The beauty of Sacred Spaces must please God and the people who enjoy them.
St. Hedwig Church on East Third in downtown Erie was built in Tudor Gothic style. Two “crowning interior features” are an 18th c. baroque crucifix hanging over the altar and an icon depicting the “Black Madonna and Child” sacred to Polish Catholics. I was also captivated by the stunning blue ceiling and stained glass windows (pictured).
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church on West 7th was built in a Romanesque Revival style and considers itself a traditional “neighborhood” church. I loved the cross hanging over the altar, the focal point of the sanctuary.
I believe a “sacred space” can exist whenever and wherever you meet with God. But the sanctuaries set aside for worship and buildings that house His work and the work of His people deserve special attention. Given tight budgets and differing priorities for precious resources, we may not see new construction like this again. Those that tend these sacred spaces also deserve recognition, from the priests, organists, volunteer “docents,”and cleaning workers to the ladies who provided refreshments for visitors. I also am grateful for the woman at St. Mary’s who shared warm words of comfort with a stranger.
They welcome strangers, perhaps even angels, and so welcome Jesus Himself.
Here are more photos of my recent visit of downtown Erie (PA) churches which opened their doors for the public during the Erie County Historical Society’s Fall “Sacred Spaces” Tour.
First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant on West 7th Street, Erie, PA is built in the image of a Gothic Revival Cathedral. It reminded me immediately of the National Cathedral in Washington, D. C. Its Vicary Organ, with 103 ranks and 6,000 + pipes, was designed and built specifically for the sanctuary’s acoustics. A tour guide had me balance on a cement wall outside where I could see a gargoyle through an archway. You don’t need to balance while standing in the magnificent sanctuary enveloped in organ music worship.
The sanctuary of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church on East Ninth Street is lined with statues, including St. Anthony of Padua and St. Benedict. Only a heart of stone would refuse to be moved by The Pieta. There is nothing else to say….
Have you ever reflected on why you pay the money to own an iphone? Or why you shell out bigger bucks to own an ipad rather than a cheaper tablet from someone else? (If you’re an Android user you’ll get a “take away” too from this blog.)
Steve Jobs’ love for simple and elegant design drove his professional vision. His “big idea” or “mission statement,” if you will, guided his product development. He believed that technology can be and should be intuitive and easy to use and pushed his engineers to develop products that fulfilled those beliefs.
These products (including ipods and ipads) have become so integrated with our lives we can’t imagine living without them. But they aren’t only functional, they are lovely, sleek, and elegant. Form and function complement each other; one has not been sacrificed for the other.
I’m not a shill for Steve Jobs. But I appreciate how he intuited the importance of beauty when we had been conditioned to believe that elegance served function, if it appeared at all. (This is a general statement, I’m sure you can think of exceptions.) But our “conditioning” is changing. More and more products, from potato peelers to plastic shampoo bottles, motorcycles to personal watercraft, are now beautiful and elegant as well as functional.
I think our love of beauty and ease of use arises from God’s creation. Surely God was the first One interested in bringing beauty and elegance into our everyday lives. Our appreciation and desire for it reflects His desires for us.
Not a bad thing, this integration of beauty and art into our daily lives, wouldn’t you say?
How do you determine visual beauty? Is it purely subjective, a matter of taste? Is it based on color, or shape, or texture?
Some recent research suggests that one way we recognize and appreciate beauty is when an object has symmetry. An example is a person’s face when eyes are level and equidistant from the nose. We seem to have a natural tendency to prefer symmetry in our surroundings, such as when we place a centerpiece on our dining room table. (Even the name “center”piece assumes the center!) Of course, some of us need to clear our table to make room for decoration of any kind.
A couple years ago I had apple trees in my backyard cut down. A kind friend chainsawed the logs but I’ve done little with it since except burn some of the smaller pieces in my fireplace. I’ve let those two areas of my yard “go,” and weeds, thistles, and much to my delight, a fresh crop of black raspberries have appeared around the woodpiles.
Black raspberries are quite beautiful, symmetrical and deeply colored. They are hardy and easy to pick. My favorite summer “wild” fruit, red raspberries, are delicate and fall apart quickly, leaving their red stain. But these black raspberries are delightful. The birds have noticed too, but they seem not to have taken their fair share yet.
Sometimes my life seems like the black raspberry (symmetrical and hardy), other times like the red raspberry (delicate and falling apart!) But both fruits add beauty, the black raspberry amid the weeds and forgotten wood.