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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brooklyn Churches - Bishop Mundelein's "Sainte Chapelle" (Queen of All Saints)

There are many beautiful churches in the diocese of Brooklyn.  Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, church attendance is dropping and difficult decisions will soon be made about which churches to close.  Hopefully, the church of Queen of All Saints in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill won't be among them.

Today I joined some friends, one of whom is an architecture student at Notre Dame, for a tour of Queen of All Saints given to us by its former pastor, Father Anthony Rucando.

Queen of All Saints was originally intended to be the bishop's chapel for the diocese of Brooklyn and the cathedral was to have been built across the street.  However, World War I broke out and the grand designs for the cathedral never materialized.

But, Bishop George Mundelein, an auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn during the years 1909-1915, and future cardinal archbishop of Chicago, intended that the Catholic church make its mark on the city of Brooklyn and was determined to build a beautiful and imposing edifice.  He  modeled the church on Sainte Chapelle in Paris, and he took a personal interest in every detail, including the magnificent stained glass windows and the Charles Wirsching 1913 organ, of which only 2 survive in the United States.

Here is a picture of the original Ste. Chapelle in Paris:

Here is the Brooklyn version of Ste. Chapelle (Queen of All Saints):

While it's a little difficult to see from the picture above, the church or chapel is in the center.  The far side is the rectory and on the left is the school.  As you can see, the windows of the Brooklyn church are shorter, but still stupendous.  They are made up of thousands of individual pieces of glass.



The exterior of the church contains many niches that hold statues of the saints of the Church.  Bishop Mundelein reserved a space for St. George at the corner of the building facing the Masonic temple next door.  You may be able to see the look of disdain which St. George is shooting in the general direction of the masons below:

It was rather audacious of the masons to build their temple literally cheek by jowl to All Saints.  Bishop Mundelein refused to put statues of saints in the niches facing the masonic temple stating that the saints of the Church should not be required to face that building!


                                                           (could they build it any closer?!)

The stained glass windows were fabricated by the firm of Arnold & Locke.  Again, Bishop Mundelein, wishing to show that Catholics had nothing to be ashamed of, decided to pave the way and not imitate the local protestant churches which featured Tiffany glass.  Mundelein went to Locke instead, who was the local competition to Tiffany.  Clearly, the Locke firm knew what it was doing and the resulting windows are magnificent:


In addition to the smaller size of the windows, another difference from the original Ste. Chapelle is that there is no stained glass in the apse of the church behind the altar.


The stations of the cross are painted on pieces of bronze:


My pictures don't do the church justice.  If you're in the Brooklyn area, do visit.  It's located at 300 Vanderbilt Avenue in the Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn.

 I'll close with a few shots of the rectory interior and the sacristy.


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