Saturday, November 01, 2014

All Saints' Day at Sacred Heart

It's All Saints' Day, a good morning to begin a two-day visit to what overall is Chariton's most beautiful --- in my opinion, of course --- church, Sacred Heart. Although First Methodist's elegant stonework has the edge so far as exterior is concerned and I love the jewel-box interior and crowning stained glass dome of First Presbyterian, Sacred Heart is just drop-dead beautiful.

Two days because there's a lot of stained glass to cover and, besides, I'll be spending the next four days working for my beloved Democrats --- so a single topic spread over multiple days is about all I can manage.

That Sacred Heart steeple topped by a cross --- the city's tallest then and now --- has towered over Chariton since 1915, and I'm wondering if some sort of centennial celebration for the building is under consideration.

The parish itself, however, dates from 1869 when it was formed as a mission of St. Patrick's of Georgetown, mother church of several southern Iowa parishes, by the Rev. Bernard McMinemy. And it was first called St. Mary's. The first church building, a simple frame structure, was built on Brookdale Avenue --- that street that angles northwest from the C.B.&Q. Freight House --- during the 1870s.

In 1878, The Rev. Edmund Hayes became St. Mary's first resident pastor and in 1881, he purchased lots on Orchard Avenue near its intersection with North 7th Street (now Highway 14, too), and a rectory was built there. The church building was moved on skids from the old location to the new one and continued to serve the parish through 1914.

In that year, Herman Steinbach donated lots at the intersection of Auburn Avenue and North Main Street to the parish and plans were made for a considerably larger church to serve the needs of a growing parish, now a mix primarily of people of Irish and German ancestry. The corner lots were set aside for the church; a lot just to the north was the site of a two-story frame house occupied by the J.H. Carroll family --- and that became the new rectory.

Ground for the new church was broken during May of 1915 and the cornerstone was placed on Sept 9, 1915, with the Rt. Rev. Austin Dowling, first bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines, as officiant. It was during this year, too, that St. Mary's became Sacred Heart.

During October, the old church and rectory were sold to Samuel Neptune and he moved his family immediately into the rectory. Both the rectory and the old church still stand, although the church is no longer recognizable as such because of its conversion into a dwelling.

The photos at the top and just above here show the Sacred Heart chancel, which has changed little in form since the church was built although the altar rail no longer is in place and the high altar has been modified so that its base is now free-standing and the "wedding cake" reredos is detached.

If I'm remembering correctly, the chancel at one point took a major hit from faux wood paneling, but that has now been swept away and good order restored. I'm told that these wonderful altars and their statues were under siege some years ago when the diocese was going through a simplicity phase, but Sacred Heart stood firm and they survived.

Both nave and chancel are considerably lighter now than when the church was built due to a thoughtful redecorating scheme some years ago. The columns in the chancel as well as those that support the balcony in the rear of the nave are wood, originally dark. The current hand-grained surface is intended to simulate marble, and does a very good job of it. In all, it is a light, bright and uplifting space.

Beyond the altars, glass is a principal glory of Sacred Heart, filling every window opening --- including a few in obscure areas rarely visited by parishioners.

This wonderful image of St. Cecelia, patroness of musicians, is located in a small anti-room in the southwest corner of the building behind the side altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It's the favorite of a friend who was showing me around Friday. Since this room is used as a staging area when flowers and other decorative items for the chancel are being prepared, Cecelia is partly blocked by a storage unit but absolutely glows in sunlight.

Although far simpler, this is one of my favorite windows --- also located in the small anti-room. The lilies, of course, are a symbol of resurrection --- and that shade of blue is wonderful.

I'll end this morning with another image of a saint --- Anthony of Padua --- located under the balcony in the northeast corner of the church. Anthony is the patron of those of us who lose things. I'm currently looking for the magic marker I need to do my job today. Now if I can just find my St. Anthony prayer card ....

More about Sacred Heart another day.

No comments: