|Designing of the Cathedral|
The classical model of Byzantine church architecture is the Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, built in Constantinople in the first half of the sixth century. Its struc ture, which still stands today, is topped by a distinctive dome surmounted by a triple-bar cross.
Many means were used to ex press the Byzantine faith and its aspiration towards the Divine in the architecture. Typically, a relatively plain facade sheltered an unsur passed wealth of decoration. Rather than a house of God, the space projected an image of a miniature universe in which the one and only God dwelt. Designers spiritualized space and dematerialized mass. They polished surfaces or curved them to reduce the impact of their mass; they perforated other details such as those adorning the lintels or capitals to give the ethereal texture of embroidery or lace. Sunlight, penetrating from above, illuminated the nave and lifted the dome to produce a sense of religious exaltation. Emphasis on the height and length of these buildings was an attempt to unify their inner spaces.
The hemispherical dome is a significant form because it is used to symbolize heaven. The altar is located at the eastern end of the building where the wall bellies out to form an apse. An iconostas, a fixed or movable screen to which icons or sacred pictures are attached, is used to separate the altar and sanctuary from the body of the church.
Current plans identify the development of a three building complex. The Community Center is an existing structure. The Cathedral and Rectory are to be added. The whole is to have a commonality of expression and purpose.
To achieve a unified appearance, new forms and materials should respect existing cues. Underneath is the energy of the community working and worship ping together. The site, as part of the whole, should assist in linking the pieces. The Cathedral is to be the dominant feature of the project. Like the massing of the Hagia Sophia, the natural order of the building should focus on the dome. The exterior, developed in a non dynamic but pleasing form, is to be constructed of materials and form compatible with the Community Center. Locating the important axial focus at the corners rather than on the sides is an intriguing effect and is used as a means to reduce the impact of building size. More importance is to be placed on the decoration of the cathedral's interior. Because of new technology, the means to dematerialize mass can be explored. The lighting of spaces should support the appropriate environmental qualities. Like the Community Center, the Rectory is to provide support functions and it is, therefore, perceived as being separate from the Cathedral and related more strongly to the Community Center. Moving the ten saints that were depicted in the beautiful stained glass windows of the old church to their new settings was quite a feat. Since the window size and positions are totally different in the new church something had to be done if the old was to become a part of the new. Once again the removal process was begun, and the windows were taken down in segments. The sections were cleaned, checked for damage and refurbished. Once the cleaning process was done, the architects and the glass artisans came together so that the new windows could become a reality. The outcome of that meeting is
that six of the saints now reside in pairs above the
three entrances to the new church and the remaining
four occupy space above the nave to mark the points of support for the dome. The remaining portions of the windows were dis mantled, the old glass was mated with new stained glass, and was remade into the beautifully ornate windows that encircle the dome and the mezzanine of the new church for all to see and to marvel for years to come. The final item to journey from the old to the new
was the large stone cross that now stands in the
middle of the circle of the driveway. It was moved from its post in the front yard of the old Rectory, where it had stood since 1918, to its new site for all to see as they come to our new House of God.
The People of God of St. John the Baptist Cathedral, when they were planning their new House of God wanted very much to continue the tradition of their ancestors and to share the old with the new. The Spirit of this congregation transcends several generations and there was a strong desire to express that continuity in the task that they were about to undertake.
The connection between what was and what would be is depicted in four distinct transitions. The ornate, gold-like tabernacle and the beautiful brass candle sticks that had adorned the altars for many years were removed, sent off to the company where they had been made to be cleaned, refurbished and polished. And when this process of rebirth was completed, they were returned and placed upon the altars of the new church, where they reside in splendor for all to see for generations to come. The bells, which for nearly a century had tolled to call the faithful to worship and had sounded to mark every occasion, be it one of joy or one of sad ness in the history of the parish, were carefully removed from the towers of the old church as many of the faithful stood in awe and watched. They were sent off to Verdin and Company in Cincin nati where they were cleaned, checked for cracks or other damage, tuned, and completely refurbished. After this work was finished, they were loaded upon a trailer and returned to Munhall where they now reside in the tower of the new church and once again, they toll to call all who hear them to come to the House of the Lord.