Friday, December 18, 2009

Cleveland's Saint Adalbert needs to continue


view from East 83rd
lion rampant (forelegs raised, on one foot, tongue out) tail moving (in winter)
The exterior of Saint Adalbert, Cleveland is patterned after the neo-classical cathedral in Salzburg. The original czech (bohemian) congregation moved into their second home in 1911. The top of the central facade has a circular window of the bohemian heraldic lion. What, appears to be a double tail, is a twitching tail. From the inside the lion stands on a ruby red glass background, that can not be appreciated from the outside; one must remember stained glass was created to be seen with the incoming sunshine.

window under choir loft stairs
corner detail from Nativity window

The windows are of highest painterly southern german style and craftsmanship, some with czech titles and a Chicago maker's mark of Mayer Studio. Several of the window's are from episodes of Jesus' life, the evangelists, fathers of the church, a prophet, a virgin martyr and mystical depictions of the Eucharist. Windows that are not visible from the main floor (nave and sanctuary) are of high decorative quality.

central dome
heraldic shield of the Apostle Simeon (Simon the Zealot)

Under a dome in the center of the church is an acoustical node, a sweet spot, where one's voice is magnified and echoes. On the inside circumference there is the shields of twelve apostles (Paul and Matthias included, Thomas absent as he was at Pentecost). Outside are portraits of the evangelists, whom are well represented in the church.

There is fine statuary and carving. There is a high altar with Crucifixion, SS. Martin de Porres, and Caspar del Bufalo (founder of the Sanguinists [Missionaries of the Precious Blood], who serve the parish and are not diocesan priests), and Moses with the tablets of commandments, and cherubs. Beneath the altar is the Scene of the Last Supper and First Celebration of the Eucharist. There are adjacent altars of Mary and Joseph of the same quality.

And as in so many churches, there are statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the near universal representations of The Little Flower, Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux, and an Anthony of Padua grouping, in which, the Baby Jesus gives bread to Anthony, whom gives bread to a beggar. The bread is a metaphor for the Eucharist and a representation of charity. There is a history of giving bread in the remembrance of Anthony.

The church is a beautiful, balanced unity. To dismember and sell off the parts would do great disservice. The church is meant to be an intact whole. The walls, the art, the structural details, decoration and presentation work well together. But the bishop, Richard Lennon wishes to suppress and dismember. There is virtually zero probability of a future liturgical community, that has a respect of this sacred space, to occupy it.

Saint Adalbert is on the edge of the Fairfax neighborhood near the other hub of Cleveland's density of day workers and financial concentration, University Circle. A number of St. Adalbert's members work in the University Circle's medical and educational institutions. It could represent catholicism to both communities.

Saint Adalbert's, of to-day, is a product of the merger of the bohemian parish and that of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in 1961. Blessed Sacrament was the first black parish in the city. That historical legacy should be enough to save Saint Adalbert.

African-american parishes are not numerous in this diocese or country. To extinguish one with so much gravitas and integrity is horrendous. It would continue a dismemberment of the community. This church is a continuing catholic landmark in an area of the county that has too little catholic presence, and needs more. St. Catherine, St. Henry, Epiphany are recently gone. St. Cecilia's parish is also slated for extinction.

There are several extremely devoted parishioners who love not only their faith in the universal church, but this particular church. This church is not lacking. It is "vibrant", that is the Madison Avenue branding term, that, is used chameleon like for whatever purpose it is wanted for by the chancery and its representatives. The bishop will be separating members of the flock not only from their parish, but some will leave the 'one true church', 'the church militant', and 'the church universal'.

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