December 16: Architecture’s Feast Day

2016/12/16 § Leave a comment


On this day every year the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church celebrates the feast day of architects Richard Upjohn and Ralph Adams Cram (and, for good measure, artist John LaFarge).

The trio’s day is sandwiched between holidays dedicated to a bishop, missionary, priest, and prophetic witnesses, showing that this kind of homage to significant lay contributions to the church is not unique, but is unusual.  The three are acknowledged in this significant way for the significant contributions to their design of worship environments.  Richard Upjohn popularized the Ecclesiological Gothic movement in antebellum America (famously at Trinity, less so at our favorite in Raleigh); more than a half-century later Ralph Adams Cram (who, like Upjohn, was a practicing member of the Episcopal church) became famous for his medieval work that he landed on the cover of Time (13 December 1926).  LaFarge did not profess a deeply spiritual life as did the others, but he’s allowed in nonetheless thanks to the impact his amazing windows have in coloring churches across the country.

Their recognition reflects well on the Episcopal church and its tradition of valuing good, emotive design as part of the worship experience, and should give hope to all those architects who work so hard on their own martyr complexes.

Image: Church of the Covenant, Cleveland, by Cram in 1911 (from this source)

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