Why Classical Architecture Better Serves The Public Good Than Modernist Atrocities | The Federalist

Why Classical Architecture Better Serves The Public Good Than Modernist Atrocities

Classical architecture offers the possibility of restoring beauty to gain respect for the work public buildings do in contributing to the common good.

Source: Why Classical Architecture Better Serves The Public Good Than Modernist Atrocities – The Federalist

Dr. Carroll William Westfall (PhD, Columbia University), Professor Emeritus at the Notre Dame School of Architecture, has penned (or perhaps, this being the 21st century, keyboarded) this excellent argument in favor of President Donald Trump’s recently leaked draft executive order – which may or may not actually be issued – which, as a surprisingly supportive article in The Atlantic points out, “strongly encouraged architects to adopt a classical style when they design federal courthouses and buildings in the nation’s capital.”

While there have been the usual bleated objections from the usual suspects, Dr. Westfall raises some excellent points, such as “the fact that a building is a public object that occupies a site that is necessarily part of the realm where people lead their lives. Things placed in the public realm are obliged to serve the public, common good even if privately owned, and it is the duty of government to ensure this is done.”

It is, in other words, not created merely or even primarily for the benefit of “those who seek to preserve the putative right of architects to express their interpretation of the modern era with the latest fashions on public land and at public expense.” He asserts, instead, what I would agree is the unassailable truth that “the primary purpose of a public building is to serve a public, common good,” and notes that

“Modernism gained ascendancy at the expense of classical architecture that uses valued traditions adapted with innovations, drawing on experience and new insights to fit current circumstances. This role of tradition and innovation in architecture has its counterpart in our form of government, which has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome and in the experience of governing British colonies.”

Let me reemphasize that: classical architecture… uses valued traditions adapted with innovations, drawing on experience and new insights to fit current circumstances.

This is also true of classicism and traditionalism, rightly understood, in general (as he alludes to, in referring our form of government). He further notes that “Classicism is not a style but an achievement of architectural art that renders a public service while honoring the canons of beauty as they pertain to that art.”

I have posted on “The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism” previously, so I will not rehash the point, here. But it is nothing but absurdity to claim that Classicism is simply a pro forma and unimaginative rehashing of “old stuff,” and “not who we are today.” And to the extent that there is any truth to the latter, it is an indictment of the present age, not a compliment to it!

Fortunately, a growing number of people are starting to realize that in architecture as in so many other areas of the res publica, the modernist / postmodernism “emperor” has no clothes. And more and more are beginning to develop an appreciation for classical things, classical ideas, classical values: in art and architecture no less than in other realms of public and private life.

With respect to public building and the architecture thereof, Dr. Westfall notes that “While modernist architects would fare poorly in satisfying the proposed guidelines” of President Trump’s leaked draft order,

“a growing number of architects is recovering the ability to produce classical architecture. They offer the possibility of restoring the beauty of public buildings to gain the people’s respect for the work those buildings do in contributing to the public, common good.”

He concluded that “We need these revisions to achieve this,” and I whole-heartedly concur.


The linked Federalist essay includes this bio of Dr. Westfall:

Carroll William Westfall (PhD, Columbia University) has been a professor of architecture since 1966. He began his career at Amherst College, then the University of Illinois in Chicago, the University of Virginia, and between 1998 and his retirement in 2015, at the University of Notre Dame, including four years as chairman of the School of Architecture. He has published three books and numerous articles on topics from antiquity onward, with a focus on the history of the city and particular attention to the reciprocity between the political life and the urban and architectural elements that serve the needs of citizens. He, his family, and pets now live in Richmond, Virginia.

None too shabby a resumé! His Notre Dame faculty directory bio adds,

A central theme of all of his studies has been the history of the city with particular attention to the reciprocity between the political life and the urban and architectural elements that serve the needs of citizens. His emphasis is on the usefulness of knowledge of history to practicing architects. This, rather than a stylistically based interpretation of the history of architecture, has informed all of his work. His current interests are concentrated on the architect’€™s capacity to nourish the Christian faith and on tradition and classicism in architecture and the American city with special attention to the role of Thomas Jefferson in founding a distinctive American architecture to serve a unique nation.

Why am I not surprised that he is approaching this issue from a Christian ethos? Truth, Beauty, and Goodness live! Thanks be to God!

The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism: Ugly Buildings, Ugly Paintings, Ugly Words, Ugly Life

Image result for modernist art and architecture

We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism.

