New Cathedral in Saskatoon – solar cells embedded in stained-glass

The Montreal Gazette has an intriguing piece. Not sure about the design of the cathedral, but the technology of the windows is intriguing.

Let there be light: new Saskatoon cathedral will draw solar power from stained glass

By Jeremy Warren, Postmedia News February 14, 2011

SASKATOON — A different kind of trinity is emerging at Saskatoon’s newest cathedral, where the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is combining art, technology and faith in a stunning and environmentally-friendly project.

The Holy Family Catholic Church, a $28.5-million cathedral under construction in Saskatoon’s northeast, has solar cells embedded in the large stained glass windows that will be installed this spring.

The cathedral could be the first church in North America to use photovoltaic cells in a stained glass installation, said cathedral building committee chair Jim Nakoneshny. The University of British Columbia used the combination in a library.

“It’s an art installation, but being able to incorporate energy-collecting methods is a way to show sustainability can be done without it being an ugly feature on the building,” he said.

Toronto-based artist Sarah Hall used 54 panels to create three large sections — the largest of which is 13.3 metres tall 3.2 metres wide — representing the Prairie sky. [Ummm…. and religious symbols?  In the photo, above, it looks as if there may be some small icon-like symbols.]

Sections of bright red, orange and blue swirl around bursts of white light on the stained-glass panels, which will be installed high on the south side of the cathedral.

Hall, who is known for her stained glass work at religious institutions around the world, had the panels fabricated at a studio in Germany. Once made, about 1,000 solar cells were embedded in the panels.

The marriage of art and faith in Roman Catholic architecture is common, Nakoneshny said.  [I like the idea of the technology being built into the windows.  Very cool.  How about religious symbols for the cathedral church of the diocese?]

“The artistic element is always something we look for in a project,” he said.

“If you look back in the history of the church, there’s a long-standing tradition of trying to bring beauty to the form of a building. It ensures that what we’re creating celebrates the glory of God’s creation.”  [Creation?  What about salvation?]

Nakoneshny said the project is on budget and on time. He expects the cathedral to open its doors in November.

The Saskatoon cathedral’s use of solar energy isn’t new to the Catholic Church. In 2008, the Catholic Church replaced roof tiles on a Vatican auditorium with 2,700 solar panels.

The glass and solar cells — from conception to installation — will cost the Saskatoon diocese about $675,000, but the money for the project came from special donations and not the cathedral’s construction budget, Nakoneshny.

The diocese hasn’t calculated how much money might be saved by using solar energy in the cathedral. The panels will collect annually enough energy to power five homes for a year — enough to help offset electrical costs at the new cathedral, said project manager Michael Lux.

jjwarren@thestarphoenix.com

Another photo from Global Saskatoon.

Diocese of SaskatoonNew cathedral.

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38 Responses to New Cathedral in Saskatoon – solar cells embedded in stained-glass

  1. disco says:

    Cool as those solar panels may be they’ll be gracing the windows of an unbelievably ugly building. Why can’t people build cruciform churches in traditional styles? The people who prefer the modern look won’t show up week to week anyway.

  2. That top photo cannot possibly be from the new cathedral. Maybe the old temporary one? The new cathedral is of the “spaceship church” style with the usual amorphous swirly colored art glass rather than iconographic stories of stained-glass. The cathedral’s website is here: http://saskatoonrcdiocese.com/cathedral/ All the stained glass + solar panel pieces are that swirly stuff representing the prairie skies.

  3. I don’t think the picture at the top of the article is a picture from the Saskatoon cathedral, Fr. Z.

  4. DavidJ says:

    The exterior of that building does nothing to convey that it is a Catholic Church. How disappointing.

  5. Frank H says:

    It looks like every other crummy suburban Catholic Church built in the US in the 70s and 80s. With even crummier stained glass.

  6. disco says:

    I’d rather they had built a quonset hut with a mud floor

    [Reminds me of a comment by Martin Mosebach in his book.]

  7. Sorbonnetoga says:

    The decorations on the stained glass shown above are all ships’ badges of the British (Royal Naval) model; the same style is used by the Canadians and Australians. I’m not sure what they have to do with the new Cathedral in Saskatoon, though

  8. Sorbonnetoga says:

    The decorations on the stained glass shown above are all ships’ badges of the British (Royal Naval) model; the same style is used by the Canadians and Australians. I’m not sure what they have to do with the new Cathedral in Saskatoon, though.

