Page 2, 2nd November 1956

2nd November 1956
Page 2
Page 2, 2nd November 1956 — UP-TO-DATE CHURCHES

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Organisations: Freemasonry
Locations: Rome


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Sir, Your master builder shows a lamentable failure to understand the lessons of architectural history. All art forms, and architecture more than most, must reflect the world which gives them birth. Byzantium fell five hundred years ago and the Middle Ages ended with the Tudors; the conditions which created Byzantine and Gothic architecture will never again obtam and it was only a woollyminded Victorian romanticism. unhappy amid the ugliness of its own creation and yearning back to golden Ages of Faith, that could attempt to revive these styles out of all context. The romantic revival expresses precisely this escapism.

However, Mr. McCrone's sentiments will doubtless find an echo in the hearts of marry who, while insisting that their cars and refrigerators be nothing less than the last word in modern design and technology, still like their churohes to have a vague flavour of the antique suggestive of roots in the past. Evidence for continuity is singularly unconvincing when faked. The Nonconformists are as good at pastiche as we are. Does Mr. MoCrone suggest that factories and schools also revert to the historical styles or is it for churches alone that he reserves this fancy dress ?

This was not the way of medieval Christendom, where the needs of the Community were served in a glorious unity of style; and such a backward-looking approach to building can only lend force to the arguments of those who find in the Church an anachronism, irrelevant to the needs of the times.

The reconstruction of Southwark Cathedral is a case in point. Here we are spending thousands on a pseudo-Gothic re-hash of Pugin, with inadequate seating having views of the high altar largely obscured by the massively extravagant masonry structure of the nave. Apart from these functional, aesthetic and economic shortcomings. such architecture can evoke little response from coming generations in an age when a truly contemporary idiom is arising.

Sacred art. preoccupied with its past, lags sadly behind the profane but the vernacular tradition in architecture is dead, as our industrial slums and the dreary sprawl of surburbia testify. This ugliness spawned of speculative builders is acceptable to the millions who live in it only because of the complete breakdown of cultural values. The answer is not to retreat into history but to start afresh from the first principles of function and materials, accepting and using industry and science. This is modern architecture. and if much of it is crude and ugly in its infancy it is only reflecting its age. If men have forgotten how to build churches it is perhaps because so many have forgotten what churches are for. Too many pagan or only nominally Christian architects are employed, and the leading Catholic lights are mostly of an older generation and another world. Faith we must have and youth. free from preconception and sentiment, to take the New Architecture. as the first Christ tans took that of Imperial Rome. and mould it to our needs and the greater glory of God.

Gordon Blythe. 32 Llanvanor Road.

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