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Restoring a Masqueray Cathedral

Date: January 01, 2014
Author: Randall Crook in Faith & Form Magazine

When Emmanuel Masqueray originally oversaw the decoration in the early 1900s of his traditional design for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita, Kansas, it likely included a rich color palette characteristic of Victorian era buildings at the turn of the century. One hundred years and several renovations had been cruel to the building. A 1970s-era whitewashing and the introduction of a mishmash of marbles had taken their toll.

Bishop Michael Jackels knew it was time to restore the diocese mother church to its former glory. He hired our firm, Architectural Innovations (AI), to oversee the remodeling as well as to coordinate the artisans who were commissioned to provide the teaching tools the bishop needed for his mission. An arts committee was formed and chaired by Monsignor Robert Hemberger; it met numerous times to make the decisions on the art and décor of the church required to enhance a modern liturgy.
The cruciform church had one transept devoted to the tabernacle, with a rich mosaic triptych on the wall behind. The decision was made to move the tabernacle back to the central axis of the church. The blue and gold mosaic tile arches seemed the perfect backdrop for a Marian shrine. The existing Mary and Joseph statues were removed from the niches on either side of the sanctuary. The committee commissioned Oregon artist Rip Caswell, and a narrative was formed: Mary would be slightly pregnant. Joseph would be beside her in a supporting role. Mary has a hand on her womb and is looking across to the other transept at her son crucified. 

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