Page 10, 28th April 1939

28th April 1939
Page 10
Page 10, 28th April 1939 — LONDON CHURCHES DEPRESS ME

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Locations: Liverpool, Paris, London


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THERE is no doubt that the mentality produced by Protestantism is largely the cause of the low standard of British Art. The belief that thought rendered pictorially is less profound than the inner and unexpressed concept is a criterion born of Protestant philosophy. On the contrary, the outward manifestation of an idea is the completion and perfection of the inner thought. This Protestant view is embedded in many an Englishman to-day and also among those who are Catholics by Faith.

Spontaneous expression of thought, any " spectacular " show, is quickly put down by the Englishman as vulgar or " bad taste." The blight of Protestantism is upon the whole nation.

Our architecture cortict not have been created in a really Catholic civihsation. The false restraint, the dullness, the uniformity of the repeated flannel-coloured houses, the lack of any gaiety or of any pictorial representation or of any "playfulness" are all a product of Protestant parentage.

The blight bee even entered into the very House of God. Having done the round of Paris churches, I considered it my duty to do a round of the London ones. The result is most depressing — but, being optimistic by nature, I am still hoping to find some hidden gem somewhere.


The " advanced" architect of to-day looks down upon coloured glass, with the result that the bleak, cold light relentlessly shows up all the lack of harmony and proportions of the building, HOW often one hears it said that a church should not be " theatrical." What is exactly meant by this? Is it a Catholic or a Protestant concept? Does it mean that little colour should be used, or that lighting effect should not be attempted; or that few pictorial repreeentations should be employed, or that the decorations should not be vivid, strong and effective? Surely not! Church architecture should be full of " effect." The design of the church and the decoration should be an outward manifestation to be felt and understood through our senses, It must have an effect upon our senses; only the effect must be a sacred one. If not theatrical it should be dramatic, because the Liturgy is but the enaction of a Sacred Drama.

HNFORTUNATELY, the question of V Liturgical expression is a thorny one, Even more lamentable than the attempts at being " modern " in architecture are the attempts at being " liturgically ear r ec a" Magnified biscuit-tin lids, under the name of " testers " are being erected all over the country on the top of attars. The result is completely grotesque, as they are in no way designed to harmonise with the rest of the church architecture. Let architects, by all means, be informed of the laws required by Liturgical Authorities as to the necessity of including a tester or a baldachin° over the main altar, so that it can be designed properly in the style of the church. But to insist on testers at any price, whether they are in keeping with the rest of the building or not, is to keep tothe letter of the Liturgical rule instead of to the spirit. The idea of a tester is to ensure honour being given to the high altar, and to the altar of the Blessed Sacrament; but in many of the churches of to-day the tester, on the contrary, does no honour to the altar at all, and looks supremely ridiculous, defeating its own end. Surety we would do well to Imitate the churches on the Continent and exclude the tester where it looks completely out of place.

J UST by the way, there is no reason

why the tester should he square; it corresponds better with the altar if it is oblong. One of the most interesting solutions of the tester design in our own country is to be found in the church of St Monica, Liverpool. Here the architect, F. X. Velarde, F.R.I.B.A., has given it Re full architectural importance, and has rendered it an integral part of the whole design of the church. Often it is not the architect's fault that the tester is out of keeping, for frequently it ie looked upon ER a piece of " church furniture " over which, unfortunately, the architect is not supposed to exercise much control. On one occasion it has been known to have been hauled up over-night, when the architect wise not looking. Considering that the tester occupies the central and most important place in the church, this is, of course, an absurdity. churches. Idoubt it. I think it is much more due to the Protestant blight which is still heavy upon us, and prevents manifestation of exuberance, of joy, of praise and thanksgiving. If the churches are too poor to pay for their decoration, let young students do the work for nothing; if the materials are paid for they would not refuse. The experiments would, perhaps, not always be successful, but then they can always be covered over with whitewash after a discreet wait of a year or so. They cannot do anything worse than that which we have to suffer already. Raphael did all his paintings before the age of twenty-six. There may be many a hidden Raphael in England who would come forward were he given a chance. Nothing risked, nothing gained!

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