Baldachin by Baldachin: Texas edition.

The other day I wrote about the restoration of the spiffy baldachin over the Archbishop’s cathedra in the Cathedral Shrine of St. Paul in Minnesota.

A priest friend, Fr. SR of TX, sent photos from his phone of a new baldachin over the altar of … well… I’ll let Father tell you himself:

The new St John Fisher church in Richmond, TX. To be dedicated this Friday. A relatively poor parish can still do this. Jackson Ryan Architects of Houston.


New church designs or restorations of older church don’t have to have weird ugly things.  Really.. they don’t!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

    Blegh to that last one. Not only is it hideous, but it’s a safety hazard as well. Could you imagine if that thing fell and someone was standing underneath?

    I’m afraid I’m not all too familiar with baldichins and what purpose they serve. I’ve only ever seen one once. It was pretty ornate.

  2. Clinton says:

    Good for the parish of St. John Fisher’s! The architects at Jackson Ryan appear to have done
    a nice job fabricating the baldichino– so often builders slap ‘classical’ details together without
    regard for the details that make that architectural language work. For example, if you look
    carefully at the columns, you’ll see that they bulge slightly about midway up, and then narrow
    as the shaft meets the capital. This is a detail that isn’t usually noticeable, but the eye ‘reads’
    it and the column appears more stable than one that has a shaft of a uniform diameter. I think
    it’s handsome work indeed.

    I have one question about the otherwise excellent canopy– does it have a ‘roof’? From the
    photos Fr. SR sent, it looks to me that the baldachino does not actually extend over the

  3. frsbr says:

    The Fire Marshall would not allow a roof on the baldachin unless the structure contained a sprinkler system, which proved to be too difficult and expensive to provide.

  4. Clinton says:

    Fr. SR, I’m glad for your parish that y’all decided to go with the ‘workaround’ you employed.
    Building codes have become extremely complex and restrictive. The baldachino at St. John
    Fisher’s does a fantastic job of drawing one’s eyes and ‘framing’ the altar, tabernacle and
    crucifix. Again, it’s very handsome work.

    APX, ‘weird’, ‘ugly’ and ‘hideous’ about covers what was done to the once-noble interior of the
    Milwaukee cathedral. An unwanted ‘gift’ to his diocese from +Weakland in his final months
    of tenure. The wreckovation cost millions.

  5. PhillipE says:

    Fr. SR, did the fire marshall give a rationale as to why that would need a sprinkler system? That makes no sense to me from a safety standpoint. I’m not criticizing their looking out for safety I just sometimes question whether these code standards are just excessive.

  6. marthawrites says:

    Your last photo reminds me of a fairly similar sculpture in the Chiesa di S. Maria del Popolo in Rome, a bronze and iron piece which looks as if Jesus has just completed a successful high jump.

  7. RichR says:

    Texas Catholics are starting to demand a better architectural “bang” for their buck. Google “St. William’s Round Rock” for some eye candy. This magnificent parish church is now where the bishop has all of the big diocesan events (ordinations, installations, etc….)….not the cathedral.

  8. ghlad says:

    Fr. SR,

    Very impressive, and what a great addition! I didn’t know what the structure was called, but “baldachin” sounds like an appropriately strong word for what is a good and stout symbol of respect for the altar.

    I used to go to St. Anne’s church near Westheimer and Richmond in Houston and they also have a very nice presentation of the altar framed under a stout baldachin. It was always a very nice way to start the mornings with Mass in that church, however for various reasons I never cured to the parish during my time at school in Houston.

    All the best for you and your flock, Fr. SR!

  9. ErnieNYC says:

    “…did the fire marshall give a rationale as to why that would need a sprinkler system?”

    “It” doesn’t need a sprinkler system, the area underneath it needs to be protected by sprinklers. The rationale is that a solid baldachin would shield the area under it (i.e., around the altar) from water sprayed from the sprinklers above in the event of fire. Unfortunate, but supported by logic.

