Joseph’s congregation merged with that of the congregation of the nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral. The St. Joseph’s building was sold to Father Francis J. Vananthwerp in 1907, and Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church was established. The new congregation altered some of the church’s structure, extending the nave and adding an over-sized, gilded statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary atop the south tower’s hipped roof.
The first issue of “The Cathedral News” was published in November of 1948. This article was the front page story in December of the same year (Volume 1-No 2) The paper ran in it’s newsprint format until September 1969.The editor was Cathedral member George Stark, a popular Detroit News columnist.
THE GOVERNOR ELECT
How does it feel for a church to send one of its sons to a high place in government?
St. Paul’s is now experiencing that sensation, for G. Mennen Williams, the governor-elect of Michigan and, after January 1, it’s Governor, is a member of the Cathedral parish and stems from a family long devoted to the church.
In fact, the new Governor’s father was a member of the Vestry and served for a long time as its secretary.
About the sensation! Well, it’s pride, mostly. Regardless of our political preference and our faith in the Gallup poll, we must admit to a warm sense of proprietorship when we consider that one of our most consistent worshipers is the first gentleman of the Commonwealth.
The Cathedral News congratulates him, his charming wife and his family. And The Cathedral News is happy to present a picture of our new Governor, in one of his more informal poses.
This, assuredly, is, an early Williams, and reveals G. Mennen Williams when he was a choir boy and that’s not so many years ago either, since the new Governor is young as Governors go these days.
He is proud of his choir boy background and likes to remember that it was membership int he St. Paul’s famous boy’s choir that implemented in him an early interest in government. For the boys had a self-governing organization and he took such an interest in it that he determined he should be a lawyer and a lawyer he became. And now he’s our Governor.
And another thing since we’re talking so much about pride in this article, Mennen Williams is proud of the fact that, as a choir boy, he was the winner of the Dean’s Cross, which is awarded not only for good, performance, but for consistent attendance at practice.
This is a good place to say that the new Governor has been consistent in his attendance in the Cathedral all down the intervening years, from choir boy and Sunday School days to the present time, which finds him a member of the Junior Vestry. We just hope his new duties, which we realize will be many and arduous, don’t keep him away from us too often.
And finally and again, Governor and the best of luck!
The Cathedral Organ: A Sermon In Music
From the Cathedral publication
One Hundred Years: 1824-1924
Music is one of the vital elements in Cathedral worship, and great care should be exercised in securing an organ which is especially adapted to church purposes and not to concert effects. Accordingly, there should be a large number of diapasons, for it is this peculiar quality which is most satisfactory for Cathedral music. Large scales are needed and several registers with heavy wind pressure. Fortunately, the electric pneumatic action is well developed and trustworthy, so that the communication from the keys to the wind chest, which is electrically operated, may be instantaneous, uniform and dependable under all circumstances. A Church Organ is a most complicated and delicate mechanism, with its thousands of pipes of wood and metal, its many stops and adjustments, its electric motor , dynamo of pipes of wood and and blower.
The Cathedral Organ was constructed by the Austin Organ Company, of Hartford,
Connecticut and is one of the finest productions of that firm. At present it consists of the Chancel equipment and the Console, which is furnished with the necessary mechanism to carry both Chancel and Gallery Organs. To complete the entire plant, the Gallery Organ should be installed. The instrument is fully adequate to the large proportions of the Cathedral, capable of filling it to the utmost when desired, while at the same time the softest and most delicate tones may be heard in the most remote corners.
The organ is the gift of the junior Warden, Mr. William Tefft Barbour, dedicated on Sunday, April 24th 1921, in memory of his mother, Ella Tefft Barbour, and as such is a beautiful memorial to one whose life and works in the Church were a song of praise and of sweet harmonies.
Summary of Four Manual Organ
Pedal Organ, 10 Stops.
Swell Organ, 13 Stops.
Great Organ, 9 Stops.
Choir Organ, 11 Stops.
Each Stop has 73 Pipes.
Combination Pistons, 19
General Pistons, 7
Adjustable Combination Pistons, 3.
Couplers, Sub and Super, 56.
Each Pedal Stop has 32 Pipes.
