The Ultimate Tabula Rasa?

Astute readers will remember that the Project's trip to St. Anne was somewhat of a disappointment. Aside from incredible altars, the church was an ugly-window, plain-plaster fiasco. The Project suspected that some renovation was to blame, given the church's 1870 construction date, but we didn't really dwell on it.

Turns out, we were right on the money.

From Project reader Tom Lochhead:

Hi, First, I would like to tell you how much I enjoy your web site. My great grandparents emigrated from Scotland in 1887 and we were Vistation (Viso to locals) parishioners from then to 1975. After grade school (1960), my world expanded and I made friends in other parishes and occasionally attended mass with them. This led me to St. Bonnies (both of them, - in Kensington when you said St. Bonnies the next question was always "Which one"?), St. Ed's, Ascension, and St. Mike's to name a few. Finally, weddings (including my own at St. Anne) led me to many other churches that you have reported on in your blog.

Tom goes on to offer the following nugget about St. Anne, the parish of his bride:

I always thought that St. Anne was a rather sterile building. By marrying "into the parish", I learned that the building had suffered a major fire in 1947 which led to a ceiling collapse and some major wall damage also. I think that when it was reconstructed, it followed the lead of some of the "big box" churches in the northeast. You can go to and follow the link to church history which will show the church after the fire and provides another link to a 1908 postcard of the church interior which (I feel) shows it in a much better light.

That's putting it mildly. For the record, here is what St. Anne looked like pre-1947:

Click for a larger version

All together now: HOLY $@#$!^. Who knew that St. Anne's austere form belied such an opulent past? Italian-Renaissance and then some, featuring intricate paint and mural work, detailed moldings and even a cleaving balcony, a feature common to older churches. It's incredibly reminiscent of neighboring Nativity BVM, only wider, with a better altar and with the balcony--which means that it was a real looker.

Things like these are why Tabula Rasa is perhaps the cruelest theorem. It spares a church's life, but robs it of its original beauty. St. Anne is sadly no exception.

Oh, and the pictures of the church after the fire? Yikes. There are few things creepier.