Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Outrageous Ongoing Maintenance Costs of the Faux European Style Cathedral of Saint Patrick’s in NYC

Saint Patrick's Cathedral Under Repair Again

I have mentioned this here and there and in bits and pieces.

One, they are spending officially something like $180 million dollars to patch up and paint the poorly built to begin with Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  That to be quite honest, it would be cheaper to tear down the building and build a brand new one.  To build it right the second time without politics, corruption, graft and inferior materials.

But with the RC Neanderthal concept of Sacred Tradition, the old church, built piecemeal over the decades, over the past century and a half, built with cheap inferior dirty white limestone from Westchester County for the exterior and some of the interior bits that are not wood, chicken wire and stucco imitating real stone and a faux vault interior ceiling, the list goes on and on, maybe throwing good money after bad is not the best investment.  This considering that in 15 years, the next half a billion dollar repair job makes me suggest that repair at gold and diamond prices is perhaps only a scam for some sort of money laundering for some and or all of the billionaire contributors, donors, putting Saint Patrick’s through this unnecessary patching up of scabs and bits that in all honesty from the beginning has been an oversized parish church with Hollywood Stage Set hints of European Gothic style and faux European workmanship. 

And with a final cost figure around 1900 hovering at $4 million dollars, one has to wonder how many Tammany Hall kickbacks and how much job featherbedding went on to build the original Saint Patrick’s before it came to anything like a finished stage.

Cardinal Spellman put in a stained glass Rose Window and the “Famed” Spellman Bronze Doors on the Western Entrance in 1949 to finally respond to the 1879 Atlantic Monthly critique of the parish barn doors at the entrance to this pretense European style “Cathedral”.  Kind of like a metaphoric Council of Trent response to Luther's 95 suggested points for reform.

I should note that Frannie Spellman’s dressing up the entrance on Fifth Avenue, with the rose window and Bronze Doors with his Motto emblazoned on them at the back of the doors  “Follow the Money God” in Latin of course - Doors, designed by church architect Charles Maginnis, and British born sculpture John Angel, to give pizazz to the church across Fifth Avenue from the Art-Deco masterpiece of Rockefeller Center or should a dare say it – to give this Catholic mid-town parish church of the local Bishop a bit of sheer fabulous gay-ness.  The doors are stiff in human and divine postures, boring and in need of constant maintenance too. 

"Spellman" Bronze Doors - Saint Patrick's Cathedral - 1949
(Image - Library of Congress

The doors were restored recently for half a million dollars to remove half a dozen layers of paint. Hey, you don’t paint bronze btw unless it is faux bronze and faux like the rest of the structure. I think that the bronze doors on the Pantheon in Rome, an official Catholic structure, has not had to remove or paint its bronze doors for something like 1900 years. Like what’s going on here in the maintenance and or out to lunch cathedral management department? Duh!

Below some excerpts from two original Critiques of St. Patrick’s from its official opening in 1879, one from the critic Clarence Cook of the Atlantic Monthly (February 1879) and the other from The American Architect and Building News (May 1879).

"Finished" Saint Patrick's Cathedral 1879 - Without Buttresses or Spires

Of course, it was a subject of no little wonder where the money was to come from, not only to build the church itself, but to buy the land, which under ordinary circumstances would have cost no small part of the whole sum. How this latter feat was accomplished we all know now, and New Yorkers are disposed to say as little about it as possible. The city was jockeyed out of the finest site on the island by a crafty and unscrupulous priest playing upon the political hopes and fears of as base a lot of men as ever got the government of a great city into their power. 

For the consideration of one dollar the Archbishop of New York became possessor of the deed for the whole square bounded-west and east by Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, and south and north by Fiftieth Street and Fifty- First Street, a plot of ground four hundred and twenty feet on the cross streets, and two hundred feet on the avenues, situated in the heart of the most fashionable part of the city, and on one of the highest points of the whole island....

No doubt he (James Renwick Jr.) is perfectly competent for all ordinary undertakings, no doubt he could build a cathedral if he would. But Archbishop Hughes wanted a man who would accept the situation as he found it, and would build a cathedral with a constant eye to saving and sparing, so as to produce the maximum of stage effect at the minimum of cost. Stage effect was the one thing absolutely needed…

Plain Wooden Doors of Cathedral's Original Design and Budget
(Library of Congress St Patrick's Easter1908)

The principal door at the western end is perhaps in design the most discreditable part of the building. All the rest is clumsy repetition and copying of forms and arrangements found here, there, and everywhere in the crowd of Gothic monuments in Europe. But the great doorway came from nowhere, unless from some confectioner's shop. In place of the cavern-like entrances of some of the French cathedrals (Rheims is a notable example), richly molded, and with their thronging saints and angels, each on its pedestal and with its own deep, shadowing canopy, with its sculptured tympanum and its sweet-faced Virgin and child upon the central pillar, we have here a shallow embrasure, conveying no idea of thickness in the wall out of which it is hewn, with coarse and clumsy moldings and engaged pillars, and with a sort of trumpery frill of openwork stone, the beau-ideal of a cap-maker's apprentice, framing in the whole.... 

Rheims Cathedral Entrance - France

And not a sacred emblem, not an inch of sacred imagery, to be found; nothing but the ostentatious display of a cardinal's hat, and the equally ostentatious and equally out-of-place display of the American shield. How many little parish churches there are in England, built at a period when Catholic archbishops knew something about architecture, that have door-ways more noble, for all their smallness, than this cathedral can boast!...

Jesus Christ Shrine - "Bin" Niche Chapel - Side Aisle
(Lacking in Space Due to Lack of Flying Buttresses)

Little remains to be added to our indictment, except to speak of the bins which are ranged along the side of the aisles, opening by low, flat arches under the aisle-windows, and which are to be utilized as chapels. Externally they project from the sides of the building, filling up the bays between the buttresses, and give no sign from without of their existence, the roofs being hid by the solid, unpierced parapet of the wall, and no windows being necessary, as each bin is lighted by a small sky -light filled with stained-glass. The effect of this long blank wall is very bad; apart from its clumsiness, it deprives the design of the effective light and shade that should have been got from the buttresses. 

The American Architect and Building News (May 1879)