Source: The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism | New English Review

The four “uglies” in the title above are the assessment – all too accurate – of William Briggs, in his post on the subject. I cannot disagree! Here, at any rate, are some quotes from Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros’s piece at New English Review, linked above, with my reflections thereon:

“We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism. The modernist aesthetic, which dominates our age, takes a variety of forms in the respective arts — in architecture, a lack of scale and ornamentation combined with the overwhelming deployment of materials like glass, steel, and brutalist concrete; in the plastic arts, a rejection of natural forms mixed with an unmistakable tendency towards the repulsive or meretricious; in literature, non-linear narrative, esoteric [*] imagery, and an almost perfect lack of poetic form and diction.”
Continue reading “The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism: Ugly Buildings, Ugly Paintings, Ugly Words, Ugly Life”

The New Primitives | Crisis Magazine

When a man ceases to believe in God, observed Chesterton, he becomes capable of believing in anything. It looks like we may now have reached the “anything” stage of human history.

Source: The New Primitives | Crisis Magazine

“As faith in Christianity recedes in the West, a strange thing is happening. Having shaken off belief in God, people are not becoming more rational, they’re becoming more gullible. They believe that babies in the womb aren’t really human beings, that same-sex “marriage” is the equivalent of real marriage, that there are roughly 52 varieties of gender, that boys can become girls, and vice versa. In general, they believe that wishing makes it so.

“Rejection of God does not lead to a flowering of civilization, but rather to a primitivization. Many of the ideas that are now current are pre-scientific and even anti-scientific. Science is solidly on the side of those who say that babies are babies, and that boys cannot become girls, yet when science comes into conflict with today’s magical beliefs it is rejected out of hand. For many, the ultimate source of truth is not reason, or science, or God, but feelings.

“It was belief in a rational God who created a rational and ordered universe that provided the main impetus for scientific study centuries ago. Christian and Jewish scholars thought it worthwhile to study the nature of things because the nature of things was considered to be rational and discoverable. Thus, the scientific revolution was a product of the Judeo-Christian world…”

Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest!

“Normies” and rebels

Just one more, and then I promise I will recede back into my self-imposed Lenten sabbatical, at least for a while…!

This came across my news-feed just this morning:

Normie vs Rebel

Nowadays, this is all too sadly true.

Too many young women today are destroying their natural beauty with tattoos and piercings, scrawling all over the masterpiece God made them to be, and dressing to be provocative or shocking rather than in ways that exemplify an objective standard of beauty, such as that expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Beauty, as St. Thomas says, is objective and has four attributes: truth, goodness, oneness and symmetry.  Beauty, when comprised of these qualities, directs us to God…

Truth can be seen in clothing [and, I would add, other forms of adornment] that identifies the wearer as a man or woman, his status and occupation, even his character and family. Goodness is in the quality of materials and fine workmanship, and in the modesty that respects the natural virtues. Oneness is in the completeness of the ensemble and the way it matches in an ordered way. Symmetry is the proportion, consistency and uniformity that comprise it.

See the images above and to the right, and below, for classic examples! Examples of the alternative are all too easy to find, and need not be dwelt upon.

“This can be applied to everything: music and architecture, furnishings in the home, work and crafts, words and manners, meals and dinner tables, beautiful prayers and good reading. Local traditions sustain cultural beauty in holidays, ceremonies and ways of being that began long ago when people turned to God and received a flow of grace to generations. This realization makes us love and keep alive tradition. Beauty is expressed in many cultures and is diverse since God’s creation is immense. However, beauty cannot go against the natural order.”

Traditionalism, the revolt against the excesses of the modern (and postmodern) age, is indeed the new counterculture. Be counter-cultural! Be a rebel! Vive la révolution nuvelle et ancienne! Ce qui est vieux est nouveau.

Tradition is the new counterculture - revolt against the modern world


Note: the young woman pictured above may be the lovely and talented Marilena – looks a lot like her, but I’m not sure it actually is. At any rate, be sure to click through to the linked video to see an example of how a young woman can be flirty and irresistible, without being degenerate in the process!

Modernity (and postmodernity) vs pre-modernity

No photo description available.

Conservatives and traditionalists are often accused of romanticizing the past, viewing it through the proverbial “rose-colored glasses,” ignoring its faults and over-emphasizing its virtues. Maybe so. Every age has its issues, the past no less than the present. Still, as someone who has studied the past, and especially the Middle Ages, for most of my life – including two degrees in the field – I think there is considerable truth to this!

