Traditional Design, Modern Amenities
Archdiocese of the military chapel, USA
When Archbishop Broglio began the beautification process for the Archdiocese of the Military Chapel, USA he brought in the beautiful altar and the carrera marble statues that flank the altar. These pieces set the tone for the designs Canning developed in order to transform the chapel from a relativity bare interior to an elegant and scared space. The marble walls are original to the chapel, we had to develop a design that connected the walls to the ceiling in a permanent manner. Simply, the design intended to make all the parts of the chapel function harmoniously.
The ceiling was utilitarian. Churches and chapels alike should apply the highest form of construction to elevate the purpose of the building. This is not an office building, this is the House of Our Lord, therefore the design should resemble the majesty of Christ rather than the insurance office down the street. The ceiling and the lighting became an integral part of the design. The unusual floor plan lead to the development of an unusual ceiling. For an appropriate transition between the travertine marble walls to the ceiling, we created custom crown plaster moulding to line a ridged ceiling with applied BASWAphon acoustic plaster to absorb the sound in an otherwise hard surface space. We wanted the eye to immediately be drawn to the linier center of the chapel. The ceiling cross, the pews, the crucifix all lead the focus to the tabernacle in the center.
The cross in the ceiling applies the idea of classical low relief in a more modern style. Gold, the foremost of all the metals, adorns the cross in the ceiling symbolizing the Kingship of Christ and the outline in blood red represents the Crucifixion. The Holy Ghost, at the intersection of the cross beams in the ceiling, looks directly over the altar and the silver rays extending from the center represent the immense graces of the Holy Spirit. As liturgical designers it is our opinion that a Catholic church is not complete unless the Holy Spirit is a central element of the design. The Holy Spirit is intrinsic to the teaching of the Catholic Faith therefore, must be present visually if we are to begin to understand the Holy Spirit’s mystical power.
The hanging crucifix in the center was custom designed by ALBL, a sacred art woodcarving studio located in Oberammergau, Germany. The Corpus had to be as large as possible as to not be overwhelmed by the statues on either side of the altar. The Corpus is carved out of linden wood and finished with beeswax giving the sculpture a natural flesh tone to reinforce the Crucifixion. This cream color of the linden wood allows Christ to remain a central and distinct focus above the tabernacle.
The artwork above the entrance of the chapel was designed and produced by artists in our studio. The paintings of St. George and St. John 23rd honor the military virtues of bravery and mercy. St. George is pictured in his famous act of slaying the dragon and St. John 23rd, military chaplain during WW1, gives last rights to a soldier on the battlefield. The mosaic of Christ between the two saints reminds all departing the chapel that we are all called to be soldiers for Christ. This military symbolism has the strategic purpose to appeal to the frequent military visitors of the chapel.
It is important to note that the Stations of the Cross along with the the statues and the altar were purchased by Archbishop Broglio before we began the beautification plan. In order to develop a cohesive plan of the interior we designed the mosaic of Christ in the same style as the Stations. The entire purpose of our work in the chapel was to give a sense of permanence, continuity, and sacredness. We accomplished this by marrying the original interior and altar pieces with the new design to make the entire space function in proportion and harmony.