The Vandals would be impressed: Univ. of Dayton chapel

I received a link to an article at Catholic Beat about the slated renovation of the chapel at the University of Dayton.

There are before and after pictures which are striking.  The Vandals couldn’t have done a better job of destroying this chapel.

The upcoming renovation is rather strange in some of its aspects.  For example, the tabernacle will be removed from sight:

According to the flier put together by concerned students, who say they are not a formal group, the carved wooden altar will be moved toward the transept and the tabernacle will be placed behind it (accessed by a door to be cut in the center of the altar) for a “reservation chapel” with room for a handful of adorers. The walls of the apse will be moved out, requiring the demolition of the painted ceiling and the removal of the wooden pulpit, parts of which will be used to clad a baptismal font. The choir loft will be lowered, and the cast iron pillars holding it up removed, along with the church’s organ.

Have a look at the plans.

I’ll bet that the students would want a restoration rather than a wreckovation.

What the place looked like before the wholesale devastation of the 1970’s.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I swear. What these new springtime hippies have done to our churches is a complete travesty. Sorry for the rant.

  2. Athelstan says:

    The changes seem to be a mixed bag of improvements (putting pews and kneelers back in, more traditional stained glass windows) and changes for the worse (destroying the historic pulpit, the painting of Our Lady, sticking the sanctuary in the dead center of the church, and the bizarre tabernacle arrangement).

    The Immaculate Conception Chapel is the spiritual heart of our campus and deserves a thoughtful and unified renovation that respects the chapel’s history and meets contemporary liturgical requirements.” One could be forgiven for thinking that, in the main, the renovation mostly favors the latter and disregards the former. But the 70’s wreckovation already put them well down that path anyway.

    It’s saddening to see the beauty of the original church in that old photo. But I hope the student opponents can save what remains.

  3. St Donatus says:

    Remember, we are not worshiping this fairy tale God anymore, we worship each other with love and Christ like kindness. We live in ‘community’ where we love each other and understand each others sin so we can forgive all sin without repentance. Likewise we can let flow our love through actions. These loving actions like fornication and sodomy by this archaic Church, but today we recognize them as valid expressions of our new love for each other. We need to update the words of Christ so we can be more ‘inclusive’ with our ‘brothers and sisters’. We know we all go to heaven no matter how selfish, hateful, or evil we are because Jesus died for us. So we MUST remove these symbols of a old worn our religion for a new love force of higher oneness.

  4. CharlesG says:

    This is dispiriting. I thought the era of wreckovations had been coming to an end. People can experiment with churches in the round on new buildings, but churches in a traditional basilica/cruciform shape simply do not work in the round. It is appropriate in this style of a building to have the focus leading up to the sanctuary in the apse. Why is there so much hatred for reverence, transcendence and verticality? We’re not worshipping ourselves or the community, but God! At least they’ll be getting kneelers though.

  5. yatzer says:

    Very sad. I also had the impression that the wreckovation had ceased. I will pray the students succeed.

  6. Deus Vult says:

    There are a lot more things wrong with U of Dayton than an unusual chapel. On campus, there are more nonCatholic services than masses. They do a better job advertising to Muslims than to Tradition and tradition minded Catholics. They have a Muslim chapel (or whatever they’re called) that is the true spiritual center of campus.

    Not too surprisingly, I will not be applying in the fall.

  7. Todd says:

    I’d bet that even the people doing the re-design aren’t thrilled with the placement of the tabernacle. My home parish built a new church building a few years ago that incorporated a smaller chapel for adoration and morning Mass. When designing the church we were told that the building could have only one tabernacle, so if we wanted a tabernacle in the chapel it would have to basically be one big tabernacle that extended through the wall between the church and the chapel. I’m not sure if the norms were just for our diocese (which is not the same as the one in the article) or if they were universal.

    Before the new church was built we had a separate church and adoration chapel with two different tabernacles. The adoration chapel was open 24/7 so that you could adore the Lord reserved in the tabernacle even if the Eucharist was not exposed because no one could be scheduled for that time. I attribute to that a lot of grace for me personally and for the parish as a whole. It’s unfortunate that such a situation is contrary to the norms of the church.

    In any event, it sounds like the university chapel is trying to solve the same problem we had. They’re putting the tabernacle in the adoration chapel and reaching through the altar to access it from the church. Very much less than ideal.