  9. APX says:

    Father Z:
    [Ummm…. and religious symbols? In the photo, above, it looks as if there may be some small icon-like symbols.]

    That picture is not from the cathedral being built. What’s being built doesn’t look anything like that. Here’s a picture of the glass design the story is referring to. http://www.sarahhallstudio.com/images/holy_family_thumb.jpg

    LeeAnn Balbirona says:
    That top photo cannot possibly be from the new cathedral. Maybe the old temporary one?

    No, it’s not from the old one either. It almost looks like a window from the Ukrainian Catholic Church that’s across the street from what used to be called Holy Family School (Now it’s some Ukrainian name.) that’s built near the old parish.

    This is my home parish. When I heard they were building a new cathedral practically in my backyard I was so excited…until I saw the design. I asked why they weren’t building something that actually looked like a cathedral and I was told they don’t have the skill to build them like they used to.

    I’m not what they mean by construction being on budget. They said we’ll be in there for Christmas, but they haven’t even raised enough money to complete it.

  10. Peggy R says:

    A practical Q: Are there enough sustained sunlit days up there to produce any decent amount of energy?

  11. MichaelD says:

    The interior design of this new cathedral could be an illustration for Matthew Alderman’s excellent article: “When Drab is a Favorite Color”.

    http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2011/02/when-drab-is-favorite-color.html

  12. Andrew says:

    … said project manager Michael Lux.

    His fenestris admittetur lux, dicit Miachael Lux.

  13. Joan M says:

    I can only Thank God that our Archbishop put it to the people of the archdiocese if we should abandon our present (old and somewhat dilapidated) Cathedral and build a new one some miles away, or renew, refurbish, renovate (not wreckovate) the existing one.

    The overwhelming vote was – work on the current one. No new Cathedral!

    Who knows what sort of a design we would have got for a new Cathedral!!! Some of our newer churches are hideous!

  14. Saskatoon was my diocese for the 6 years I was in University. I was there while they were fund raising/discussing building the Cathedral.

    The current Cathedral is a proper style church downtown- it’s wonderful, but too small to host any diocesan events- its maximum capacity is maybe 500 and many of the parishes in Saskatoon are young, vibrant and growing. The whole time I was there, all diocesan events were celebrated at St. Patrick’s Parish in Saskatoon because its the biggest (and another modern monstrosity).

    The new Cathedral is built right next to a Catholic High School and was only a couple minutes walk from where I used to live. The North East part of Saskatoon is growing, and the current church for the NE, Holy Family, is too small for all the families attending it. If you attend mass there, go early if you want to sit in the Church, otherwise you will be sitting in the hall (where they’ve removed the partition) for mass.

    The Bishop decided that since the NE was going to be building a new church, and we needed a bigger Cathedral, to combine the two into one.

    I’m delighted that the diocese is growing, but when the plans were revealed, I was horrified- the architecture is awful and will never make me think its a Catholic Church. I was back in Saskatoon a few months ago and saw the new building- its terrible. Just across the street there is a (evangelical?) Protestant Church, and if I didn’t know which one was Catholic, the building wouldn’t tell me at all.

  15. Peggy R-

    Saskatoon gets lots of sunny days- even in the winter, the sun shines all the time. I think Saskatoon has one of the most hours of daylight in Canada. It surprises you because on a cold winter day, the sun is shining so you think it should be warm and its -30 C!

  16. A. J. D. S. says:

    MichaelD: that article is by Anthony Esolen.

  17. frjim4321 says:

    I must admit the artwork for the new cathedral does not do much for me. Not that there are no beautiful and stunning examples of Catholic cathedrals built in the contemporary style. Liverpool and San Francisco would be two examples.

    Sadly the finest contemporary Catholic churches here are plagued by construction problems. (Leaky roofs, etc.) Not until Wright’s Falling Water: stunning design, but a practical monstrosity.

    Personally I like designs like this:

    http://www.stfrancisxaviermckean.org/index.html

    that are neither trad nor overtly contemporary. They really don’t offend anyone and are very beautiful and conducive to prayer and worship. The windows are pretty nice, too.

  18. frjim4321 says:

    until = unlike

  19. APX says:

    A practical Q: Are there enough sustained sunlit days up there to produce any decent amount of energy?

    Yes, Saskatoon is one of the sunniest cities in Canada.

    I can only Thank God that our Archbishop put it to the people of the archdiocese if we should abandon our present (old and somewhat dilapidated) Cathedral and build a new one some miles away, or renew, refurbish, renovate (not wreckovate) the existing one.

