PATRICK CHARLES KEELY’S
Patrick Charles Keely (1816-1896) designed and built an estimated 700 churches and ecclesiastical buildings in the eastern and western United States and Canada from the 1840s when he emigrated from County Tipperary, Ireland, to Brooklyn, New York, until he died there in 1896. In 1884, he was awarded the Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious award for American Catholics. Yet, today, few authorities in the fields of American and European art and architecture and nineteenth-century studies even know his name. Nor is anything known of his architectural education, only that he was trained as a carpenter and builder by his father, a draughtsman and builder.
Keely arrived in the United States just as the Roman Catholic Church was experiencing unprecedented expansion. A chance meeting with a young parish priest led to designs for Keely’s first church in America—the highly acclaimed Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Brooklyn, 1848 (demolished in 1957). Designed in the Gothic Revival style, which was fast becoming the hallmark of Catholic Church design throughout the country, the Brooklyn commission spawned a succession of designs for cathedrals, churches, and institutional buildings that distinguished Keely as America’s leading Catholic architect of the 19th century.
In the symposium the past two years, we have addressed the failure of recorded history, in an effort to rediscover Patrick Charles Keely and to define his legacy. Speakers from the fields of art and history, conservation of the decorative arts, psychology, and photography shared their individual pursuits in that rediscovery. Their efforts laid the foundations for the program this year.
Keely was a devout Roman Catholic, and he attended Mass daily, which was, of course, the Traditional Latin Mass. For him, the altar, as the site of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, was the focal point of his Faith—and his churches. All of his architectural lines converge on the altar, and all of his symbolism and decoration is oriented to the altar and subordinated to the Eucharist.
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52), the famous architect and theoretician of the Gothic Revival and convert to Catholicism, whose writings had as much, perhaps even more, impact on the course of architectural history as his buildings, said, “The belief and manners of all people are embedded in the edifices they raise.” That describes Keely’s artistry as well as Pugin’s and helps us to understand why Keely was known as “The American Pugin,” which J. PHILIP McALEER, retired art and architectural historian,Technical University of Nova Scotia, clarifies.
In order for us to understand Keely’s artistry, we need to understand the primary spiritual reality that inspired it—his devotion to the Eucharistic Sacrifice on the altars he created. Father Kenneth Myers, formerly Chaplain of the Pittsburgh Latin Mass Community, examines how traditional Catholic architecture is centered on the altar where the Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. He describes the Mass as a sacrifice, both in its historical origins in Jewish Temple liturgy, and as it is expressed in the text of the Traditional Latin Mass.
Father Matthew McNeely, FSSP (The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter), explains that the object of the FSSP is the sanctification of priests through the exercise of the priesthood, and in particular, to turn the life of the priest toward that which is essentially his reason for being: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He thereby makes present, in a certain sense, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in this world in his own life and in the lives of those he serves. As a priest of the FSSP, this is accomplished through the lens of the liturgy, specifically the Traditional Latin Mass, the liturgy for which Keely designed and built his many churches and the principles of which, it seems clear, would have formed the foundation of his architectural education and inspiration.
In Keely’s attention to detail in everything in his churches from the exterior shape of the architecture to the detailed carvings of his altars, from the stories in stained glass to the symbols of the elaborate murals, he clearly identified his structures as “portals of heaven,” where American Catholics participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Author Delma Tallerico clarifies how Keely built his churches as the earthly intersection of heaven and earth.
With Vatican II came the Novus Ordo Mass and its re-orientation in which the celebrant at Mass faces the congregation. Along with new altars, came modernized symbolism and decoration. Change in sanctuaries and shrines, including those in many of Keely’s churches, ranged from modest modification to destruction of tradition.
Then, on July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued his Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, which affirmed the right of every Catholic priest in the world to offer the Traditional Latin Mass. His Apostolic Letter ushered in a renewal that has reverberated around the ecclesiastical world.
Kathleen Heck, who served as Special Assistant to the Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General for the Boston Archdiocese from 2004 to 2008, reveals how the responsible re-use of Church art and sacred objects, as well as the transfer of great altars and other sacred objects and liturgical art, brings to life those sacred objects in appropriate settings.
In a glimpse of Keely’s early years, Edward Furey, Founder and President of the Keely Society, reminds us that the prejudices Keely faced in his early years in Ireland were more profound than those challenges his churches faced in the post-Vatican II years. He shows how Keely’s architectural genius was nurtured in his homeland and brought to full flower in the 1840s to affect the Catholic Church in America.
