Blog Highlight: Modern Medievalism on the painted church


I’m finally back after the busy beginning of the semester. To start the new year, I thought I’d share a Post from Modern Medievalism’s blog on the splendor of a painted church. The rest can be found HERE.

As I was browsing the wide web of (dis-)information today, I happened across some photos of a recent church restoration on a Connecticut Latin Mass society’s blog. The Basilica of Saint John in Stamford, Connecticut, a late Victorian parish church in the Gothic revival style, had suffered from that all-too-common bout of whitewashing that church vandals in pointy hats imposed upon their flocks around the time of Vatican II. In this case, the wall murals in the sanctuary had actually been painted over in white a few years before the Council. After their pastor decided to peel away the 21 coats of whitewash and restore the murals a few years ago, the church went beyond that and coated the whole interior in an array of rich color; a project which finally finished this past April. In an article from the Stamford Advocate, the pastor, Monsignor Stephen DiGiovanni, was quoted saying, “It was looking like a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Now it looks magnificent.” For my own part, I couldn’t agree more.
Saint John’s in 2009.
            In fact, I actually loathe the look of whitewashed church interiors. Here I should explain before some scandalized soul out there accuses me of hating the purity that brilliant white represents. You see, nothing screams the iconoclastic vitriol of the Protestant reformers who scoured the frescoes which adorned the churches of their medieval forbears, or the frighteningly bad taste of the Rococo designers with their temples modeled after wedding-cake palaces, quite like an all-white church. It’s one thing for a Gothic church to embrace the simplicity of bare, grey stonework, as many of the ancient cathedrals now stand today. But the “purity” of our modern stuccoed abominations, as Pugin would say, is more likely a flimsy excuse for a darker reality: that the designers lacked the talent or imagination to do anything else.
            Nearly every church in medieval England, from the cathedral to the humble parish, was adorned with beautiful wall paintings. These images, like the statues and stained-glass windows that accompanied them, served to tell the stories of the Holy Gospels and the saints to a people who couldn’t read. The colors brought vibrancy to a harsh world that was regularly beset by disease, famine, and war. Master painters were aided in their work by the entire community of the faithful…
Read the rest at the blog post (Linked above).Now, I never really thought about it very much, but it is true that modern church architecture is a kind of protestant iconostasis. To think that High altars were smashed to be replaced with a wooden table, and hundred year old frescos whitewashed over seems maddening. Marble floors tore up and replaced with maroon carpets. Altar rails torn down. complete sadness.
We went from this

St Louis Latin mass Apostolate

To this

Post-1960’s modernist catholic-protestant hybrid, man-centered church

And we wonder why people are losing the faith.