    The overwhelming vote was – work on the current one. No new Cathedral!

    This idea came up, but it was determined the old Cathedral was too small to accommodate the dioceses needs and there wasn’t enough land space to expand it.

    The sad thing is that the high school had to give up it’s football field so the cathedral could be built on the land.

  20. Brad says:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_W7Qfxn8Y454/SFfu8NEBsdI/AAAAAAAAAlQ/lmrAYIBZUDw/s400/ARTIST%27S.jpg

    I don’t understand the furore — I think this is very nice for an in and out burger in tomorrowland!

    Wait, what is this thread about?

  21. Brad: I thought this was about the solar cells in the windows. I thought that was nifty. Was I wrong?

  22. Childermass says:

    Too expensive? Please!

    This

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_K9GiH29vw7Q/Sb0_ERMlWeI/AAAAAAAAFiU/IreaLuPZcec/s1600-h/sta.jpg

    was built recently for $5 million less than Our Lady of the Millennium Falcon in Saskatoon.

  23. APX says:

    Fr. John Zuhlsdorf says:
    Brad: I thought this was about the solar cells in the windows. I thought that was nifty. Was I wrong?

    It’s a nifty idea, and out of all I’ve heard about the construction of this cathedral, this is the first I’ve heard about them.

    It’s just that this cathedral is too modern. Even you raised questions of religious symbols. I’ve seen the artistic pictures of the interior of it too, and there are no religious symbols other than the cross atop the altar. It’s too modern.

    I’ve attended the Saturday vigil Mass in St. Paul’s Cathedral in St. Paul, MN on my way home from Hamilton once, and while I was in Hamilton, ON I attended Mass in the Cathedral there. For the first times in my life I felt what a church is supposed to feel like. Then when I got home, I saw the construction of that modern cathedral, which only made me sad because I want to walk into a church and have it feel like a church. Not a convention centre, which this also is.

  24. MichaelD says:

    @A.J.D.S. : Sorry for the error. Thank you for pointing it out.

  25. Random Friar says:

    Putting aside the artistic merit of the stained glass, imagine some wonderful and beautiful stained glass with said technology. Many people do not realize how expensive upkeep is for stained glass. People ask why the pastor is always talking about money, well, it’s because maintenance and utilities are astronomical. Imagine trying to heat/cool your house if it were built like a Gothic cathedral!

    So why not take the money from the power company and give it to the best artisans in glass? If it can also tastefully cover the roofing, I’d say cover the whole plant!

  26. Maria says:

    Wow! This is beautiful, impressive, long term economical and sensible.
    It also seems very spiritual using resources this way as it is good stewardship.

  27. samgr says:

    I hate to remind everyone of something Sister Philomena tought us in fifth grade, but when pointed arches were introduced some 900 years ago, detractors called the resulting churches “gothic,” because they were so barbaric-looking.

  28. pkinsale says:

    I recall seeing the floorplans top this a while ago and wondering why priests needed double beds in their living quarters. Too much luxury.

  29. Mrs. Bear says:

    I like the idea but the website for this cathedral doesn`t show the stained glass that this article shows.
    http://www.saskatoonrcdiocese.com/cathedral/features_of_cathedral.cfm

    Not impressed with much else in this cathedral.
    I think Bishop Bonan has only been there for a year or two so he has fallen into this church.
    This cathedral is being built in the richer area of town. I hope that the original cathedral of 1910ish will be restored and not destoyed.
    It has one itsy bitsy `confession chapel` outside of the main part of the `worship space`.
    You can zoom in on the blue print `to get a better idea of what they have planned.

    The New Liturgical Movement blog mentioned this cathedral a few years ago.

  30. Will Elliott says:

    @pkinsale: “I recall seeing the floorplans top this a while ago and wondering why priests needed double beds in their living quarters. Too much luxury.”

    A double bed is too much luxury? Give me a break. A double/full-size bed isn’t that much wider than a twin when compared to a Queen or King-sized. I’m single and sleep in a double bed because it gives me room to toss and turn at night. But that’s beside’s the point: the real problems with the bedroom planning is the bishop’s living quarters are on the second-floor Chancery, not in the first-floor Rectory section. Interesting to see that the plans give the cathedral’s pastor and assistant pastor larger bedrooms and twice the closet space than the bishop. Also, while the rectory/cathedral parish office level keeps the priests’ living quarters separate from the parish offices, the bishop’s bedroom and bathroom are directly connected to his office. Not a good design plan these days.