PEDRO d’AQUINO, Acting Music Director of the Latin Mass Community in the Parish of Holy Innocents in Manhattan, analyzes the relationship between the Gothic Revival in architecture and the revival of Gregorian Chant at St. Peter’s Abbey, Solemes, France, as different yet complementary aspects of a romantic quest for the recovery of lost monuments and a lost liturgy. He looks further at the irony of the post-modern recovery of the Traditional Latin Mass and its sacred music as the epitome of the realization of Keely’s ideal for Holy Innocents: just as in the wake of the devastation of the French Revolution there came the great revival of Benedictine monasticism in Europe and of the musical patrimony of the Roman liturgical tradition, so in the aftermath of the liturgical iconoclasm of the post-Vatican II deformation of the church came the revival of the Latin Mass and its sacred music and iconography in the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
For years, The Church of the Holy Innocents in New York City has had an active liturgical, spiritual, and social outreach program that serves not only members of the parish but also the host of area commuters in the garment district and the working poor. However, following Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum, 7 July 2007, affirming the right of every Catholic priest in the world to offer the Traditional Latin Mass, that program was transformed by dedicated parishioners and priests. Holy Innocents, alone, in the entire Archdiocese of New York, offers her 2.8 million Catholics both the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, seven days a week. Art historian and Holy Innocents parishioner Donald Reynolds characterizes that liturgical and spiritual transformation and coexistence as “The Miracle on 37th Street.”
In 1958, an instruction was issued about various aspects of celebrating the liturgy called De Musica Sacra et Sacra Liturgia. It was issued by the Congregation of Sacred Rites on September 3 of that year and approved by the Venerable Pius XII. Father Leonard Villa, Administrator of The Church of the Holy Innocents, clarifies one of the matters it addresses: the laity’s participation in the Mass, both the sung Mass and the so-called dialog Mass. And because Holy Innocents is the only church in the Archdiocese of New York that has both the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo seven days a week for its 2.8 million Catholics, Father Villa also clarifies the possible cross-pollination between the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
Presented by THE MONUMENTS CONSERVANCY
Place: NEW YORK MARRIOTT EAST SIDE
525 LEXINGTON AVENUE
Date: Friday, March 20, 2015
Time: 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
R.S.V.P. (212) 764-5645, Ext 10
8:30 Registration and Coffee
9:00 Welcome and Acknowledgments. Donald M. Reynolds, Art Historian, New York City.
9:15 Patrick Charles Keely, “The American Pugin.” J. Philip Mcaleer, Art and Architectural Historian, Retired,Technical University of Nova Scotia, Bradford Nova Scotia.
10:00 The Traditional Altar and the Concept of Sacrifice.. Father Kenneth Myers, Former Pastor, The Pittsburgh Latin Mass Community, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
10:45 The Traditional Latin Mass in the Context of the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Father Matthew McNeely, FSSP (The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter), Administrator, Our Lady of Fatima Chapel, Pequannock, New Jersey.
11:30 The Post-modern Recovery of Gregorian Chant in the Traditional Latin Mass and its Roots. Pedro d’Aquino, Acting Director of the Latin Mass Community, Church of the Holy Innocents, New York City.
2:00 The Keely Architects, Ireland and America.. Edward H. Furey, Artist, Educator, Founder and President of the Keely Society, Enfield, Connecticut.
Consolation through Conservation: The Responsible Re-use of Church Art and Sacred Objects. Kathleen Heck, Special Assistant to the Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, 2004-2008, Boston, Massachusetts.
3:00 Keely Design: Sites for Sacrifice. Delma Tallerico, Independent Scholar, Author, Lecturer, Wexford, Pennsylvania.
3:45 “The Miracle on 37th Street”: Transformation and Coexistence in Keely’s Church of the Holy Innocents. Donald M. Reynolds, Art Historian and Holy Innocents Parishioner, New York City.
4:15 The Possible Cross-Pollination Between the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Father Leonard Villa, Administrator, The Church of the Holy Innocents, New York City.
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*Founded by Donald M. Reynolds in 1991, on the twentieth anniversary of the death of the renowned art historian Rudolf Wittkower, the symposium is made possible through bequests of Elaine Zlobik Skinner, Joan Zlobik Gdosky, and John Leo Zlobik.
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