  10. JohnW says:

    The baldachin is awesome . I know FR. SR he is a very good and holy priest. This is not his parish but he has a baldichin in his church. Father has made every church he has been assigned to a holy place that raises the mind to our Lord ,present in the Blessed Sacrament.

  11. Is that a wishbone in the Lord’s right hand in the last photo?

  12. PhillipE says:

    ErnieNYC, Thank you for explaining the sprinkler issue, that makes sense now. I would have never thought about it like that.

  13. MissOH says:

    That last picture did give me a fright. It never ceases to amaze me why someone would think that image would draw anyone closer to God.

    It still might have to take second place to a church I know that replaced its “sanctuary” with no images, movable lunch room chairs and a well hidden tabernacle room, that was textbook from “Environment and Art in Catholic Worship” with a building that looks lovely and church like on the outside. Inside, they now have pews but the sole image in the church is above the altar. When I first saw it I thought Jesus was doing the limbo or the mambo. From the side perhaps he is diving. It is awful. Given that the pastor in his homily on the new translation, included the gems that in the pre-Vatican II church ” the liturgy was the domain of the priest and the laity were innocent bystanders” (his exact words) and “WE WERE NOT PARTICIPATING WITH HIM” (his caps) and the pastor appears happy that he never said the mass in Latin as a priest.

  14. discipulus says:

    Very handsome indeed. I have to agree with APX, the last one is not only ghastly, it could also be a safety hazard if it fell on someone.

  15. Charivari Rob says:

    Regarding the last photo…

    The style may not be to some folk’s taste, and it may clash in style & scale with the space it’s in, but – it is an image of Christ crucified.

    I think that’s a point which deserves consideration, possibly outweighing artistic style.

    They could have done far worse. Imagine, if you would, “Resurrection Jesus parasailing above Charlie Brown’s kite-eating tree”. I’ve seen that, and would have few qualms about a giant spike & crown of thorns.

  16. WGS says:

    The roof of a baldachin need not be solid or impervious. The word itself is derived from a type of luxurious cloth originally from Bagdad.

  17. skvie5738 says:

    The last photo is from the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    That is so funny because I just visited this cathedral for the first time this past weekend, and when Fr. Z put up the photo, I thought, “that ugly thing looks familiar!!”

  18. Brad says:

    That last one is itself a thorn in Christ’s crown. I whimpered when I saw it. I immediately heard the Magdalen cry out that they have taken her Lord and she knows not where. They have disfigured him, turned him inhuman, smeared, abstract. Demons rejoice.

  19. irishgirl says:

    The baldachin is Texas looks wonderful!
    The ‘whatever that is’ in Milwaukee looks hideous!
    Why does ‘modern art’ have to look so ugly?

  20. samgr says:

    I’ve never seen a crucifixion (Gott sei Dank’), but I don’t think that Our Lord’s was very pretty or pain free. It might not be a bad idea to be reminded of that.

  21. campello says:

    Oh Milwaukee, it’s even worse in color. I first winced at that image when I read “No Place for God.” The page before this image in the book shows the beautiful baldachin and crucifix before the “reordering.” It should be criminal to do that to a church.

  22. jeff1989 says:

    Here’s a link to a picture of St. John’s Cathedral before the wreckovation:

    The first time I saw this, it actually made me tear up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a horrible transformation of a church before. It’s like they took everything that was beautiful about the place and turned it inside out. The cathedral is historical and formerly, was extremely beautiful. This was carried out by former Archbishop Weakland, (who needs no introduction) and was rammed through, despite the protests from both the local faithful, as well as Vatican officials. The cathedral was stripped of all statues and images, save for one: a sculpture ironically featuring Weakland himself.:

  23. Denita says:

    I wish someone would do something about a few churches here in Fort Worth, TX, especially St. Andrew’s parish. That thing is a BOX!

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