Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Some claim the amount of square footage of the stained glass windows in St. Mary's church--imported years ago from Munich, Germany--is the highest of any Roman Catholic Church in the country. That might be hard to prove, but it's a sweet little tidbit of info worth passing around when bragging up this corner of the world.
Whether or not it's true, Alton's magnificent country cathedral, St. Mary's Church, has to be the county's crown jewel. It stands up on a bluff some people (I'm no geographer) claim to be the highest spot in the county, its twin towers visible for miles around.
A bunch of roughnecks from Coon Valley, WI, are here this week and next, refurbishing the upper reaches of old St. Mary's, three or four of them at any time, a circus act of ropes and pulleys way, way up there at the top, repairing what needs it and nailing down bright, brassy shingles, a shimmering golden gleam way up there above town and county.
It's got to be costing the congregation a pile of money, I'm sure, but I think it's worth it. Right now, Protestantism seems to be insisting that the way to bring the world to Jesus is by camouflage--the hottest new church in town here worships vibrantly at an old used car dealership. You got to look really close to know it's a church, but that's the design. Too many people got hurt in church during the last several decades, or else simply get put off by the traditional church, they reason. Bring 'em into a showroom and sell 'em the Lord instead of a new Ford Ranger. Besides, they won't relive their church nightmares.
Me and my house, I prefer architecture that itself glorifies, that doesn't mimic the world. Ye olde Luxembourgians who created St. Mary's a century and a half ago wanted a cathedral out here in the grassland, something towering, something that embodied real spiritual aspiration amid the hoppers and prairie fires. They wanted their place of worship to worship simply by standing there on the tallest sandbar on the ocean of grass. I like that.
Of course, I'm not paying the bill for all that gold up there on the twin towers, so maybe it's easy for me to say; but I like what's happening at St. Mary's, and I like St. Mary's itself dressed up for worship everyday of the week in all its Romanesque grandeur. No, it's not "prairie school" architecture either; I'm sure Frank Lloyd Wright would roll his eyes. But the place says what it is when it sits like royal crown up on the hill above the county.
There are perfectly good reasons for churches to be designed for guerrilla war. My mother-in-law, I'm sure, would like say, simply, "takes all kinds to make a world."
Takes all kinds to build a Kingdom too, I guess.
You couldn't get up there with those hot dogs for love or money, but I'd love to see what they see all around. It must be heavenly.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:58 AM