Catholic Medieval Architecture Converts Protestant Artist

Catholic_medieval_architecture_converts_protestantAugustus Welby Pugin was the son of a French noble and architect who went to England during the French Revolution of 1789.

Born in London on March 1, 1812, his mother reared him in strict Calvinist fashion. In 1834, at the age of 19, Augustus discovered medieval art and became a Catholic. He wrote:

“I was perfectly convinced that the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church was the only true church. I learnt the truths of the Catholic religion in the crypts of the old churches and cathedrals of Europe.

“I searched for these truths in the modern church of England and realized that once it had separated itself from Catholic unity, it had little truth and no life. It was in this manner, without having known even one priest, aided only by grace and God’s mercy, I decided to enter His Church.”

Pugin carried out a special mission: he injected new life into the English soul, dried out by Protestantism.

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Westminster Palace, built by Pugin in the gothic revival style (source: Wikipedia)

To this end, he created a style of renewed Gothic medieval architecture. His works attract and inspire millions of tourists who visit London. Some examples are the Parliament building in London and the famous Big Ben Tower.

In the churches he built, he made sure the sacred ceremonies were full of pomp and that only Gregorian music was played.

An eye witness who attended the inaugural Mass in the chapel of the Seminary in Oscott, said it was like heaven when the sunlight broke through the stained glass windows, flooding the church walls in splendid gold and purple color.

During the first Mass in the new Church in Derby, Pugin did not allow the golden vestments he donated for the event to be used until the Lord who built the church, under his direction, had replaced the huge polyphonic choir contracted for the Mass, which included women, with Gregorian music.

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The facade of the English Parliament causes a similar impression as the Saint Chapelle in Paris.

There, one feels the Catholic Church has imprinted some of the best traces of its soul. For the Parliament building has a real Catholic tone.

Why is it really and truly Catholic? What makes it so special?

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Cologne Cathedral (Source: Wikipedia)

More on this later. But first, see that the Parliament has a different “special” from the “special” of Cologne Cathedral.

There one sees an explosion of stone of extraordinary grandeur. German imagination, not reason, is predominantly expressed there.

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It is not a suave, poetic, sweet imagination, but one that expresses the imagination of a people who desire grandiose epic to mark all future centuries with grandeur more of heaven than earth.

The salient note of Cologne Cathedral is the marvelous that the powerful spirit reaches.

To be continued…

  • JULIAN WOODRUFF

    Wonderful! But let’s not get carried away with Gregorian chant. First of all, though much of it is splendid indeed, some of it is definitely humdrum. Also, it is not invariably to be preferred to polyphony: yesterday on the radio I heard an unfamiliar motet by Dufay that reminded me of my own conversion to Catholicism. From at least the time of Leonin forward there are great pieces of polyphonic Catholic church music that ought to be in the repertory of any decent Catholic choir (including men AND women).
    And to return to the subject of chant briefly, whether it’s done by men alone or by a mixed choir, please let’s ditch the organ, which has another, quite legitimate role (Frescobladi, Lebegue et al).
    Anyway, well done! Let’s see more on the great churches of Europe and the New World!