    For what it’s worth, my current parish also added a new adoration chapel, but because of these norms decided not to put a tabernacle in the chapel. Since we haven’t yet been able to fill a 24/7 adoration schedule, if you want to adore the Lord, even reserved in the tabernacle, and the main church is closed or in use, you’re out of luck.

  8. dominic1955 says:

    Why anyone thought these 70s wreckovations looked good is beyond me. Whitewashed (I’m surprised there is no wood paneling…) walls and random geometric/modern/dada art stained glass windows are just blech.

    In that same era, all the luxury cars were as gingerbreaded out as can be-does it make any sense that the interior of my Fleetwood Brougham was fancier looking than the interior of my church?

    We have an inner city parish (near closing down) that used to look like the old picture of this chapel but then they wreckovated it in the most half-assed and cheesy way. You’d think a poor parish would save money by not doing any needless aesthetical changes to their church, especially when the results are so ugly.

  9. Wiktor says:

    “This renovation will […] allow us to celebrate Mass in accord with today’s liturgical norms.”
    This is sooo 1970.

  10. jbas says:

    As a convert to the Faith, I’m often baffled by the lack of devotion most cradle Catholics appear to have to the Roman liturgical tradition, the same tradition that previously produced such Heavenly architecture as the original chapel at this school. There’s a pervasive philosophy of liturgical asymmetry today that I suspect is born of sexual perversion.

  11. catholictrad says:

    Oh no. That old chapel would never do for evangelical charismatic “service”.

    The altar is in the way of the rock band! And who can see the awesome singers if the choir loft is so high?

    All that beauty is blocking my view of the half-dressed neighbor I’m worshipping!

    We’re gonna need a huge video screen to project the inspiring videos and lyrics in English/Spanish/Vietnamese/Tagalog/Korean/Arabic.

    Plus those awful kneelers are gonna twist our ankles when we jump up and down with our hands in the air! Any chance of of a mosh-pit instead of altar-rail?

  12. Obumbrabit says:

    For $12 million I would think that they could leave this chapel alone and build a brand new bizarre chapel next door. That way in a decade or two they could bulldoze their bizarre new chapel and go back to using the nice old one.

  13. MarkG says:

    One thing that really stands out to me in the original picture is one feature that I really love in traditional church, but seems to be really rare:
    Notice the number of steps, 7, to get to the high altar – 3 to get to the Communion rail, plus 1 which is used as a kneeler for the Communion rail, plus 3 steps to get to the high altar.
    This extra height makes the high altar highly visible, and makes it much more enjoyable to follow a TLM.
    The only suggestion would be if they reconfigured it to be 7 steps, but 1 step as a kneeler for Communion rail, then 3 steps with a large wrap around landing area, then the traditional 3 steps to get to the high altar. I think you might get some stumbles with the 3 steps at Communion time.

    Most of our local churches built before Vatican 2 only have 4 steps to get to the high altar, 1 step as a kneeler for Communion rail, then the traditional 3 steps to get to the high altar.
    In a TLM, this can make it impossible to see the priest and servers during the prayers at the foot of the altar. It makes the priest from waist down invisible unless you have an unrestricted view from your pew.

    I know of one local church that had 1 step as kneeler for Communion rail, plus 2 steps to get to a wraparound landing area, then traditional 3 steps to high altar. Not sure why they went with 2 instead of 3.

  14. Clinton says:

    According to the original Catholic Beat article, the University of Dayton hasn’t
    released renderings of the post-renovation chapel. It appears that even the
    wreckovators know what a dog their plans are.

  15. Maynardus says:

    “God save us from the experts!”

    I am not the first one to say it, but it is by now impossible for me to view this sort of liturgical desolation, from the wreckovations to the half-hearted “restorations”, to the music, the vestments, the general impoverishment of the rituals, without agreeing with those who say “It’s a whole ‘nother religion!”

  16. CharlesG said:

    This is dispiriting. I thought the era of wreckovations had been coming to an end.

    It is, but it’s going to be an end with a long tail. In parishes, you have more and more parishioners pushing back; and you have more priests moving in the opposite direction — partly because they are inheriting either wreckovated churches, or else churches that were born ugly. And you are gradually seeing a shift in the bishops. A few years ago, they adopted a document on liturgy and architecture that, while not everyone one might want, was a big step forward.

