Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Friday, January 10, 2014

Churches in Passing

St. Martin-in-the-Fields (1721-26)

I'll admit to a certain lack of connection (architecturally) with many of the impressive Canadian churches I have passed by in my day. The exception would be those soaring revivals of the Gothic, the slightly menacing Romanesque, or the humble frame meeting house. Churches of the classical persuasion have seldom spoken to me - and that, of course, is because they understood full well that I had no command of the languages (architecturally) they used.

Having spent the Christmas holidays working through Palladian Style in Canadian Architecture by Nathalie Clerk (National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, 1984) an academic but ultimately very accessible (thanks to dozens of black and white photos), I now have a way to access the wonderful uplifting church architecture of a classical persuasion - both the academic versions and the humbler vernacular structures in small towns everywhere.

harmony and symmetry above the fray
 So as a sort of mea culpa, I offer these three not-so-good church photos. The buildings drew me, but I did not respond as I wholeheartedly do with domestic architecture, or other 'styles', seeking the right angle, looking for shadows, for lovely detail to capture.

In my defense, the photos of St. Martin-in-the- Fields were taken back in 1987, when I was flirting but not totally in love with architecture with a past. And truthfully, a bit overwhelmed by Trafalgar Square, determinedly on my way to the National Gallery to stand in the presence of van Gogh's Sunflowers.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields was designed by James Gibbs and built in 1721-26. With its revolutionary telescoping steeple, and its Greek temple inspired portico, it became the prototype for Anglican churches everywhere, especially in the colonies, thanks to plan books being widely circulated.

Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral (1800-04)
The church demanding attention from behind its screen of trees in the centre of the old town of Quebec is Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral. By way of apology, the shot was taken from a caleche as we trotted past, and the distractions of the day prevented a return look.

This church is the first Anglican cathedral built outside the British Isles, composition and proportions inspired by the Palladian, the actual execution impacted by local conditions: materials, skills, weather. This trio of factors is frequently mentioned when historians comment on the new world's attempts to emulate British and European models. (living through this winter, the point is well-taken).

yes, now that you point it out, a fine church indeed

There's a nice link between these two churches, two of the very few examples of classically (or more correctly, Palladian) inspired structures in my photo collection - the spirit must have been moving even then. St. Martin in the Fields is cited as the model for Holy Trinity - it was designed by military officers who used the very dimensions of St. Martin in their design.

No comments:

Post a Comment