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COMATOSE AND RICORSO
AN ECCLESIAL EXPLORATION
Adriana Ross B.A.S.
A thesis submitted to
The Faculty of Graduate Studies in partial
fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of
MASTER OF ARCHITECTURE
Carleton University, School of Architecture Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 21, 2009 © copyright 2009, Adriana Vassileva Ross 1*1 Library and Archives Bibliotheque et Canada Archives Canada Published Heritage Direction du Branch Patrimoine de Pedition 395 Wellington Street 395, rue Wellington Ottawa ON K1A 0N4 OttawaONK1A0N4 Canada Canada Your file Votre reference ISBN: 978-0-494-60285-0 Our file Notre reference ISBN: 978-0-494-60285-0
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of content from the thesis.
I would like to thank my adviser Dr. Stephen Fai for the opportunity to research the sacred sites in Saskatchewan and for his thoughtful insights and comments.
Many thanks to the people who helped by their inspiration and encouragement, particularly Monika Harte-Maxwell, Eric Archambault, and Dr. Marco Frascari I would also like to thank those whom I met during my visit to Saskatchewan such as John Cojocaru, Margaret Deberham, Garnett Smalley, Lynne Johnson, Eva, Peter Veregin, Garnett Johnson, Lorna and Norman Johnson Finally I would like to thank my husband for his constant support and faith
This thesis is based on an examination of abandoned church buildings in Saskatchewan that were built during the second wave of immigration to that province. It proceeds with an inquiry into their architectural purpose at a time when they are no longer in use, and examines the meaning of these places as ruins, as mnemonic devices for contemporary man, and as a reminder of loss. The eighteenth century philosopher Giambattista Vico formulated a theory of the cycle of history that serves as a conceptual model for this investigation. The thesis weaves together descriptive and poetic narratives as a way of resolving the disunity that has developed between matter, memory and spirit. It concludes with an outline for a project that provides an architectural response to the questions that are posed.
In the fall of 2008 I explored six abandoned churches and a synagogue that are scattered across the lower half of Saskatchewan. The reality I encountered did not fit the image I had constructed in my mind; I was surprised by this but not disappointed. I felt as if I was in a world of forgotten beauty, closer to dream than reality. The sacred places seemed like orphans, lost to the world and kept apart from the prosperous cities. Silently holding onto a life of their own, they were waiting for someone to share their story. Despite the harsh weather conditions and the declining interest of the local communities, these churches were still alive, standing at the horizon between life and death. They appeared comatose.
The Western world has changed dramatically as it has experienced the shift from traditionalism to modernism. Every sector of life and culture has struggled with this change, including the religious institutions and buildings of rural Saskatchewan.
"Farm mechanization in the same period has transformed Saskatchewan agriculture into a motorized industry, and has resulted in decreased farm population and communities expanded in area. Such drastic changes in the rural landscape are affecting long established rural institutions such as one-room country schools, country churches, local hospitals, hamlets and indeed the farm family itself. Entirely new ideas about the meaning of
Can traditional buildings and places survive in our culture and recover their significance?
Should we reject the traditional structures in the name of progress, or should we recall their history? Giambattista Vico observes that in times of cultural upheaval one finds answers by returning to historical origins. It would therefore be in our own best interest to rediscover the historical meaning of our sacred buildings.
The first section of this thesis describes the churches that were examined. The next section introduces Vico's theories by way of allegory. The symbol of bread is used to illustrate Vico's cycle of history, a pattern that is common to the development of all nations. Starting with the age of gods as represented by the myth of Demeter, the ancient times are revisited through the power of universali fantastici (imaginative universals).3 This is followed by the age of heroes, in which fantasia (imagination) is inspired by heroes that embody our social customs and virtues. It was in this period that Christianity was born and began to grow. These two ages were defined by the power of fantasia and were followed by the age of people, an age of rationality in which the world operates in 1 Archer, John and Koester, Charles, Footprints in Time, (Published by: The House of Grant Canada Ltd., 1965) 108 2 Vico, Giambattista, The New Science of Giambattista Vico, (Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch trans. Third Edition 1744) 241, axiom 66 3 Vico, Giambattista, The New Science of Giambattista Vico, (Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch trans. Third Edition 1744) 209 Universal fantastici provides a logic of mythical thought
condition, a world where the art of craft is dominated by the power of the machine.
The next section engages in a reflection about the validity of restoration and preservation.
It begins by considering John Ruskin's critical view of restoration, which is of great relevance to the issues examined in this paper. The views of William Morris on the preservation of sacred places further supports the argument that present methods of preserving historical buildings do not sustain the true architectural meaning of these sacred places. Indeed, such techniques eliminate the architectural history and identity of rural Saskatchewan. Some of these sacred places have already lost their meaning through the homogenizing effects of a restoration that is desperate to arrest time.
