Various art researchers have studied church architecture by embracing interest in anthropology, aesthetics, archeology, the evolution of theology and consciousness, and sociology. Five main factors of architectural development examined are cultural and social considerations, meaning and symbol of architectural conceptions, liturgical function and rituals as well as structural and technical possibilities. Given the important of religion, and specifically the places of worship in the contemporary and modern world, this paper will evaluate the architectural details of the Church of the Advocate in Pennsylvania as one of the oldest church in the region.
The church of the Advocate is the first Episcopal Church in North Philadelphia built in 1887 and completed in 1897 in the memory of George W. South, a civic leader who fought for the rights of the Blacks in the United States. The church is a landmark of architectural and social religious history of United States (Sloane, 1). It is a centerpiece complex relationship between the church and the society inclusive of parish house, rectory, curacy and chapel. Initially, the church was established to act as Episcopal Cathedral in Philadelphia. Currently, it is among the best examples of churches in the United States constructed using the Gothic revival style. The image below shows the Church of the Advocate.
("Church of The Advocate")
The Church of the Advocate has been able to adapt to the demographic changes since it was commissioned with significant efforts taking place during the 1970s. Father Paul Washington hired two artists from the African American society in order to paint the church using the modern concepts . These paintings reflect the experiences of African Americans and there is a Bible verse under each of the paintings to assist in connecting the Biblical messages to the experiences as shown in the paintings (Sloane, 1). The paintings of the Church of Advocate is the main part of the Churchs identity, however, some visitors as well as members of the congregation have criticized some of the pieces because of depiction of violence. In the 1970s, Father Washington defended the artwork by stating that the objective of the paintings was to show anger and suffering , and dignity and strength imposed to the African Americans. The Church leaders have maintained the painting on the walls from 1976 when the artists completed their work and progress to show the experience of African Americans as well as the Biblical relevance (Sloane,2).
Apart from demonstrating the experience of the African Americans, the church had an important role in establishing the history of African Americans in the 1960s and 70s by offering a space to civil rights movements who could not get other places of meeting since their ideals were not welcomed in any other place.
There is no other church in the United States constructed in such scale especially for working class individuals in the Pennsylvania. In addition, no other church provides a comprehensive revival of the Gothic architecture. The architect of the parish house, the chapel as well as the church was Charles M. Burns from Philadelphia. In the church, the stone carvings apart from the reredos and the alter was undertaken by J.Franklin Whitman and Company from Philadelphia while the Clayton and Bell Company from London painted the glass. Robert D. Kelly was responsible for stone cutting and Charles M.Burns responsible for designing the reredos and the altar ("Architectural History of The George W. South Memorial Church Of The Advocate (1960S)", 2).
The Parish house and the Chapel were the first structures to be constructed, after preceding the church by approximately 10 years. In 1888, May, 30th, the chapel held the first consecration service and in 1900 the church was incorporated in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. The selection of the materials used for constructions took two years with the corner stone laid in 1892. In 1894, the roof of sissles was completed followed by the erection of the churchs columns. It was completed after seven years. Under the channel of the church, there is a mortuary vault meant for the Bishops from the Diocese of Pennsylvania ("Architectural History of the George W. South Memorial Church of The Advocate (1960S)", 3).
In addition, there is a vault under the nave for George W.South, his wife and family.
In regards to the exterior features of the church, the architectural style used is similar to that used in France in the 18th century and structurally the same to Amiens, however, in different details.
The walls of the church have Indian limestone within and granite without. Moreover, hard brick fills the the space between the external and internal walls. Copper is used to roof the church and its substructures are 12-27 feet down to the solid bed of rock. There is stone cutting and carved work on the pinnacles, tracery, arches and the corbels.
From the west side of the church, there is a spaidal channel, a trumpet held by an angel, which crowns the peak of the aspae, and flying buttresses. In addition, the arrow steeple or fleche, an elaborate cross surmounts the fleche and projects the south transept. The embulatory and octagonal Baptistery between the flying buttresses support the apse walls. These are not only ornamental since if they are not present, the clerestory walls can collapse. At the point where the Transept and Nave Intersect, a slender fleche cross is there ("Architectural History Of The George W. South Memorial Church Of The Advocate (1960S)", 6). In regards to the entrance of the church, it is a departure from the portal ones with the quaint gargoyles being ornamental. Millions of small stones divide the windows into lights that blossom at the window tops. The image below shows an angel holding a trumpet.
("Church of The Advocate")
In regards to the interior, the church is magnificent in terms of its design having a width of 105 feet and a length of 165 feet. The Church of Advocate has 65 painted windows with half of them made using the highest art while the rest are rich and tasteful. All the windows of the Church of the Advocate are notable because of their harmony in regards to design, coloring as well as the subject ("Architectural History of the George W. South Memorial Church of The Advocate (1960S)", 7). The image below shows the magnificent interior of the church.
("Church Of The Advocate")
The Naves arches and columns are notable because of their sturdy and carvings simplicity. In regards to the vaulting of the church, it was constructed in a manner through which the ribs from the church capitals spring towards the ridge in an exceptional way.
One can easily notice the flowery bosses at the intersection point. In addition, it is easy to identify the clustering of ribs in the apse under which every vault through the 7 windows in the churchs sanctuary is led to a general juncture. The triforium arches in the church are blind ("Architectural History of the George W. South Memorial Church of The Advocate (1960S)", 9). In addition, there is no admission to the chamber via the sisles. Moreover, the arcade found below the rose window is independent and there is no relationship between the arches below the rose windows to those found in the triforium.
The reredos and the altar are some of the most remarkable things in the church. The Alter has six columns through which there are five quatrefoil panels between them. The outermost four quatrefoils panels indicate kneeling angels and there is a sacred monogram, HIS, as well as a cross in the center panel. The altar is wholly American, designed and constructed using Indian limestone from Philadelphia. The carvings background is the Venetian gold glass mosaic ("Architectural History of the George W. South Memorial Church of The Advocate (1960S)", 9). The large panel behind the altar depicts the last supper. On the side plate found at one end of the altar, there is Michael A. Souths inscription. In regards to the reredos, it comprises of pinnacles, gables as well as ornate details, this differentiates it with the dignified plainer altar. The image below shows the altar of the church.
("Church Of The Advocate")
The Pulpit is an English Gothic in regards to the architectural style that was installed two years after the construction of the church. The pulpit rests on one main column which is surrounded other columns. The steps to the pulpit generate a good sweep around the churchs pier. Carved figures of hope , truth, charity and faith are found on the balustrads ("Architectural History Of The George W. South Memorial Church Of The Advocate (1960S)" ,10). There are statues showing seven people who represent different periods in regards to the history of the church . These statues represent the Deacon, the Layman in that time, Cardinal Pole, the Venerable Bede, Bishop William White, John Keble, and Saint Augustine. All the external and internal features of the church are magnificent and qualify the requirements of the Gothic Revival architectural style.
"Architectural History Of The George W. South Memorial Church Of The Advocate (1960S)". Philadelphia Studies. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
"Church Of The Advocate". Church of the Advocate. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Sloane, Elizabeth. "Philaplace - The Church Of The Advocate: Church Of The Advocate Justice Through Prayer And Art". Philaplace.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
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