There will be a Traditional Latin Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at Our Lady of Peace Church in Manhattan on Thursday, July 30 at 11:30 P.M.
There will be a Traditional Latin Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at Our Lady of Peace Church in Manhattan on Thursday, July 30 at 11:30 P.M.
What the site of Our Lady of Vilna (or Vilnius) looks like today. Demolition started in May or June. We weep for the little church where the regular use of liturgical Latin in New York City(albeit in the Novus Ordo) recommenced circa 1982.
PRAYER VIGIL RALLY FOR PEACE
FRIDAYS, JUNE 26, JULY 24 & AUGUST 28, 2015
Let us Pray fervently for Peace in our World, for the Salvation of All Souls and the Protection of All Lives. * We Stand in Solidarity with Persecuted and Martyred Christians and Minorities in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, in Nigeria by Boko Haram, as well as other nations around the world. * We also Stand in Solidarity with Victims and Survivors of Terrorism, Violence, Abuse and the grave evil of Abortion.
|6 P.M. – Extraordianary Form Mass at Holy Innocents Church 37th Street and Broadway
7:30 P.M. – Candlelight Prayer Rally for Peace: Herald Square 34th Street and Broadway And walking to Times Square 42nd Street and Broadway
For more information please contact: Michelle 201-983-2527 or Teddy 347 – 608 – 6499
Finally , after one year, the pastor of Our Saviour has published an explanation of what is going on in the parish Facebook page. Robbins, who refers to himself in the third person, does not invite discussion or commentary:
“Church of Our Saviour, New York City
This original watercolor/gouache interior sketch of the proposed interior of the Church of Our Saviour was created by Mr. Richard Zimmerman of the Rambusch company under the artistic direction of Harold Rambusch and architect Paul C. Reilly before the church was built. This was the vision that the pastor and archbishop approved prior to beginning the construction of the building. Note that most of the colors in the sketch, such as the walls, ceiling and side altars are as the church appears today. It is also evident from this sketch that the baldacchino and sanctuary screen were always intended to be part of the sanctuary design even though early 1960’s photos show the sanctuary without them.
Since his appointment as pastor on August 1, 2013, Father Robert J. Robbins has worked to restore the church to its original vision and updating necessary systems. The church hired the firm Renovata Studios to begin a professional restoration process that was sensitive to the history of the church, while adapting the church to new technologies for the future. The original church lighting installed by Rambusch in 1959 was completely re-lamped with LED lighting fixtures which provide more light at a fraction of the cost in electricity. The bronze and glass chandeliers were restored and re-lamped with LED bulbs. This new LED lighting system is controlled by a new state-of-the-art computerized dimming system that allows complete control of the light output and can be individually programmed for the various religious services. The 12 icons on either side of the altar were removed to restore the original vision of the central altar and its relationship to the two side altars of Joseph and Mary. The fourteenth station of the cross was found in storage and returned to its original location. The original cast bronze reading desk was of inadequate size for the Book of the Gospels, so a larger identically styled reading desk was cast in bronze and installed on the ambo. The decorative coffered ceiling was cracked and damaged in many places and this was painstakingly restored to original condition. The sound system was also upgraded with new digital technology.
The original Rambusch 500 watt downlights were replaced with Rambusch replacement LED units that draw only 85 watts while providing much more light. All original fixture locations and ceiling trim hardware was re-used in the original locations. There is significantly more light in the pews to help the congregation with reading and also much more light on the side walls of the church to make the church brighter. All of this new LED lighting is appropriately colored to 2700k for proper “warmth” of light and is completely controllable and dimmable with a new Strand 15 zone dimming system.
The original bronze chandeliers were restored and re-lamped with new LED technology. Previously, the chandeliers had spray painted gold paint over some of the translucent glass in the fixtures and the restoration/cleaning of this glass allows more light in the church. Uplighting was added to the chandeliers so the congregation can better see the beautifully restored coffered, decorative ceiling. New accent lighting was also incorporated into the chandeliers to add needed lighting to the side shrine areas, rear organ pipes and the side altars of Joseph and Mary.
New LED architectural uplightng was also incorporated into the window wells of each stained glass window to accent the beautiful architectural columns and mouldings in the nave and choir loft. Every component of this new lighting system is separately controlled by the new dimming system so that different settings can be created for the various liturgies. These 8 different settings are controlled by a central keypad that is simple to use and allows foolproof operation of the lighting in the church.