Total Stops, Chancel Section, 131
Total Pipes in Chancel Section, 2,729
The Glass-Work of the Cathedral
by THE VERY REV WARREN LINCOLN ROGERS, Dean of the Cathedral, in Collaboration with the artists
From the Cathedral publication One Hundred Years: 1824-1924
IN GENERAL the scheme for all the stained glass-work in the Cathedral is based upon the thirteenth and fourteenth century glass of France and England. There are few “picture windows” and there is a minimum of “canopy work.” The amount of painting is reduced to the smallest proportions and the leads form an integral part of the whole and are treated with unusual care. There is generous use of medallions and panels. The aim of the architects, under whose Supervision the work has been done, has been adhered to in the attempt to combine the deep, rich and sonorous tones of the Chancel window with the brilliant, varied and opalescent colors of the Nave windows. The effort is made to develop the same spirit and craftsmanship in the glass as are evidenced in the fabric and furnishings of the Cathedral. A complete scheme for all the glasswork has been carefully wrought out which forms the basis of the subjects presented and the character of the work undertaken. The wisdom and effectiveness of this Scheme cannot be fully realized until the clerestory windows are placed and the present unsightly glare of the temporary windows is removed.
By far the greatest amount of glass-work has been designed and executed by
two types or schools of Stained Glass artists, both well-known and of high reputation, i.e., Heaton, Butler and Bayne, of London, and Charles J. Connick, of Boston. The chief exception to this is the Barbour window, which was formerly in the Chancel of Grace Church and was removed to Grace Chapel in the North Transept of the Cathedral. It was executed by Franz Mayer, of Munich, Bavaria, and is an unusual window of brilliant coloring and life-size figures, representing “The Visit of the Magi.” The Rose window over Grace Altar was originally the upper lancet of this group, and the whole represents some of the finest workmanship Of the Bavarian artists
Practically all of the stained glass at present in the Chancel and Transepts together with the West Nave, comprising a dozen windows, is the work of Heaton Butler and Bayne. Among this number of small and large windows, the magnificent Chancel window, in memory of Mr. Theodore H. Eaton) Jr., who for twenty years served as Senior Warden, stands pre-eminent. The window is in five lancets, portraying scenes in the last week of the earthly life of Our Lord, and is known as the window of “The Passion.” There are four scenes in each lancet, making twenty presentations in all, revealing some of the best stained glass-work attainable in modern times, with the atmosphere of the fourteenth century felt in the small medallions and panels illumined with deep blues, purples, greens and suggestions of crimson in its powerful coloring. In the design and composition of the work, the artist has shown a reverent conception of the text, and the attitude and expression of the figures of Our Lord are marked by deep spiritual thought and feeling. The coloring is true to nature, and when the sun falls full upon it, as in the early morning hours, every detail of its beauty is revealed, in a resplendent glorification of The Passion.
In fitting company with the Chancel window are the Clerestory windows, “The Angelic Choristers” memorials of the Mead and Kales families There is a brightness and beauty about them with their single figures, expressing reverent joyousness, which is instantly evident. The Cottrell window of “The Annunciation,” in the North Transept Clerestory, is appropriately in contrast with the deeper tones of the Chancel window; its translucency is remarkable for a north window through which the sun never shines. The Transept windows comprising the Farrington, Pitkin, Pierson-Lathrop Vernor, McCarroll and Turner memorials, though of more conventional design and composition, are beautiful and satisfying examples of the skill of the stained glass artist, and depict scenes in the lives of Our Lord and St. Paul. The Rose window in the west front of the Cathedral, with the figures of the Four Evangelists, and its tracery centering in a sunburst of gold, is glorious in the light of the afternoon sun, showing in its silvery colors “a rain of jewels from the sky.”
Mr. Connick’s work in stained glass is noted for its brilliant colors, and wealth of symbolic art in the multiform representations of varied scenes expressed in one central theme, converging in a single figure. His windows are never picture windows, but are highly, symbolic with conventionalized backgrounds and abound in scriptural passages explanatory of the theme. There is a transparency about them which with their high coloring gives more than usual light in stained glass-work. Light, with richness and purity of full color, accompanied by a wealth of symbolic setting, are the characteristics which predominate.
T’here are five Nave windows which were designed and made by Mr. Connick, the first of which is the Edwards’ window and symbolizes in beautiful form the devotion, courage and supreme sacrifice of the son of our former Dean. The subject, chosen from the twenty-first chapter of Revelation, recalls in poetic symbolism the close relationship of the Church to men, and its vivid inspiration for a life of courage and service. The distinguishing figure is “The Bride, the Holy City,” while the accompanying figures are those of St. John Evangelist, a father and a daughter, hopeful through sorrow, and the splendid figure of an armed knight with uplifted f-,ice in an attitude of devotion and self-surrender, with the words, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.”