    But then you have parishes under the care of orders; in which case, the local bishop will give less oversight. What he may lawfully do is one thing; in my experience, parishes and institutions under the control of religious communities tend to get away with things diocesan institutions can’t.

    Add in the fact that many of these putatively Catholic institutions are almost entirely autonomous from the local bishop; there is very little bishop can do, other than have a public showdown and–in the end–say, “you’re not Catholic anymore.” In practice, they don’t go there. If they ever do, I imagine it won’t be over a chapel being wrecked. It’s not hard to see why.

  17. catholictrad says:

    Note also that the bishops are generally hamstrung by the bishop’s conferences. Practices they would like to prohibit or permit aren’t that simple.

  18. Widukind says:

    This is truly sad. It appears that they want to remove any last vestiges of
    anything remotely Catholic. I took some classes there a number of years back,
    and Mass then, as I might suspect now, was atrocious. They were still stuck in 1970,
    so they have a lot to do to get the Mass up to speed with the new missal! Such hippy
    traditionalists they are. Everything about the chapel, the liturgy, the clergy there
    is so dated – it is a hippy’s nirvana. Traditional Catholicism has no chance to breathe there.
    It is stifled from the get go. It is already dead on arrival, such is the control that
    is had on the faith. I lamented to a priest that I was looking for something vibrant
    and Catholic and did not find it. It was as if I assaulted the priest! The real beginning
    for UD will come about only when the Marianist community wakes up to their

  19. Robbie says:

    I, too, thought the era of wreckovation was over, but it seems they’ve gotten a second wind in some places. I really enjoyed Father Zuhlsdorf’s piece yesterday about how the younger generation of seminarians are much more interested in the tradition. It certainly gives me hope that in 15-20 years, things may change. Simply building traditional looking churches will go a long way towards improving what happens inside them.

    And I hope, as Father Fox pointed out, the new generation of parishioners and priests are pushing back and moving the opposite direction. At my parish though, the pushback hasn’t begun. The priest has the communion givers line up on the altar with him and now we even have students from the parish school and altar boys serving as communion givers during Mass. So while I may be seeing churches in the round and other wreckovation ideas, I’m glad to know in other places things are improving. Any little bit of progress towards traditiona is good for the Church.

  20. Mike says:

    I emailed the rector, Rev. James Fitz. You can find his contact info here:

  21. Sonshine135 says:

    Don’t “the Liturgical norms of today” include the Mass in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form? Why not have a church that can functionally do both? Isn’t Summorum Pontificum a Liturgical Norm?

  22. frjim4321 says:

    I’ve been there and it’s a nice space.

    Funny, I was about to say that the windows looked like they could be good, but they’re going.

    I think it’s important to remember just because something is old (“historic”) doesn’t mean it’s good.

  23. Stephen McMullen says:

    Oh brother. This sounds like a Fr. Richard Vosko job….is it? St. Meinrad was renovated many years ago and they went for one of those “adoration chapels” behind the organ. What a stupid idea.

  24. Gail F says:

    I wrote this story, thanks for linking! The architect is Brightman & Mitchell Architects (Dayton, OH) and the liturgical consultant was architect Kenneth Griesmer. As far as I know Fr. Richard Vosko had nothing to do with it , although it does sound like he has the same sort of vision for what a church should be like — which is very different from what a Catholic church traditionally was like.

  25. jeffreyquick says:

    “removed, along with the church’s organ” WTF?? (What’s That, Father?) They’re going to install a new, more splendid pipe organ, right?

  26. If I may add some good news, our cathedral is going back a bit from its last job in the 1980s. The plan is to move the tabernacle out of a side chapel and back to the center of the sanctuary, and the bishop’s cathedra, now at the center, is to be moved to the left, as he humbly acknowledges that the tabernacle is more important than he is. It doesn’t look like a full restoration, but it’s a good step in the right direction. That makes the sort of silliness in Dayton all the more discouraging; the rest of the Church is moving in the other direction. They should take the old photo and use that as the basis for a plan of restoration.

  27. frjim4321 says:

    “removed, along with the church’s organ”

    What was the quality of the organ?

    The benefit of the doubt would grant that the instrument being removed was in poor condition which is quite possible based on the age of the building.