To date, twelve large and twelve smaller icons have been removed from the four columns that flank the altar. According to archival photos, these columns did not originally have decoration of any kind. All icons were carefully and sensitively removed by the same restoration craftsmen that restored the beautiful decorative ceiling of the church. The icon panels have all been wrapped individually in plastic and carefully stored in the undercroft of the church to await re-installation in other parish buildings or perhaps another church. The painted panels were installed on the two columns of the proscenium arch between the main altar and the two side altars.
Rev. Robert J. Robbins
Taking all this at face value, I would respond as follows:
Robbins does seem to have an obsession with lighting. Some of this reads like a satire:
“Every component of this new lighting system is separately controlled by the new dimming system so that different settings can be created for the various liturgies.”
I can’t comment on the power savings of the LED approach; many other parishes have done the same recently without a drastic renovation. In a recent visit I couldn’t detect any notable difference in illumination offered by the new system. This church already seemed to have a perfectly adequate level of illumination. But taking the description at face value, by aiming to illuminate every nook and cranny of the decor and architectural detail, the new system may create the same problems as found in St. Patrick’s cathedral today: the imposition of a new, brilliant lighting system that contradicts the original lighting assumptions of the architecture. Indeed, given the questionable quality of much of the decor I always thought this church looked best when the lights were out (see below).
Then we come to the removal of the icons. This is done in the name of restoration (and authority):
“This original watercolor/gouache interior sketch of the proposed interior of the Church of Our Saviour was created by Mr. Richard Zimmerman of the Rambusch company under the artistic direction of Harold Rambusch and architect Paul C. Reilly before the church was built. This was the vision that the pastor and archbishop approved prior to beginning the construction of the building”
“According to archival photos, these columns did not originally have decoration of any kind.”
This statement only reveals the writer’s lack of historical and artistic judgment. We are challenged to restore the “vision” of a circa-1960 commercial contractor of church interiors, as if it were the creation of a major artistic mind! Robbins also seems to think, since the archdiocese approved it in 1960, no changes can ever be made to the “vision.” Fifty gutted or rebuilt sanctuaries just in the city alone disprove the latter point.
As a rule Catholic churches were not built as part of one encompassing unity of architecture and decor. As time went on changes and improvements would be made as more funds became available and better aesthetic insights emerged. Consider in St. Patrick’s cathedral: the bulk of the sculptural art that was set up after the completion of the cathedral, the erection of the Lady Chapel, Cardinal Spellman’s baldachino, doors and windows…. Only certain churches built largely between 1900 and 1920 – like St Vincent Ferrer – actually attempted a real artistic integration of all elements of architecture and decor. Naturally, notions of stylistic purity didn’t prevent drastic changes being made to St Vincent’s sanctuary, among other places, in recent years.
Now in the case of Our Saviour, there was a contrast from the beginning between the quality of some of the stonework and architectural details (like the ceiling and floor) and the mediocre decor (like the stained glass and the stations of the cross), the latter so similar to that found in every new suburban church of that era. Undoubtedly this was part of the reason Our Saviour’s was viewed as a failure in its time. To attempt to restore the appearance of the “original vision” – the feeble decor of the last years of Spellman’s reign – is preposterous: it only recreates the weakest features of the original interior. The prior pastor instead made an effort, internationally recognized, to creatively address this original deficiency in decoration and furnishings (as well as to remedy years of neglect) by introducing new works of art that complemented, rather than contradicted, the surrounding architecture.
Need I add that Robbins doesn’t mention the most glaring departure from the “original vision”: the sawing off of the altar to create a freestanding “Novus Ordo” altar? He doesn’t propose changing that back!
And what is the fate of the icons?
“The icon panels have all been wrapped individually in plastic and carefully stored in the undercroft of the church to await re-installation in other parish buildings or perhaps another church.”
It is an indictment of the organization and management of the Roman Catholic Church that entirely optional and decorative projects like this are cleared based exclusively on the decision of the pastor. This, at a time when so many Catholics are losing their own parishes allegedly because of financial difficulties of the Archdiocese. And also at a time where Our Saviour’s parish has been experiencing its own financial issues (since Fr. Robbins assumed the pastorate there). We know of other, very recent abuses of clerical power in this region. With such clericalism the Catholic Church is only continuing the long-term process of digging its own grave.
