A church building is not simply a meeting place. It is a temple of God’s presence in the world.
Our Lady of the Rosary Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Dedicated Advent Sunday 2016 by Bishop Robert Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston, Pastor: Dwight Joseph Longenecker, Architect: Christian LeBlanc. Designer: Andrew Gould. Interior Concept and Design: Matthew Alderman. Building Committee Chairman: Paul Bricco. Contractors: CELY Construction. Interior Furniture Fabrication and Installation: Rattigan Schottler Co.
West Front of Church
Begin your tour by the fountain in the center of the courtyard. The original vision for the courtyard is that it would be a cloister with a covered walkway on all four sides. The earliest Christian churches grew out of the house churches in Rome, and many gracious Roman homes had an atrium–a courtyard outside the main entrance. This provided a buffer zone between the noise of the street and the peace of the home. As these buildings started to be used as churches, the atrium became the peaceful garden space between the world and the sacred space of the church.
The church is built in a Romanesque style. This style evolved from the architecture of the Roman period, and by the early Middle Ages had developed into a uniquely beautiful and simple form of architecture for Christian churches. While it is not a replica, our church design was inspired by the Romanesque monastery church of San Antimo in Tuscany, Italy.
The fountain in the center of the courtyard is a reminder of the fountain of baptism through which we become Christians and enter the church. On Easter Saturday our fountain is dismantled. The top two tiers are removed and a cover is placed over the lower section. On top of that is placed the brazier which holds the Holy Fire. Thus the fountain becomes a symbol not only of the Water of Life, but also the blazing light of Christ’s resurrection. The fountain is a gift from St. Anthony Church and School.
Over the doors beneath the West Porch are three contemporary works of art. The semi-circular area over the doors is called the tympanum. OLR parishioner Jim Craft carved these scenes out of clay, then cut them into smaller pieces for firing in the kiln. The colors are glazed for greater permanence and weather resistance.
The central scene portrays Christ enthroned in glory. The nail prints on his hands and feet can be seen and his arms are spread wide in a welcoming gesture. This captures the vision of St. John from the Book of Revelation, of the Lamb who was slain on the throne. On either side are cherubim with wings arching over their heads. This references the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. The ark was considered the throne of God. It was also called “The Mercy Seat.” As the church was built during the year of mercy 2016, so we see the risen, glorified Christ enthroned on the Mercy Seat. The text below the carving is from Hebrews 4:16 ” Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
This scene also echoes the carvings over the doors of some of the great medieval churches. There you will often find stone carvings of the Last Judgment. Here God’s judgement is fulfilled in Christ’s mercy. The carvings of fruit and flowers are roses for the church of the Holy Rosary and pomegranates–a symbol of Christ’s church. They are in different stages of growth and ripeness to show God’s continual work of renewal in the church. The artwork for the tympani over the West doors was a gift of the Saad family.
North Door Carving
The carving over the North Door portrays the woman taken in adultery. Jesus kneels to counsel her and write in the dust. Meanwhile her accusers stand ready to stone her. Jesus shows mercy towards her, forgiving her sin and commanding her to “go and sin no more.”
South Door Carving
Over the South door is another scene of mercy from the gospels. This time the prodigal son is welcomed home by his father. In the background the older brother and his friends accuse the young man and judge him while the Father simply welcomes him home in an embrace of mercy. The artist has portrayed the prodigal son with a shaved head as that was a sign of slavery in the ancient world.
The Church in Liturgy
A church building is not simply a meeting place. It is a temple of God’s presence in the world. The Church is also the Body of Christ—all those who are baptized and have faith in Christ. The exterior of a church building, then, like the outward show of our lives, should be consistent, beautiful, good and true.