The two Hannan windows are structurally different in design in that the lower halves of each lancet are made up of smaller medallions of many figures. The first shows Our Lord in his reception of the Syrophenician woman, and throughout carries the theme of the friendliness and loving kindness of Our Lord in his relation to men and women. The second is the children’s window, and has for its theme tile figure of Our Lord blessing little children suggesting His love and care for them. The figures and incidents are used as symbols rather than as pictures, and the conventionalized cities in the upper lancets suggest the happenings within and near their walls which reveal the intimate relations of life. The Illuminating inscriptions wi-ought into the designs introduce an interesting ornamental. feature, while they reveal, as inspired comments, familiar words of Scripture.
The symbolic interpretation of the artist’s skill is more evident ill the Borgman and Fletcher windows which represent respectively apocalyptic scenes of “The Enthroned Christ ” and “St. Michael overcoming the Dragon.” These designs Interpret and symbolize, through the color and light of stained glass, which is one of the most significant and poetic traditions of the Middle Ages, certain unforgetable scenes and passages from the book of Revelation, replete with radiant victory and spiritual triumph.
The Woodwork of the Cathedral
By the Architect, , RALPH ADAMS CRAM, Litt. D., LL.D F.R.G.S.
From the Cathedral publication
One Hundred Years
A CHRISTIAN CHURCH is a great artistic unity, a synthesis of all the arts brought together under the control of the master art of architecture to the glory of God and the spiritual stimulus of His people. As we see them now, the cathedrals and churches of northern Europe are bare and barren wrecked and mutilated by Reformers and Revolutionists. Robbed of their once splendid furnishings of altars, shrine and tombs, they are empty and desolate. Except in a few cases, such as Chartres Cathedral, even the glass is gone and they are left cold and barren, mere architecture without the manifold other arts that work with this primary and controlling art. Only in Spain, and in a measure in Italy-, may one see now what a Mediaeval church was intended to be and was. France, England, Germany show only the sad remains of a once perfect and comprehensive art.
Detroit Cathedral is fortunate in having an almost complete furnishing not only of stained glass windows, but of work in wood and metal. Of course, the crowning element is the High Altar and Reredos. This typifies the missionary function of the church, and it stands as one of the most notable products of Mr. Kirchmayer, a great artist surviving from the Middle Ages and producing work today not unworthy to compare with that of the great periods of artistic activity. While the woodwork throughout the Cathedral was designed by the architects, all the sculpture is from the hand of Mr. Kirchmayer, and forms one of the finest expositions in America of his consummate craft.
The principal statues in the Reredos are the six Apostles and other Saints who, directly or indirectly, were concerned in the Evangelization of Britain and the establishment of the Church in England. The central figure is of Christ, while on one side stands His Blessed Mother St. Mary, and on the other St. John, the Beloved Disciple and Evangelist. From the left as one faces the altar the figures are St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles; St. Peter, the Apostle to the Hebrews; St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primal See of the Anglican Church; and St. Columba, the founder of the first Christian mission to the wild Picts of Scotland. The significance of these figures is the development of the idea of the two lines through which Christianity first came into Britain.
The figure of Our Lord is shown holding in His left hand the golden orb surmounted by a cross indicating world dominion, while His right hand is raised in benediction. Our Lady and St. John stand with clasped hands, looking upward in adoration. St. Peter holds the two keys given to him by Our Lord, in testimony of his power in the two kingdoms of Heaven and Earth. St. Paul bears “The Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” St. Augustine wears the cope and mitre of an Archbishop, and holds in his left hand the Arch Episcopal cross of two bars, and in his right a chalice. St. Columba appears as a cowled monk, bearing in his arms the Celtic cross. He stands in a small gilded corracle around the prow of which play silver waves. In the rest of the Reredos appear sixteen smaller figures of angels, some in prayer, some bearing censers, musical instruments and the emblems of the Passion.
The general motif of the richly carved woodwork throughout the entire chancel is that of the vine and grape, emblematic of the Passion of Our Lord, and voicing the text, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” Here and there, as will be seen, quaint and even humorous elements are introduced in accordance with the Mediaeval precedent, which saw life and joy in everything.
The Bishop’s Throne is an example of the richest sort of decorative wood carving. Like the Reredos and all the rest of the furniture, it is of solid dark oak. The pinnacled canopy is particularly rich in design, and in the back of the throne is a large carved and painted panel of the Diocesan seal.. The Dean’s stall is somewhat similar, though less elaborate. The pulpit vies with the Reredos and Bishop’s throne in richness of design and elaboration of carving. There are two rows of carved figures, the upper series representing the heroic expounders of the Catholic Faith. In the centre is St. Chrysostom, in cope and mitre, as a Bishop. On his right St. Francis of Assisi in the hood of the Brothers Minor. On his left Savonarola, with his face partially concealed by his cowl. Next to him stands St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, mitred and carrying his pastoral staff. The lower series represent the Prophets of the Old Dispensation; Isaiah, a bearded figure in princely robes; Hosea and Amos in their prophets’ mantles; and John the Baptist with his garment of camel’s hair.
The lectern, which is as sumptuous in design as the rest of the woodwork, shows figures of the four Evangelists with their heraldic emblems. Below are those who were instrumental in the translation and dissemination of the Bible – Origen, Justin Martyr, Wycliffe and Tyndale. Beautifully bound copies of the Old and New Testaments rest on either side of the revolving double desk.
As has been said, all the woodwork was designed by the architects of the Cathedral, and made by William F. Ross and Company, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, while the statues are amongst the finest products of Mr. Kirchmayer. It is a very wonderful thing that the Cathedral should possess so perfect an exposition of the work of this great sculptor, who is, in a sense, the last representative of the great Mediaeval schools of wood carving, though throughout all his work appears a vitality which gives it modern quality and removes it from the category of mere archaeology. As a whole, the woodwork of the choir constitutes a great sermon in oak, fragrant with the beauty of the old Bavarian wood carvers of Oberammergau, and is a striking example of the revival or rather the persistence of the true and vital sense of Mediaeval art revivified by modern spirit.
The Cathedral: A Sermon In Stone
By the Architect, RALPH ADAMS CRAM, Litt. D., LL.D F.R.G.S.
From the Cathedral publication One Hundred Years: 1824-1924
IN ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL an attempt has been made to adapt to modern ideals, conditions, and environment, that style of architecture which Christian civilization developed for its own self-expression, the so-called Gothic of the middle ages. When St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed some of us who were trying to make Christian art a living thing again were principally engaged in the effort to do “Gothic” that should avoid archaeology on the one hand and “originality” on the other; to build churches that should be as Gothic in spirit and effect as we could make them, but without copying and without any surrender to that “modernism” that already was showing itself in such plausible guise. We felt that “Gothic” was primarily a spirit and an impulse, and only secondarily a series of forms; something that had come out of the very heart of Christianity, somehow expressed it to perfection, and could be restored again, brought back to life, and made once more the visible manifestation of a Catholic Faith that could never die.
Since the revival of art in England in the first quarter of the nineteenth century men have turned now to France, now to England for their inspiration, while different architects have fallen back on the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth centuries for their models: France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and England have all contributed valuable elements to the great artistic cosmos, while each century has developed to perfection some one or more qualities of Gothic art. We are “the heirs of all the ages,” and therefore bound to gather where we can and all we can.
In St. Paul’s Cathedral recourse has been had to that early type of thirteenth century work represented by Netley and Tintern Abbeys. At this time much of the strength and simplicity of the earlier Norman work still remained, while the austere influence of the Cistercian reformation was vigorously operative. In no instance has any detail, even the contour of a moulding, been copies, but instead every effort has been made to express through modern forms some of the qualities of composition, proportion, development, and relation that reveal themselves through this particular aspect of Gothic.
I suppose as much thought went into the designing of this cathedral as any other structure of the same nature we ever dealt with, for it was here that we had one of our first opportunities to show what we felt to be our profound and searching belief. Here must be a cathedral which looked like a cathedral, was one in very fact, and not merely a large parish church, though its dimensions are not necessarily greater than those of a parish church in England. Also it was bound to be Gothic, yet in no sense a replica of any mediaeval church; something that had grown out of the nineteenth century, in a new land, yet linked itself inseverable with the great Christian past, both religious and architectural.
Certainly this is a Gothic church, and certainly a cathedral, yet it follows no recognized model – neither of the past nor yet of the vital English school which flourished so splendidly towards the end of the last century and then fell away, to be sporadically revived in its noblest form in the great Liverpool Cathedral, the first portion of which was consecrated during the present year. The narrow nave aisles, the circular, unmolded columns, the four great cylindrical piers of the crossing, the lancet windows with the sparing use of tracery, the parsimony with which ornament has been used, the reliance on form and proportion – all these are factors which are far from English, and where they have mediaeval precedent at all, are drawn from many lands. In a way the design is an epitome, in very limited form, of mediaeval architecture, and the man who tries to place it in any specific school will have little more than his labor for his pains. For my own part l am not sure this quality is not its greatest merit, and I may confess, now that so many years have passed since it was designed, I never go inside without a certain feeling of grateful satisfaction and a renewed belief that here something was actually accomplished towards the revitalizing of Christian architecture. Of course the full unity of the design will not appear until all the stained glass is in place, for a Gothic church is conceived and accomplished with glass as an essential element. Much has been done in this direction, however, and more is contemplated, so the possibility of this completion is no longer remote.
