When white space is not good

When white space is not good

Simon Schema’s A History of Britain was great TV when it aired years ago, and many of its episodes are now available on YouTube.

Schema’s treatment of the English Reformation is fascinating, and evocative of Eamon Duffy’s Stripping of the Altars.

Whether or not you’re interested in history documentaries, take a look at this short clip:

It’s ironic that Catholics themselves took to white washing churches in the twentieth century — not because of iconoclasm, but because of financial constraints. It’s much cheaper to paint over stencil work, than to restore it.

White space in web design is one thing; white walls in gothic churches is quite another!

Fortunately, the move towards restoration over renovation in the last 20 years has seen some of this whitewashing reversed. St Mary Star of the Sea in West Melbourne is perhaps the most outstanding example in Australia.

To be honest, I think some of the stencil work and colours at St Mary’s are garish, and I suspect that the original interior was a little more subtle. Even so, the restoration is a massive improvement on the “pea soup” look of the 1960s renovations.

  • MuMu of St Kilda

    When I first came to Melbourne in the mid-60s, I was fascinated by all the Victorian cottages in Prahran painted in the very same chilly blue and salmon pink, by their mainly Greek and Italian owners. There must be a significance in these shades and I’ve assumed St Mary’s restoration has been perfectly faithful to the original hues.

    • It’s not the blue and salmon MuMu, it’s the hot pink in the sanctuary. I have grave doubts about the Edwardian credentials of hot pink!

  • Clara

    Haven’t been into St John’s College for many years, but the chapel – designed by Wardell – used to have intricate gold stencilling. This was removed, with all the plasterwork, to bare stone. On my first visit I encountered the college rector who informed me that the stone was much nicer than the ‘fleur de lyle’ wallpaper that had been there prieviously. Poor man, knew nothing about the original plans.

    With regard to St Mary’s West Melbourne- some proper historical research would have come up with the original colours and decorations. There are experts in this field who do incredible forensic work to come up with the original schemes. One Melbourne Church which was restored to original plans is St Mary’s East St Kilda – another Wardell gem which was restored to original designs in the late 1970s. Again, I am not sure of its current conditions – there were some problems with rising damp and stonework when I worked there in the late ’80s.

    • Clara

      My reference to St John’s in the previous post is to the chapel at St John’s College at Sydney University http://www.sydneyorgan.com/sydneypics/StJohnsColl4.jpg

      • Clara
      • MuMu of St Kilda

        The PP of St Mary’s, Fr Barry Moran, has carried out extensive repairs on this beautiful Church, including a damp course, whilst preserving its aesthetic integrity.
        The sale of the Assumption Church in Orrong Rd to a Jewish paramedic centre, was used to save St Mary’s from the depredations of damp and petro-chemicals to the stonework.
        The parish has been fortunate to have Fr Barry’s sense of historical preservation, as well as a profound respect for statuary and religious icons. Those which could be incorporated in St Mary’s from the Assumption were and those which could not were donated to other Catholic institutions.
        Fr Barry was adamant that nothing from the Assumption would end up in a curiosity shop.

      • Clara

        Good news. I must call in next time I am in the area.

    • I believe the colour scheme is a faithful recreation (hot pink excepted!), but new stencils were designed — based on the original stencils, but new nonetheless. Their shape I have no problem with, but the use of highly contrasting colours is not something I have seen in the older stencil work of places like St Patrick’s Cathedral and St Francis’ Ladye Chapel.

      But having reviewed your photos of St John’s College, I’m going to shut up now and simply give thanks for everything that is good in St Mary’s restoration!

  • Simon Hogan

    I think some churches are great at night when they are all lit up inside and outside but I know that some churches are better in day when you see pictures on the windows. Iti is good when the sun is shining on them. where I go St. Pius X West Warrnambool where I go is better at night when it is all lit up?
    The question you have to asked yourself is your church better viewing in the day or night ?

    • I agree. The lighting of St Mary’s in Hamilton is the best I’ve seen. It’s yellow — nearly orange — and is much warmer than the white light which illuminates St Mary’s in West Melbourne. But that’s the cost of green policies. (Sigh.)

  • + Wolsey

    Ah, my type of catholicism – not the counter-reformed kind, nor the post-conciliar type!

    We really need to rebuild Old St Peter’s in Rome (not to mention Old St Paul’s in London).

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!