Mailbag 34: Layers of Churches

The Project takes a break from drowning my sorrows to field a very interesting question from reader George Shotzbarger:

My own parish, Saint Helena, which serves Olney, Fern Rock, and Oak Lane, has both upstairs and downstairs venues for Mass. The altars each sit at the east side, one directly atop the other. That mirrors every other parish I've visited with a basement church (nearby Saint William and Saint Martin of Tours, among them). However, my boyhood parish, Saint Bonaventure near 9th & Cambria Streets, featured an oddity that I haven't seen in any other Catholic church.

The altar upstairs was in the western apse, but the one downstairs was on the eastern side, no doubt due to the Hutchinson Street entrance. That is, the arrangement went in opposite directions. So my question is this: does the Project or anyone else know of other Catholic churches where the spaces for worship run -- or ran -- in different directions?

I had wondered about Bonaventure, to tell the truth. I did know that, due to geography, the lower church doors were in “the back”, but I did not know they switched the position of the altar to compensate. Pretty strange and cool, if you ask me.

That’s the only example I’m aware of, though. George’s experience has been my own as well. Every lower church I’ve seen or been in — more than I’ve cared to, mind you — has always had the sanctuary facing the same way as the upper church.

From Visitation BVM to Immaculate Conception to Incarnation of Our Lord to Ascension of Our Lord to St. Martin of Tours to St. Helena to Transfiguration of Our Lord to St. Patrick to St. Francis of Assisi to St. Peter the Apostle to St. William to…well, you get the idea. All the same, each and every one. One church on top of another.

Since you, dear readers, are far smarter and more worldly than I could ever hope to be, I ask you: Have you ever seen or been in a church (here or elsewhere) that has the same unusual upper / lower church configuration?