March 17, 2015
Seven Church Tour in Columbus
So Saturday was the Seven Church Tour with the inestimable Fr. W, who is not charismatically challenged, to put it mildly. This tour was much more engaging for me than last year both because the churches were unfamiliar and architecturally more interesting. And it really felt more devotional, more like a pilgrimage this time. Maybe it was the prayers we said or perhaps the unfamiliar architecture and statues made it feel more devotional.
St. Dominic: Fr. W is the pastor here. Inner city neighborhood and it looks it: bordered up houses looking like crack dens. Very Detroit-ish. A predominantly black parish (Stations of the Cross featured a black Jesus and a placard/map inside the church showed a “Justice Journey” that had Ferguson, Mo listed.) St. Dominic was originally an Italian parish but in the '50s and '60s switched ethnicities. Lovely church with granite columns that extend ten feet below ground. Have to go back sometime for 11:30 Mass there and check out the full gospel choir.
St. Aloysius: a true gem of a church. I'd seen it many years before but was surprised by its stunning attractiveness and distinctiveness. The icon mosaics behind the altar have a Byzantine feel, the Stations of the Cross amazing (painted-on glass, with real gold in the paint), and the Confessionals a rich, ornate wood with Latin phrases carved at top. I'm a sucker for art with a combination of words with structure or image. The stained glass windows are otherworldly in boldness of color and my eye apparently was not alone in thinking that since the craftsman did some work on windows for the Vatican in the past.
St. Francis of Assisi: this tour had nothing if not very distinctive churches, and this one added to the diversity. It was simple, as might be expected given for whom it was named, but there was a kind of classical feel to it. Not too busy. Very pleasing dome cupola, and the pews were arranged on three sides of the altar. Bright and well-lit, it's the church for non-hoarders, those who dislike disorder and clutter.
So we had lunch in the basement of St. Francis church and I scored this year with the Neapolitan sandwich, which was a big improvement over last year's chicken caesar sandwich. More meat! Fr. W's assistant sat with us, who told us of her six-month bout with homelessness and the struggles of trying to get custody of her child. I often get the feeling of folks who have gone through more end up having more devotion to God, surely because they've been forced to lean on God for a lack of alternative.
Then my sister & mother joined us, and they didn't want a lunch before she wanted one, sort of like how John Kerry was for the war in Iraq before he was against it. Luckily we had the assistant with us and she graced our thievery. (There were extras.)
St. Catherine of Siena - This church was pleasant enough, made unique most dramatically by the stained glass windows of all 34 doctors of the church. The windows were modern-ish but calming, and made even more interesting by the text (presumably Latin) that faintly stretched across the bottom of some of the panes. Others had not text but some symbol, which added a level of pleasing ambiguity. The altar was an island surrounded by pews on all four sides. In a side room off the vestibule was a legos structure of the church made by a nine-year old child! While this church was somewhat interesting because of the stained glass windows, the church was mostly forgettable for me.
Immaculate Conception - This one reminded me immediately of St. Therese on Broad street, the retreat center. Same romanesque, stone archways. Nice. I liked the image of the ship over one of the doorways, and Fr. W told us a ship was a symbol of the church.
St. Mary Magdalen - Very unique church to put it mildly! Like a snowflake, I'm sure there's no church in Christendom quite like it. Very busy, to be sure, and slightly kitschy in that respect but at the same time you can't help but be impressed. A lot to take in. Mostly you take in the incredible mosaics, my favorite being one of the Blessed Mother. The whole church in fact is pretty much covered with mosaics. I understand they did them in Italy by painting each individual stone and gluing it to a “cartoon” image underneath. Most of the church consists of a pale blue mosaic above arches resembling the St. Louis arch but actually were meant to mimic the Miraculous Medal, a devotion still strong in this particular church. Another striking feature was that of the five scenes in stone depicting the life of Mary Magdalen, one was not true, that of the “sinful woman” who dried Jesus' feet with her hair. Apparently that was originally thought to be Mary Magdalen but since thought not to be. (Full disclaimer: I wasn't there.) The altar is held up by twelve pillars with the name of each apostle, St. Peter the lone one to have a round one rather than square (“first among equals”). The altar is elevated and is covered, like St. Peters Basilica in Rome, in the a way meant to evoke the Old Testament Holy of Holies. A tent, as was said in the Old Testament. In the new the Greek has it: “The Word pitched a tent of flesh and dwelt among us.”
St. Leo - this was our final stop, a church now closed and only open for special events like this. Perhaps it was “church fatigue” or the lack of hearing Fr. exclaim on it, but this one seemed kind of average. A few nuns who lived on that street were in attendance, no doubt thrilled to be able to attend Mass in their old church.
Posted by TS at 12:18 PM