The same thing is true of the exterior; that the scheme as a whole cannot show itself until the central tower is built. This was always an integral and essential part of the whole composition. As the building now stands, without its central tower, it is lacking both in form and in consistency. The great tower, rising high above the crossing of nave and transepts, is the key to the whole composition, and until it is built, the exterior cannot achieve completeness or show the real nature of its design.
I have spoken above of the “parsimony” in the use -of ornament. One ever present danger in the restoration of Gothic as a living style, is the inclination to fall back on scrupulous detail for the obtaining of stylistic quality. This, of course, is wholly wrong. Not only is this ornament something added to the architectural idea as a whole, but it is a pitfall for the unwary, owing to the fact that we can no longer command the type of craftsman that once made mediaeval churches marvels of delicate fancy and supreme craft. It is form, composition, light and shade that now must be depended on, at least so far as carving in stone is concerned. Moreover, increasingly, as the cost of building rises, we are driven back, and fortunately, on these primary considerations. In this respect also, I think St. Paul’s Cathedral achieves considerable success in that it is in no regard dependent on ornament for its effect.
When it comes to the woodwork and the other furnishings of the interior, the case is different, because now good craftsmen are available. Therefore all the woodwork of the chancel is of a quality that may well be compared, and not unfavorably, with the product of Mediaevalism. It is here, and in stained glass of the standard that has been set and maintained in this Cathedral, that we must depend at present for those elements of richness which are so necessary in a church.
The construction throughout is of the most solid and enduring nature; walls, columns, and arches are of honest masonry, the floor is of reinforced concrete, the aisles are laid with tiles, and the entire presbytery and sanctuary are paved with large slabs of marble, combined with tile of different colors. The pier sections are unusually large for this country and the walls thicker than those generally provided. In many cases this thickness permits passages through the walls themselves, as in the west and east ends. In the former these passages are approached by winding stairways in the turrets and form open galleries along the front of the church. In the latter the opening is toward the church itself, thus giving a very great reveal to the east window, with a corresponding richness of light and shade.
Altogether, I cannot but feel that something of great value was achieved in this building, and I am persuaded that much of this result could not have been attained but for the sympathetic appreciation and the enthusiastic co-operation of the late Bishop Williams, Dean Marquis and the members of the Building Committee. The construction of this cathedral was a real “labor of love” just because of this unity of spirit and closeness of co-operation.
The Sunday service was broadcast on WWJ weekly from 1922 until the early 80’s and had regular listeners from as far away as Sarnia/Port Huron. In 1954, this unique letter was received, triggering the correspondence that follows below.
Mrs. Rudolph Valentino
Mrs. Lionel Barrymore
December 7, 1954.
During the Sunday Morning Service, you mentioned having a calendar for 1955.
Am enclosing my cheque for $1.00. Kindly send to Sid (Mrs. Lionel) Barrymore.
Box. 100, Hy. 40
December 14, 1954
Peoples Savings Bank
We have received a letter dated December 7, 1954 from someone styling herself “Mrs. Lionel Barrymore” and enclosing a check for $1.00 payable to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is signed “Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Ennisclare”
This circumstance seems SO unusual to us, that we felt, before using the check, we should communicate with you to see whether or not there is in reality such a person. A stamped self-addressed envelope is enclosed, for your convenience in reply.
Yours very truly,
Donald N. S__
Senior Warden and Treasurer
(First class postage was 3 cents in 1954)
December 20. 1954
Mr. A. S. C_____
Peoples Savings Bank
Port Huron, Michigan
Dear Mr. C_____
Please accept my sincere thanks for the information contained in your letter of December 16, 1954 concerning “Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Ennisclare”. The circumstance seemed so very unusual that we felt we should verify it especially since the lady’s letterhead reads “Mrs. Rudolph Valentino now Mrs. Lionel Barrymore”. If this refers to the prominent Lionel Barrymore he is, of course dead, and moreover, according to newspaper reports, was unmarried at the time of his death.
Donald N. S_____
December 20, 1954
Mrs. Lionel Barrymore
Box —, Highway 40
As requested in your letter of December 7, 1954, we enclose a St. Paul’s Cathedral Calendar for 1955.
With every good wish for the New Year, we are
St. Paul’s Cathedral
editor’s note: It appears the check was never cashed.