  28. AnAmericanMother says:

    It’s a 1924 Wangerin. A company based in Milwaukee that sold most of its instruments in the upper Midwest. But there was one at St. Vibiana’s in LA. Typically a big Romantic sound.
    Quite a number of these instruments have been restored and are still in use. You can listen to a 1926 Wangerin being played here:

    But I don’t expect the vandals at Dayton to understand what they may have, or to take the necessary steps to determine the cost of a refurbishment/restoration.
    The new plans of course call for a large grand piano right down front, where the musicians can bask in the adulation of the crowd instead of singing for the glory of God. So there was obviously no consideration given to restoration of the organ.

    “The organ has always been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up all the sounds of creation – as was just said – and gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation. By transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, it evokes the divine. The organ’s great range of timbre, from piano through to a thundering fortissimo, makes it an instrument superior to all others. It is capable of echoing and expressing all the experiences of human life. The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.”
    – Our Holy Father Emeritus Benedict XVI, on the dedication of the new organ at Regensburg Alte Kapelle.

  29. frjim4321 says:

    Thanks for the clip.

    The recording seemed very dry to me … interesting … great little prelude.

    I wonder if they ever got a cost on a renovation?

  30. UncleBlobb says:

    Once again, I’m self-editing, Father.

  31. maxthedog123 says:

    Some perspective – I graduated from the University of Dayton about 25 years ago. When I was there, they had the same plastic chairs, but the altar was at the side. In other words, the chairs were around a table that was at the side of the church rather than facing the nave. It was horrid. The current placement and design is a drastic improvement over when I attended. I couldn’t find a picture online anywhere.

    Pray for all involved. The University will not implement Ex Corde Ecclesliae. When Dr. Curran was named President, I sent him an email and said the reason I don’t contribute is due to completely ignoring Ex Corde. He responded politely – with the usual reasons for not doing it – but was stand up enough to respond to my email. They don’t have quite the same level/number of heretics that Xavier has, but that is small consolation.

    I took a class there as a junior with a very old Dutch priest who had nothing but disdain for the Catholic Church. Among his hot buttons was a near daily diatribe about “single issue politicians” like Henry Hyde who focused on nothing but abortion. Another great comment I remember was “If heaven is sitting on a cloud playing a harp for all of eternity that sounds pretty boring. Count me out.” As a 19-20 year old in a formative part of life, his rantings were pretty damaging to my faith. Yes, I made my own decisions, but it was certainly a contributing factor in moving away from my faith in my 20’s. Another well known priest there has taught a marriage class for something like 40 years. Estimates are that something like 40% of the graduates of UD have taken his class – thousands of kids. Needless to say, he didn’t exactly toe the line on on Catholic sexual teaching. For 20 year olds trying to find their way in the world – again – very damaging to the faith of young adults.

    In any event, the renovation is not all that surprising. I feel for my Dad who spent so much sweat to sent 3 boys to UD because he wanted us to go “someplace where the name of God came up in conversation”. His Name certainly did, but not in the way he imagined. Pray for remnants (who are there) at our US Catholic universities that they may be salt and light in that type of environment.

  32. Nan says:

    @Fr Jim

    We just had our pipe organs restored in St. Paul. It took a long time but they’re beautiful and as part of the restoration they had the casing put in. I believe it was Masqueray’s design.

  33. Gratias says:

    Last December I visited the recent wreckovations at two beautiful medieval Paris Churches, St Germain Abbey and Église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. The main altar was removed from the apse and is now an imitation of a teabox located at the intersection of the two naves, with circular sitting for the few Faithful. These two churches were architectural jewels. Saint-Étienne contains the tombs of St. Geneviève patroness of Paris and of Blaise Pascal, mathematician and theologian. It is enough to make a grown man cry. Curiously, this destruction was funded by monies from the République Française.

    We have to preserve every single old (100 year +) Church still in service so that in future Catholics will remember how it once was.

  34. frjim4321 says:

    Nan, that looks great. Nice new Bombarde.

    It would take considerable work for me to get my chops back but when I see an instrument like this it really brings back great memories.

    My favorite experience was playing a little prelude and fugue on the wonderful Moeller at the national shrine in DC. It was a long time ago and I would not be able to do it today.

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