New Cathedral

Angela Hill of the Oakland Tribune writes on the newest Catholic cathedral, dedication tomorrow. Are the douglas fir and crafted metal enough to convince the reform2 doubters? Probably not. There’s a video presentation on the Trib site linked, but it wasn’t working for me as of early this morning.

Frequent commentator Jimmy Mac also sent me a feature on Brother William Woeger, liturgical design consultant for the project. Catch the link following to view his triptych, and at the bottom, the description from The Catholic Voice.

Brother William is all over major churches in Iowa and other places in the midwest. He’s a knowledgeable consultant, and a fine artist himself.

This triptych, designed and painted by Christian Brother William Woeger in early Renaissance style, stands in the cathedral’s All Saints chapel. The left panel depicts St. Francis de Sales holding Oakland’s first cathedral, which was irreparably damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. In the center panel, Mary is being crowned by her son Jesus, a visual reference to the Oakland Diocese’s primary patroness, Our Lady, Queen of the World. The right panel shows St. Joseph holding Mission San Jose in Fremont, the 14th of California’s coastal missions.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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17 Responses to New Cathedral

  1. Gavin says:

    The shape of the building is very unfortunate, but other than that I like the style. Sadly, you can’t REALLY get it until you’re inside, so I hesitate to offer an over-all thumbs up or down.

  2. Liam says:

    One important acid test will be the natural acoustics.

  3. Todd says:

    Natural acoustics–yes. And while I admire Br William’s visual flair, some of his spaces leave acoustics out of the consideration.

  4. Dale Price says:

    Beautiful triptych. And the wood helps reduce the sterility factor enormously. Can’t get an overall feel for it though based on the pictures and video.

  5. Jimmy Mac says:

    I have been in the building when the organ pipes are being “throated” and, so far, find the acoustics to be fine. I disagree on negative comments on the shape of the building. It fits the site well and is a dramatic presence in an area fronted by a lake and surrounded by contemporary office buildings. And don’t forget that this is an entire complex (chancery, cathedral, bishop’s and rector’s residences, parish offices, auditoria, mausoleum, cafeteria and gift shop), not just a cathedral.

    The only stained glass is in the form of some saved windows from the prior cathedral and is located in the mausoleum. The primary focus is on light, not color.

    The first bishop of Oakland will be disinterred and reburied in the mausoleum on November 2nd.

    There will only be one statue in the sanctuary: Our Lady of Oakland. All other statuary will be in side chapels (no altars, just chapels) and will be representative of the differing cultures that make up the parish.

    Traditionalists will not like the place. It doesn’t replicate anything from medieval Europe! It is a bold 21st century design for a 21st century diocese, i.e., highly diversified ethnically, culturally, demographically and economically. The parish is mainly made up of Vietnamese (as is the parish rector), Filipinos and Latinos. This design negates criticism of overemphasis on any one culture. A top down view shows that the footprint is that of a stylized Ichthyus. The interior lighting is spectacular, particularly from the Omega window of the resurrected Christ.

    The sight-lines are unimpeded and the full focus is on the Christus that goes from floor to ceiling. The organ pipes, when fully installed, will be spectacular! The organ itself is hidden from sight.

    Tomorrow is the ticket-only dedication and Friday will be the Civic and Religious ceremonies, open to the general public. Anyone in the Bay Area will be able to take guided tours soon after the dedication.

    Here is an introduction to the Cathedral by the Provost, Fr. Paul Minnihan:

    Here are some of the architectural features:

    The layout of the complex:

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    Dumb me! I am forgetting the focus of so many viewers of this blog …. music.

    Here is an article of the new Cathedral organ:

  7. Gavin says:

    For those who want real information rather than a fluff piece on the new organ, look here:

    Doesn’t look too bad. Decent size. I’m curious what the “Trompeta de Luz” will sound like – Trumpet of Light, I’m guessing? I tend not to like Letourneau’s work though, it’s often too squawky. Then again there’s a pretty good French style organ in another cathedral by them, which is a decent approximation.

  8. Jimmy Mac says:

    Ah, Gavin, what you have to realize is that, what you called a “fluff piece” was not written for the edification of the rarified few such as you. Rather, it was an introduction of the new cathedral organ for the masses of lowly undeducated pew potatoes such as myself who haven’t been gifted with ontological musicological insights such as yourself. I apologize for deigning to present such a mundane introduction to such as yourself. Mea maxima culpa.

    I’m sure that the music director and musicians will revel in the fact that you think their new organ “doesn’t look too bad and is of a decent size,” and will sleep better tonight knowing that you are slightly pleased.

  9. FrMichael says:

    Scattered remarks: to quote Paul Harvey, “The
    rest of the story.”

    “Provost of the cathedral”– non-canonical position instituted to usurp the authority of the Vietnamese Rector of the cathedral. This heightened the tensions in the presbyterate which has the most (and most complex) factions in Northern California.

    The diocese is now $90 million in debt for this new cathedral. That works out to $1 million a parish. Even Cardinal Mahoney didn’t leave LA in the soup like that for his cathedral.

    Early reviews on acoustics: spotty, good in some places, poor in others.

    Overall review: let’s see what it is like when in regular service. Certainly one of the better efforts I’ve seen for an ultra-modern church design.

  10. marilyn says:

    that debt is shameful!

  11. Jimmy Mac says:

    Projected cost: $190 mm

    Pledges to date: $115 mm

    To come: $ 75 mm

    Not factored in: a new campanile sometime in the future.

    Don’t worry, Marilyn … you won’t be asked to contribute, unless, of course, you wish to. Do you think that all of the cathedrals in the past were fully paid for when built?

  12. Jimmy Mac says:

    “The Very Reverend Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory …” Provost may not be “canonical” but it is far from obsolete in its usage.

  13. Can’t say anything about the acoustics, I can only react to the pictures and video:

    Some nice elements, but overall very sterile. It reminds me of so many urban developments that were sold by their developers on how “welcoming” they would be, yet they ended up being barren urban landscapes. The cross outside the cathedral, the cathedra, altar, pulpit and sanctuary, and interior walls, are extremely sparse.

    I find it a bit amusing when all this has to be explained to people, to head off any misunderstanding! “Oh, it really means this,” or “it’s meant to express such-and-such!”

  14. Liam says:

    Rest assured that the designers of the space may be suitably horrified in a few decades when it becomes more, shall we say, furnished. If the designers think they can prevent that, they are sadly deluded. Cathedral furnishing is the work of generations, and the present generation’s taste has no control over that of future generations….

  15. Jim McK says:

    Wouldn’t the designers expect it to be furnished by coming generations? I know some artist types are arrogant and think their work will be complete and unchanging, but every church I have known has gone through many changes in its history. I cannot imagine that most architects would not know that. (haven’t they ever seen Chartres?) Maybe they will be horrified at what fills their space, but not that their space is filled.

  16. Todd says:

    I agree with Jim. Our design consultant back in the 90’s said we should expect devotional ideas to emerge in future generations. Many new and renovated churches plan as such.

  17. Jimmy Mac says:

    Architects need to know that the space is not “theirs” … it belongs to the members of that parish. The CCTL side chapels are basically unfinished. Once the multicultural parish settles in the parishioners will decide over time how they want these chapels to look and what they will reflect.

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