Architecture & Art
About the Architecture
Louis Tofari of Romanitas Press
Overall Concept of Interior Design
The interior design of St. Peregrine Church has been conceived in the style of the 4th Century Constantinian basilicas, such as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and Santa Sabina in Rome.
Certain existing features of the predetermined church structure indicated that this simple—yet adaptable—style would be best-suited, as seen in the rounded clerestory and choir windows, the triumphal arch, and semicircular apse.
Another determining factor of interior design was the inability to organically integrate columns—or arcades—within the structure. Here too, another basilica built by Constantine—the Aula Palatina in Trier, Germany—served as an inspiration.
In presenting a modern interpretation of the ancient Constantinian basilica style—visually enforced by an absence of circular columns—curves were generally replaced with bevels—or angled corners—on the various interior architectural components.
Another crucial design feature was to ensure that the primary focus was on the high altar.
The raison d’être of a Catholic church is the altar—which mystically is Christ. The altar is of a simple and early design and features an engraving with Greek inscriptions and cross referring to Christ’s victory. The altar was made from Berea sandstone—native to Ohio—with a Birmingham buff finish, and is situated in a freestanding position like ancient Catholic altars, so that it may be incensed completely around. Upon consecration, it will be veiled with antependia stitched by Mary Ackerly from The Hem of His Garment.
Surmounting the altar is a civory—or altar canopy, an ancient structure that signifies the royal dignity of Jesus Christ, both mystically as altar, as well as corporally reserved within the tabernacle. The civory design, engineered by Karl Freund Custom Furnishings and constructed by Swiss Woodcraft, is a mixture of ancient and modern styles and made from two species of wood native to Ohio, black walnut and red maple.
Suspended from the civory is the altar cross—or crucifix—the most important image in the church. (A section below has been dedicated to this significant feature.)
To complement the altar, the pulpit was also constructed from Berea sandstone and designed in a simple manner. It has been arranged so that it may double as an ambo for chanting the Gospel during a Solemn Mass. In addition to beveled panels, it also features an engraved Chi Rho, the symbol of victory that Christ showed to Constantine.
In addition to stone, wood, and bronze, another material repeatedly seen employed within St. Peregrine Church is wrought iron, forged locally by John Glas of Glas Ornamental Metals. This is especially evident on the Communion rail, whose grating imitates an ancient Roman style. The sandstone top—or ledge—corresponds to the altar, as this is an extension of the mensa.
A key interior architectural feature was the addition of an open truss ceiling as originally done in Constantinian basilicas. The darkly stained wood components give further depth to the interior height of the church while adding a sense of mystery to a sacred place.
Altar Cross: Some Details
St. Peregrine Church’s altar crucifix, brought to life by Joseph Maki of Brokkr Wood and Metal Working, is completely unique. Particular attention was given to its design as this is the primary and most important image in the church.
An initial challenge for this project was the general absence of an altar cross in Constantinian times. Furthermore, the first types were of the crux gemmata style, which lacked a corpus of Our Savior. Only much later were actual crucifixes used and prescribed for the altar.
The vision therefore was to create a new and original crucifix that corresponded to the earliest extant examples, while adapting it to modern tastes, and necessarily fulfilling the liturgical requirements.
After much research, a design of a corpus of Christ clothed in kingly and priestly garments, with a crown-shape of thorns, and head based upon the Holy Shroud of Turin was cast in bronze utilizing modern 3D printing to produce the molds, and the investment casting process.
The wooden cross was made from walnut and inlaid with polished brass and a nimbus affixed to it. The wood was darkly stained to correspond with the altar civory. Suspending the crucifix from the civory are two sets of hangers made from wrought iron, imitating the ancient practice of situating the cross over the altar.
Many more details will be enumerated in subsequent video interviews, to be posted on stperegrines.com.
Future Interior Details
As in the life of churches throughout the ages, the final interior details of St. Peregrine Church will be unfinished on its day of blessing. In the meantime, we patiently await the day when the following items will be brought to fruition, thereby completing the vision of the church’s interior design.
Original sanctuary and altar appointments are being designed to correspond with the altar crucifix and civory, and made of cast bronze and wrought iron pieces. Included among the items will be the sanctuary lamp, candlesticks, altar cards, Paschal candle stand, acolytes’ processional candles and more.
Situated under the projecting choir loft on the Gospel side is the baptistery, the location of the font of everlasting life and the second most important focus of a church after the high altar. A stone font will occupy this space which will be surrounded with a wrought iron railing.
Shrine of St. Peregrine
An important highlight of the church will be the public display of a first-class relic of the titular saint, patron of cancer patients. This will be encased in the wall behind a wrought iron grille which will be situated above a stone side altar. This devotional area will also have a surrounding wrought iron railing.
Stations of the Cross
The stations will be placed along the nave walls and consist of bronze plaques encased within a frame of Berea sandstone, affixed with a darkly stained walnut cross (the actual station) and Roman numeral. The purposeful use of bronze and wood visually connects the stations with the high altar and crucifix.
A prominent devotion of the Servite Order of which St. Peregrine was a member, was the Seven Dolors of Our Lady. To encourage this similar devotion, a carved wooden plaque—or bas-relief—of Mater Dolorosa will be created and installed on the Epistle-side wall before the sanctuary. It will be inserted within a sandstone frame to correspond with the Gospel-side pulpit.
Life of St. Peregrine Wall Murals in Nave
An interior design element of the nave walls that lent itself to the Constantinian basilica style was the presence of blank space below the clerestory windows. In ancient times, these areas would have been occupied with mosaics or painted murals. It is hoped that the murals depicting the life of St. Peregrine can likewise be executed on our nave walls.
A common sight on the walls of public Roman buildings was the employment of revetments—plaques of precious marbles—or painted murals. A famous example is of the narthex—or vestibule—in the magnificent church of Hagia Sophia at Istanbul. In the case of St. Peregrine Church, it is planned to execute simulated revetments, again following an ancient Roman practice.