Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals – St Colmans Cathedral, Cobh
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Interesting developments took place in Lutheran circles in 19th century Germany in relation to church-building. While German Catholics were eagerly embracing the Gothic revival, most notably in the great project of completing Cologne Cathedral, Lutherans had a tradition of centrally-planned churches with concentric circular galleries arranged around the central all-important pulpit. However, through the influence of the Catholic revivalist architect August Reichensperger, Lutherans too engaged in a phase of Gothic-inspired church-building from the 1850s onwards. This was largely due to Reichensperger’s friendship with Conrad Wilhelm Hase (1818-1902), professor of architecture in Hannover. Hase sat on the commission set up in 1861 to draw up the regulations for Lutheran church-building, the Eisenach Regulativ. According to the provisions of the Regulativ, churches were to be built according to the traditional orientation to the east and there was to be a clear distinction between nave and chancel. In this way, new Lutheran churches came to be built in accordance with the older pre-Reformation tradition.
This, however, did not last long. Towards the end of the century, Lutherans again wished to distinguish themselves more radically from Catholics and they wished to express this distinction in their churches. The model for the new way of thinking was the Ringkirche in Wiesbaden, designed by Johannes Otzen, builder of several churches in northern Germany, especially in Hamburg, Kiel and Berlin. On the Wiesbaden church, art historian Prof. Michael J. Lewis has this to say: “This church was intended to serve as a model for protestant church building, and to differentiate this as much as possible from Catholic churches. The competition programme instructed architects not to treat the church as the house of God ‘in the Catholic sense’; instead it should be treated as a communal assembly-room, whose ‘unified, unpartitioned space emphasises the unity of the congregation and the universality of priestliness’. Pulpit and altar were to be given equal architectural importance while spatial unity was to replace the customary division into aisles, nave and chancel” (The Gothic Revival, p. 184).
The suppression of the distinction of specific spaces within the church, i.e., nave and chancel, is characteristic of much modern church-building, as can be seen in the work of Rudolph Schwarz and the Lutheran Otto Bartning, both of whom are acknowledged influences on Richard Hurley. Examples of the suppression of distinction of spaces in favour of flexible arrangements to promote communal or corporate worship are clear in Hurley’s reordering of St Mary’s oratory in Maynooth and in his proposals for the Augustinian church in Galway. The underlying theological understanding of the liturgy and consequently of the Church is clearly not a Catholic one, but owes much more to the kind of thinking exemplified by the Lutheran authorities in Wiesbaden when they laid down the criteria for their 1891 competition for the building of the Ringkirche.
Prof. Cathal O’Neill’s proposals for Cobh, aimed at facilitating communal worship, either consciously or unconsciously, draw on similar ideas.
Attached are some photos of the Ringkirche.