Sydney seminar promotes improved church architecture and art

Sydney seminar promotes improved church architecture and art

John O'Brien

The following is a report on an Ecclesical Architecture and Art Seminar held at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, on 19 August. John O'Brien ARAIA is an architect, landscape consultant and convenor of the Association of Architects. He welcomed the gathering and introduced the speakers.

For further details of the Architects' Association, contact John O'Brien (email available from AD2000) or Fr Timothy Deeter, Director, the Liturgy Office of the Archdiocese of Sydney

Art, says Benedict XVI in his recent Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, should play a key role, especially in church architecture, which should highlight the unity of the furnishings of the sanctuary, such as the altar, the crucifix, the tabernacle, the ambo and the celebrant's chair, offering a fitting space for the celebration of the mysteries of faith, especially the Eucharist.

On Sunday 19 August, a seminar on ecclesiastical architecture and art was held in St Mary's Cathedral Hall, Sydney. The seminar was presented by the Liturgy Office of the Archdiocese of Sydney in conjunction with the Architects' Association with the aim of promoting the rich tradition of Catholic ecclesiastical architecture and art through its relationship with theology and liturgy.

There were 65 participants including priests, liturgists, architects, seminarians, students, members of religious orders and the general public.

Fr Timothy Deeter, the Director of the Liturgy Office of the Archdiocese of Sydney, spoke on art and architecture in the Church, giving particular reference to Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (revised by the Vatican in 2000 and by the Australian Bishops' Conference in May 2007) and Benedict XVI's Sacramentum Caritatis. He also distributed a short bibliography of publications pertinent to church art and architecture.

Paul Walsh ARAIA, an architect in private practice, lecturer in architecture at the University of NSW and a member of the Architects' Association, gave a presentation on sacred architecture which, he said, is primarily focused on establishing on earth a reflection of divine realities; in a word, sacred architecture is symbolic and is guided by very distinct principles.

Michael Galovic, an established iconic artist, who was born in Belgrade, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade developing a particular interest in iconic art and writing. After coming to Australia in 1990, Michael continued his role as an artist and teacher and has had numerous commissions and exhibitions of his painting throughout Australia and overseas. He displayed examples of his work and spoke on the difference between icons and religious art.

Linda Klarfeld, a sculptor who was born in Czechoslovakia, came to Australia with her family in 1980. Linda studied sculpture both in Australia and overseas and has won numerous prizes for her work. In 2000, she was commissioned by Cardinal Clancy to create the 'Gethsemane and the Way of the Cross' at the Macquarie Park Cemetery. She discussed this work as well as some of her other recent religious works.

The present writer spoke on the Architects' Association whose members have designed a number of churches and chapels in Sydney and regional areas of New South Wales. They have a particular interest in ecclesiastical architecture and the associated decorative arts.

The Association has been consulting with Cardinal George Pell and Fr Timothy Deeter about the formation of an Association of Catholic Architects, open also to other Catholic professionals involved in constructing or renovating Catholic churches and chapels. Non-Catholics will be welcome to have an associate membership of the group.

In the foyer there were displays of recent ecclesiastical projects by the association, including plans and photographs. Also on display were relevant books by Portico Bookshop and liturgical items by Granda Liturgical Arts.

The seminar was embraced with enthusiasm and interest expressed in future seminars which may include significant overseas experts in this field.

It was felt that there is a great need to educate the Catholic community in the rich cultural traditions of the Catholic faith as a means of discovering God's beauty, which is the essence of all beauty and the companion of truth.

Encouragement was offered especially to the students present as the future of the Church and ecclesiastical design. 'God's creative process is ongoing through his subjects as guided by the Holy Spirit,' they were told. They were also encouraged to pray about their work and to offer it up for the glory of God.

This writer, who was a student of the late Professor Peter Kohler of the University of NSW in the 1970s, recalled a statement made by this eminent philosopher and architect: 'Particular attention must be given not only to the physical and emotional aspects of design, but to the spiritual element'.

St Peter's Church, Surry Hills, Archdiocese of Sydney, (see front cover of this edition of AD2000) exemplifies what the Architects' Association is seeking to achieve, while standing tall in its commitment to the spiritual and pastoral needs of its parishioners, in an environment which cultivates social and cultural interactions within the Catholic and local communities.

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