Friday, March 04, 2016

Appreciating Pugin


From Watts & Co.:
Earlier this week [March 1] was A.W.N. Pugin's birthday, and so a Requiem Mass was celebrated for him at the altar in the Pugin family chantry chapel at the church he built: St. Augustine's, Ramsgate.
Pugin's medievalism (which I mean as a compliment) is a high-church option most Catholics don't know about, from the Gothic Revival in England, a reaction against the Industrial Revolution and thus arguably part of Romanticism. The same cause started Anglo-Catholicism (also a continuation of old high churchmanship; at its best a Romantic conservatism), which met up with this revival a little later. This chantry altar reminds me of the Lady Chapel of a formative place for me, Good Shepherd, Rosemont. Finding Contrasts at a library at the same time was educational too. Pugin was Catholic, as only made sense, but you're more likely to find this style with the Anglicans such as Watts. (Confusing for people new to this.) He was unappreciated by Catholics as many traditionalists are now, and arguably still is. His way was a compromise: headed where the later Sarumophile Anglicans wanted to go but of course accommodating the Tridentine use normative in the Roman Rite in his day. As I like to say, the church isn't tied down to one culture (Pugin's idealizing the Middle Ages threatens to err from that), but Pugin had a point about Renaissance through "Enlightenment" Catholics being too attached to pagan Greece and Rome, whether baroque and rococo (which run the risk of being sexualized or just tacky) or, at the other extreme, the Georgian and Greek Revival looks (which can be cold) the rationalists such as many Anglicans liked before the neo-Gothic fad, and yes, there were Catholics like that then. (Bare churches reflected the Anglican framers' Reformed faith; medieval English churches were colorful inside.) Anyway, rest in peace, good and faithful servant.

N.B. It isn't Pugin's tomb. He is interred in the vault beneath.

15 comments:

  1. In 1970 the Roman Catholic authorities, hating tradition, hating Gothic architecture, reordered the sanctuary of Pugin's family church, removed the screen and destroyed the high altar, which was given to the Anglicans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stuff like that makes the independent sacramental movement look good in comparison. The alterna-Catholicisms exist in part because of our human failings but leaving the church to get away from liberalism is jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

      Delete
    2. You will both be glad to hear that St. Augustine, Ramsgate, is being restored. The sanctuary ought to be back as Pugin intended it by Christmas.
      The screen was only ever moved over to the Lady Chapel, but a new altar will have to be built, as the original was totally destroyed in 1970. Luckily, though, the choir stalls survived and will simply be moved back to their original position.
      The man to thank for this is the excellent Rector, Fr. Marcus Holden.

      Delete
    3. Reform of the reform, Pope Benedict's continuing influence, and English Catholicism after Vatican II wasn't as anti-high church as American; you could find high churchmanship there if you were looking for it.

      Delete
    4. So they destroyed the altar and then gave it to the Anglicans? That's awfully mean-spirited of them.

      Delete
  2. Well, there are still a lot of unwrevkovated Neo-Gothic Catholic Churches all over the place, so those nasty authorities obviously did not do their job too thoroughly everywhere. Take a stroll through the campus of Boston College sometime. Gothic Heaven.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are Catholic examples of true Gothic Revival in the United States, such as St. Vincent Ferrer Church in New York. But the liturgy of course has long been low-church Novus Ordo. That and again you're more likely to see Pugin's artistic principles taken to heart in the Episcopal Church; an example is St. Mark's, Philadelphia. A prophet without honor in his own country.

      My late-Victorian parish church isn't really Gothic; it's a very Counter-Reformation design, an exposition chapel, with some Gothic trappings. Shallow chancel with the altar actually fairly close to the people, designed so everybody can see the monstrance that's supposed to be above the tabernacle.

      Delete
  3. "so those nasty authorities obviously did not do their job too thoroughly everywhere"

    I seem to remember the then Cardinal Ratzinger once making the point in response to criticism of the inefficiency of Roman curial bureaucracy that with regards to the negative consequences of the fallout from VII that it was far preferable to make mistakes with Italian efficiency as to make them with German efficiency didn't bear thinking about!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I remember years ago, right after finishing seminary, speaking with a German-American priest (who could still speak German, which as everyone must know is now a rarity), recently ordained, who was showing me pictures of his soon to be new parish. It was a mid-western German with three dropped dead beautiful German Gothic high altars. I was very impressed, until he said, 'Yeah, we pulling all that old junk out."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And now we are putting it all back in again. ;) You do realize that that's the current trend, right?

      The '60s are over. Really.

      Delete
    2. With an institution as big as mother church's, correcting course, on disciplinary and cultural matters (as doctrine is infallible), is as slow as doing so with a supertanker at sea. I saw the conservative correction start about 25 years ago under John Paul II's watch, becoming "reform of the reform" as orthodox Catholics re-traditionalized, even high-churching themselves, which accelerated under Benedict XVI the Great. But the Sixties did tremendous harm that's still with us and mustn't be taken lightly (remember, it put the dear fellow who was my Orthodox priest for many years into a mental hospital in the '60s). The old liberals aren't going gently, which is understandable.

      American Catholicism isn't high-church (it doesn't have to be; the church has many cultures, some of which I don't like) but thanks to Benedict the Great's reform of the English Novus Ordo text it's clearly Catholic again.

      Delete
    3. Diane, perhaps, perhaps not, in my local Roman Catholic church this last Sunday (Easter), they had a bunch of kids dressed with angel-wings dance in the aisles to rap with the congregation clapping along; they then screamed for an encore, which was granted.

      Delete
    4. The parishes here aren't nearly that bad. Good thing Philadelphia is relatively more conservative.

      Delete
    5. The new priest is from the Philippines, I think the following is the type of mass he is introducing. What is surprising is that no one seems to be offended, no one:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DluJizjhZuE

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQSiYqx9Pwk

      Perhaps because I am just an old, cranky person, I tend to find this fairly offensive. It is not high church or low church, it really tends to be no church entertainment, and not in any taste whatsoever.

      Delete

Leave comment