Just within the last couple of weeks, Fr. Robert Robbins – the newly confirmed pastor – has resumed his “restoration” of the church of Saviour. It has been reported that the objective is to entirely purge the art of Ken Woo (and others) from the sanctuary. Today I could confirm that another column has been stripped of Woo’s icons:
As was the case last year, Fr. Robbins has not published or announced any explanation for what is going on – at least as far as I am aware. The goals and objectives of the “restoration” are known only to him and his initiates. In the rear of the church, however, there is now a set of mysterious photographs of the sanctuary pre-Rutler and pre-Woo. (These cases in the rear used to be full of information, books and helpful materials under the prior administration of this parish; they are now almost totally empty.) These photographs undoubtedly show what Fr. Robbins has in mind:
(Above) Pictures of the unrestored sanctuary (Below) The Transfiguration – perhaps a photo dating back to the opening of the church.
Our hunch is reinforced by the emphasis Fr. Robbins gives this feast in the current parish bulletin. Now looking at the above pictures, one would have to conclude that the apparent attempt to restore early 1960’s church art has to be – aesthetically speaking – bizarre beyond belief. Those years were the absolute nadir of ecclesiastical art. But Fr. Robbins was pastor for many years of the pseudo-modern Holy Family parish, which dates to a few years after Our Saviour and is one of the ugliest churches in Manhattan. Perhaps Fr. Robbin’s taste in art was formed there. Moreover, it also seems entirely unclear, based on these photos, how much of this painting had actually survived into the 1990’s.
It is distressing that a church that very recently has been restored at such great effort should now be subject to an iconoclastic house-cleaning only 10-15 years later. One has to question the judgment of those who authorize unnecessary projects of this kind – one could also mention former Monsignor Hull’s Sheen Center. These expensive projects proceed at a time when so many Catholics are being thrown our of their parishes which will in due course be offered to developers – because, supposedly, the Archdiocese is strapped for funds.
We look forward to an explanation from the pastor or the Archdiocese as to what is going on. I also hope this latest move of Fr. Robbins receives the press attention that it deserves.1)
1) Especially from one particular neocon high priest who effusively praised this very church and its new paintings in 2005 – we hope to hear from him soon.
Today Holy Rosary parish presents a desolate appearance indeed behind the grand, fortress-like facade. For many years only the basement has been open for religions services. The decoration consists mainly of statues brought down from the main church. The parish has been targeted for closure; its last mass is scheduled for July 26. Naturally the congregation disagreed withe this decision – but what could be done? Nowadays Holy Rosary is a poor congregation without significant financial connections outside the parish or media allies.
One recent Saturday afternoon a solitary lady was tidying up the basement church. She did not know why she was doing this – the church was closing in week, after all. Yet, she had resolved that when the doors are finally shut, they will find the church clean.
(Above and Below) These heavily repainted statues of indifferent quality undoubtedly date to the decades when Holy Rosary was virtually an Italian ethnic parish.
(Above) A reproduction of the oldest Christian image of the Philippines.
Our Lady of Peace.
Another prime target of “Making all Things New” is Our Lady of Peace. It was originally an Italian ethnic parish – a former protestant church that became one of the most extravagantly decorated Catholic sanctuaries in the city. It gradually grew into a “regular” if small parish of the Archdiocese in an area that had become very affluent indeed. But all the art in this church was created in the Italian, pre-Conciliar days.
Like several other small parishes in well-to-do areas( St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. John the Martyr and – unsuccessfully for the time being – St. Thomas More) the closing of this parish undoubtedly appeared as a real opportunity to the Archdiocese! Needless to say the parishioners of Our Lady of Peace did not at all agree with his action which erases their small but successful parish. The resistance has been spirited. Like the parishioners of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, they have lodged an appeal with Vatican; the Archdiocese has curtly informed them that this will not delay the scheduled closing on August 1.
(Above and Below) Unfortunately the sanctuary has suffered severe damage in the wake of the Council. But much of the originally elaborate furnishings survives – like the ornate communion rail.
(Above) For a small church there are a multiplicity of devotions. (Below) Our Lady of Fatima
(Above) Santa Fara – a local Sicilian favorite – in her glass case.
(Above) A recent mass. In this austere but dignified liturgy the topic of the imminent closing was not mentioned. But all the more vehement were the reactions and discussions of the parishioners after the mass! Needless to say no one was arguing for the Archdiocesan plan.