Thursday, March 26, 2009

St. Casimir's Church - Cleveland, OH

Built in 1918, St. Casimir's is another Cleveland church that is scheduled to close in 2010. 

Designed by Cleveland-born architect William Jansen, the red brick and stone trim exterior is classified as Romanesque with its rounded entrance arcade, two symmetrically-placed open bell towers, and corbeled gable. The exterior is classic and beautiful ... the interior is STUNNING ... and worth seeing in person. This church is truly authentic inside. It hasn't been marred by senseless updates to modernize it by ripping out its altars and covering up its murals with white paint. As my 82 year old father said to me when we stepped inside this church to look around – "this is what a church should look like." Let me say it again ... THIS IS WHAT A CHURCH SHOULD LOOK LIKE. A one-of-a kind Cleveland treasure that must be saved.

St. Casimir Church | 8223 Sowinski Avenue | Cleveland , OH 44103

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Statement from the Cleveland Restoration Society

The Cleveland Restoration Society has published an official statement regarding the closing of Churches in the Diocese of Cleveland. Here is a link to the statement.

The Cleveland Restoration Society | 3751 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115 | 216.426.1000

Sunday, March 22, 2009

St. Joseph Byzantine Church - Abandoned Treasure

I came across these photos (taken in February 2009) on Flickr of an abandoned church in Cleveland, OH. 

St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church (above: interior) was built in 1933, and was designed by architect Joseph E. Fronczak (or Franczak) of Buffalo, NY. I'm not sure who the mural artist was -- but they are very well done. 

In the 1970s, parish members began migrating out of the city to the suburbs. The congregation dwindled. The great expense of maintaining the building and the grounds forced the congregation to abandon the location. Eventually, the building was taken over by the Greater Zion Hill Baptist Church community, who in turn abandoned the building. More photos of this church can be seen at Flickr at this link and this link.

Can we allow this to happen to any more of our ecclesiastical treasures?

Friday, March 20, 2009

St. Procop's Church Interior - Cleveland Ohio

The above photos offer a glimpse into the stunning interior of St. Procop's Catholic Church in Cleveland, OH. I'm not sure who painted the murals -- they are first rate, as are the stained glass windows and other furnishings. It's hard to believe this treasure is scheduled to close in 2010.

St. Procop Church | 3181 W. 41st Street | Cleveland, OH 44109

Thursday, March 19, 2009

St. Procop's Church - Cleveland Ohio

French born architect, Emile Uhlrich emigrated to the United States in 1891. He settled into the ever-growing city of Cleveland, OH. Uhlrich had been educated at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. Beaux Arts style (or "fine art style")  stressed order, symmetry, formal design, grandiosity, and elaborate ornamentation. 

In 1899, Uhlrich entered into a partnership with fellow architect Godfrey Fugman. The partnership lasted until 1904. It was generally believed at the time that Fugman handled more of the engineering and business side of projects, while Uhlrich was the creative genius.

In 1903, St. Procop's Church was dedicated. The Catholic Universe Bulletin called it "one of the finest church buildings in the city." The architects were getting rave reviews for setting a new standard in local church designWhat exactly does "new standard" mean? 

Uhlrich and Fugman employed the newest technologies and techniques of the time. They engineered a structural frame of steel trusses which allowed for a massive, wide-open interior space that was unobstructed by columns. They cleverly hid indirect lighting throughout the interior, and slightly raked (sloped) the floor from the vestibule to the main altar. Decoration became more ornate as you got closer to the altar -- thus drawing the eye forward. The new St. Procop's was a  highly-designed, highly-functional space ... worthy of being the new standard.

Uhlrich went on to design the breathtaking Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, NY, as well as the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH. A list of some of his work was compiled by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission. It can be seen here.

St. Procop's is scheduled to be closed in 2010. It is well worth a visit. The exterior has seen some losses of two front towers and central dome; however, the interior is stunning (murals, windows, altars). The photo of St. Procop's  Church (above) is from the Cleveland Memory Project.

St. Procop Church | 3181 W. 41st Street | Cleveland, OH 44109

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We Forget Who We Are

A few years ago, I came across this article on the internet regarding the loss of (read: thrown out) sacramental artwork in churches due to drastic "renovations" and "updating." The article is written by Marek Czarnecki. At one point the article discusses the closing of churches. Czarnecki offers this profound insight ... "When a parish closes, that community of people disperses into other parishes. Without our physical sites and signs, however, we forget who we are, and we lose the material objects that link us to a very deep, historical communal identity. In American culture, we lose our personal and transpersonal depth when the sites that ground us in our history and spiritual ancestors disappear ... Instinctively, with the demolition of churches, its members sense that the institution and its dogma are less permanent, and in the hands of mercurial forces."

I don't know if I can add anything else to make Mr. Czarnecki's statement more profound.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. James Church - Lakewood, Ohio

A picture is worth a thousand words. The above historical photo is of St. James Catholic Church in Lakewood, OH ... (mentioned in the previous post) one of the 52 parishes expected to close in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. According to an architectural description, the building design is Sicilian Romanesque, patterned after the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo, Sicily. The photo is from the Cleveland Memory Project.

St. James Church | 17514 Detroit Avenue | Lakewood, OH 44107

More Than a Building

It took this line in today's newspaper (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH) to get me to start my own blog. I've read it a million of times before when a church closes ... it goes like this ... "This building is a beautiful building. A magnificent building. But the bottom line is, it isn't the church. We are." The article quotes the well-intentioned Rev. John Weigand pastor at the eventually closing century-old St. James Church on Cleveland's west side suburb of Lakewood, OH. 

I have to admit, I am a more devout church architecture student (catholic churches to be exact) than I am a church goer.

As a kid growing up in Ashtabula, OH (think small town Ohio), I attended both a Catholic grade school (Mother of Sorrows) and high school. So, needless to say, I was in Church --- a lot. Add to that, I was an altar boy -- a very devout one. In fact, the pastor of my parish told me he would be the altar boy at my first mass. I didn't become a priest, but my experience as a altar boy was amazing. Why, because I got to spend a lot of time in this stunning structure -- a building -- a church. (See vintage postcard of the interior of Mother of Sorrows from the early 1900s above.)

Oftentimes, I would sneak into the church on a Saturday, or after school, with my cheap camera and snap away at the windows, arches, statues, etc. For me, the building was creative inspiration. For me, looking at and studying the building was as much of a prayer to god as would be if I had knelt in a pew to pray. It was a connection without words.

So, I will end my first post with that. Sure, buildings are buildings. But churches -- especially OLD churches -- are more than that ... just ask any 8 year old.

Mother of Sorrows Church | 1464 W. 6th Street | Ashtabula, OH 44004