The last part of this thesis describes a project that aims to revive a church that has become comatose. The sacred places are part of a cycle that is informed by corso and ricorso. All nations develop through this cycle and are bound to the three ages of ideal eternal history. After the third age every nation disintegrates and starts the whole process over again. The beginning of the ricorso is the ruin of the corso that preceded it. To find the true meaning of these places we must experience their origin without arresting time. It is through engaging physically and spiritually in the process of making, rather than conceptualizing, that we restore culture. The history of a place is experienced through creative imagination and factum (making). Vico's principals of verum and factum (true and fabricated) assert that humans can deeply know only that which they themselves have
realized by constructing three new buildings and a set of outdoor bread ovens that surround the existing church. Firstly, the architectural methods used to build these structures will employ the techniques used to construct the original church, thus preserving its physical tradition. Secondly the spirit of the church will be rekindled through the experience of traditional bread making. This experience begins with the threshing of raw wheat and is followed by grinding, mixing and baking. Once the bread has been baked the makers gather together around the church to enjoy the bread they have made. The making of bread makes present the memory of our lost spiritual heritage.
It nourishes both body and soul.
4 Vico, Giambattista, The New Science of Giambattista Vico, (Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch) 349
Field Research The field research involved locating and studying a variety of sacred buildings.
Interviews with second and third generation descendents of immigrants provided local histories that were supplemented by archival research. Details provided by the people interviewed were especially useful in determining whether a building was the original or a later replacement. In some cases details were difficult to uncover because the descendents had hazy recollections of their ancestral history.
The sacred buildings of the early Saskatchewan settlers tended to use similar materials regardless of the ethnic origin of the builder. The settlers wanted to build their churches as quickly as possible and took advantage of the newly available mass-produced building products. Railroad construction made sawn lumber and wire nails widely available.
Nonetheless there were some building techniques and practices that set the churches apart. These architectural idiosyncrasies are rooted in the traditional practice of the old country and were modified in the new world by environment and exposure to other cultures. The main building material used for the church buildings was wood. Wood was widely available and could be easily shaped by the hands of the artisans. Like other
effort to arrest the natural weathering process.
St. Peter and Paul Romanian Orthodox Church Figure 1 - St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, Flintoft, Saskatchewan Photos and drawing by author (October 2008) In 1906 a group of Romanian immigrants came to Canada and traveled to the southern part of Saskatchewan. They settled in an area called Lynthorpe, which later became known as Flintoft. These people lived in dugouts, adobe huts, and tents. As the years passed the settlers realized they needed a place to worship, baptize, perform marriage ceremonies and bury their dead, but money was scarce. Their prayers were answered when Nicholai Joara came from Romania to visit relatives. When he heard about the situation he offered to pay for the lumber to build a church. Once they had financing, the settlers began hauling lumber from Moose Jaw. They worked many long hours to build a foundation by hauling sand and rocks on flat deck racks drawn by horses and oxen. Once the foundation was laid, Gabrielle Banescu, the lead carpenter, was able to construct the church with the help of other locals. There were no drawings or blue prints. The building
Cojocaru he commented that "There were no other churches in the area. It was just built and done. Gabrielle, the carpenter, knew how to build things from Romania."5 Over time the church began to show signs of deterioration. In addition the size of the church community shrunk as members moved away or died.6 Despite the falling number of parishioners, the community was determined to preserve the church's beauty for future generations and on August 9, 1979, renovations on the church began. The plan was to temporarily move the church from its site, which required the removal of the altar table. The members were quite surprised and puzzled when they discovered that the table could not be moved. After several unsuccessful attempts and lengthy discussions, they decided to break the altar table. The church was then lifted and moved next to the cemetery where it remained until a new concrete foundation was laid.
The exterior of the church and the bell tower were restored with new vinyl shingles, vinyl siding and new windows that looked identical to the original ones. In the end the restoration efforts were not entirely successful. The church was repaired, but it did not regain consciousness since it is only used once per year.7 5 Interview with John Cojocaru, October 13, 2008 6 Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, (Flintoft, Saskatchewan, 75th anniversary 1911-1988, edited by Mrs. Karen Aussant, article) 13 1 Ibid 13
Figure 2 - Bekevar Presbyterian Church, near Kipling, Saskatchewan Photos and drawing by author (October 2008) The story of Bekevar began in 1890 with the arrival of five families from Hungary to what was then a part of the Northwest Territory of Assiniboia. They were God fearing people who met for worship in their homes. In 1907 Rev. John Kovach organized his congregation to construct a church just outside of Kipling. It was completed in 1911 and was the center of the community for more than five decades. The church was built by the hard work and dedication of the local farmers. The exterior of the church is covered with wood siding in a typical shiplap profile. Its two large bells could be heard from as far as eight miles away and the acoustics within the sanctuary are close to perfect.