    Others have previously critiqued the design for the cathedral church itself, but I’ll add my two cents. The placement and accessibility of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and Reconciliation Chapel in relation to both the Weekday Chapel and the Cathedral nave. Access from the nave (such as it is) is hidden behind the choir and their is no direct access from the Weekday Chapel. Will the main sanctuary and the Weekday Chapel have tabernacles of their own? Also why are the two chapels the complete opposite side of the building from the Sacristy? And how conducive is it to adoration to have the only access to the Reconciliation Chapel be through the Blessed Sacrament Chapel? Just how many confessions at a time can be heard at the Cathedral? It looks like their are provisions for only one at a time and its face to face in big comfy armchairs.

  31. APX says:

    Mrs. Bear says:

    I hope that the original cathedral of 1910ish will be restored and not destoyed.

    Oh, they’re not destroying it. It’s still going to remain a parish to serve the downtown area. I don’t know if they’re going to restore it per se, but they did repaint it the last time I was there in the summer. That has to be a good sign.

    It has one itsy bitsy `confession chapel` outside of the main part of the `worship space`.

    I don’t even know what a “confession chapel” is. I suppose it’s similar to a”reconciliation room.”

    This is what irks me the most about it.

    “Modern and user friendly, part of its surroundings, reflecting prairie roots and western heritage.”

    When I go to church, I want to reflect on church and avoiding going to Hell, not my “prairie roots and western heritage.” If I want to do that,I’ll go to one of the museums or heriatage centres. Not everything in Saskatoon has to be about wheat and fescue.

    I will say one thing. I’m kinda impressed my home parish made it onto Father Z’s blog. Saskatoon is moving up in the world.

  32. I’m curious about the maintenance costs of solar-cell stained glass. Solar cells fail, and replacing them as a part of a stained glass window is certainly going to be more expensive than roofing tiles (as were used at the Vatican).

    It’s a very cool idea, but I would like to see it done with more Catholic symbolism.

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    There’s a “gee whiz” factor in embedding solar cells in stained glass, but that’s all it is, just fluff and not very serious. We looked into solar power when we built our house.

    Solar panels work fine for low current low voltage applications. The technology has been improving, but it is still a very expensive power source and you need batteries to store the power. And you lose a tremendous amount of power converting/inverting to AC (around 50%). And you need not only bright sunshine, but also a decent latitude – the higher the latitude, the lower the sun in the winter. A few cells embedded in stained glass are just not going to generate much power. There’s a reason the diocese didn’t calculate the money saved – they were afraid of what they would find, and they didn’t want to lie. They would have to cover the whole cathedral roof with banks of solar cells, and even then it would be a net loss without a hefty government subsidy. Plus there’s the fun of keeping the snow off the cell banks in winter . . . and the extra weight load on the roof.

    Economically it’s worthless. They’re just trying to show solidarity with the lunatic enviro-fringe.

  34. Centristian says:

    Fr. Z saith: “I like the idea of the technology being built into the windows. Very cool.”

    Yes, unless the disappointing architecture is a partial result of the technology. [It wouldn’t have to be.]

    I hate churches that look like this because they are, in fact marvelous buildings…buildings that should exist for a purpose wholly other than Christian worship. This cathedral is not an ugly building, at all; it’s a beautiful building, in fact. But it’s an ugly Cathedral because it doesn’t make sense as a cathedral. Cathedrals are meant to be the house of God and the seat of the bishop, and this building looks like neither. It’s all about context.

    If the readers of this blog were told that this were the new Saskatoon Centre For the Performing Arts, I’m sure the comments would have been quite different. They all would have been relevant to the solar energy panels in the windows. Nobody would be commenting on the architecture, at all, because nothing about it would seem out of place. It is a lovely building.

    But it’s not a cathedral.

  35. AnAmericanMother says:

    Love the way environmental symbolism is favored over religious symbolism . . . in a cathedral. That doesn’t look like a cathedral. How embarassing.

  36. Jayna says:

    Looks just about as formless as the stained glass at the cathedral here in Chicago. Just because it’s using modern technology doesn’t mean it has to look like the Guggenheim.

  37. lethargic says:

    @pkinsale: “I recall seeing the floorplans top this a while ago and wondering why priests needed double beds in their living quarters. Too much luxury.”

    Maybe it’s because the guys come taller and wider than they used to? My 15yo boy is still in a twin bed, but just barely. Futons on the floor might appear more abstemious, but I say let the guys have a comfortable sleep; they suffer enough during the day.