H/T to Jonathan McCormack for the image.

“How To Kill A Church In Just A Few Easy Steps”: the Episcopal Church changes marriage doctrine… again

General view of Singer/Songwriter Chase Rice Filming Commercial To Preview New Single 'Whisper' at Church of the Assumption and Church of the Advent Episcopal on January 29, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Episcopal Church announced this week that it would be removing the words “man,” “woman,” and “procreation” from its marriage liturgy. Of course, the Episcopalians have long since removed Christ from their liturgy, so this latest move is no surprise.

Source: WALSH: How To Kill A Church In Just A Few Easy Steps | DAILYWIRE

The Episcopal Church – through which I came into the Anglican tradition, and which has been, in years past, the source of much joy and much of my growth in the Christian faith – has been on a long downhill slide for some decades, now. I am not quite ready to agree with Matt Walsh that it is “a church in the same way that the Church of Satan is a church. They are an anti-church. Rather than a body of Christian believers, they are a body of self-worshiping heretics,” but he is not entirely wrong, either.

Knowledgeable observers are torn as to when the rot set in; some would argue that the decision, back in the 1960s, to allow divorced persons to remarry in church without having had their previous marriage annulled – thus undercutting the authority of Christ’s dictum that “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder,” while placing secular understandings and popular “relevance” above traditional doctrine, and setting a precedent for further modifications – was the beginning.

Others place the point of departure further back, in the 1930s, when the Episcopal Church made the decision to allow artificial contraception, thus effectively decoupling (no pun intended) the sexual act with the act of procreation – a process which was made pandemic by the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and following, with all sorts of unintended negative consequences for society as a whole (the specifics of which are outside the scope of this essay).

Howsoever that may be, this latest development – to excise both the terms and concepts of “husband,” “wife,” and “procreation” from the marriage liturgy – represents a further acceleration toward the abyss. As reported by Life Site News, inter alia:

The Church of England is torn over plans by the The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States to efface the terms “husband” and “wife” – as well as references to “procreation” – from its marriage liturgy.  

The change is meant to make the church’s marriage ceremonies more “gay-friendly.” Gay and lesbian Episcopalians have complained that the language of the current liturgy is offensive and exclusionary…

“The new service removes the phrase ‘the union of husband and wife’ and replaces it with ‘the union of two people,’” according to a report in the U.K. Telegraph. It also “replaces the section which talks about part of God’s intention for marriage being ‘for the procreation of children’ with the phrase ‘for the gift of children’ to make it more relevant for same-sex couples who may wish to adopt.”

This represents both an abandonment of Scriptural and traditional teaching on the point and purpose of marriage, and a complete and abject capitulation to a small but vocal minority for whom the celebration of their lifestyle choice is far more important than the moral and social standards that have characterized Christianity since its beginning.

I could cite chapter and verse from the Scriptures on this subject ’til I’m blue in the face, but I will not, for several reasons: first, I do not want to lengthen this unduly. Second, many of my readers will already be familiar with the arguments. And thirdly, those who are in favor of this innovation are unlikely to be convinced by appeal to the Scriptures – to which they already sit, shall we say, somewhat loosely.

But there are other issues with this as well. For one thing, I could easily see adding “the gift of children” as an optional alternative for cases in which the wife is infertile, the husband impotent, or the ages of the partners are such that bearing children is not a reasonable expectation. Such persons may well choose to adopt, and all respect to them. But the very word “procreation” is a reminder that we humans have the incredible blessing of sharing with God in the work of creation!

The sexual union of husband and wife, if all is going as Nature and Nature’s God intended, is capable of bringing new life into the world – a creative act, if ever there was one! – and raising up that child in a good way. In fact, the very reason sex feels good is to encourage us to engage in it, and (as the book of Genesis puts it) “be fruitful and multiply.” To put pleasure before procreation – in fact, to maximize pleasure and minimize or eliminate procreation, as we have been doing since the ’60s – puts the cart before the horse.

(We see the fruits of this, or lack thereof, in the plummeting birthrate among Western countries where the sexual revolution has taken hold, even as the population of less “advanced” and “enlightened” countries and regions explodes. Sidelining procreation is morally reprehensible, but it is also biologically and culturally suicidal.)

At any rate, according to Life Site News, “The move prompted a critical response from Church of England Secretary General William Nye last October, strongly urging the TEC to reconsider. The letter threatened to cut ties with the U.S. church if it adopts the planned gender-neutral [phrasing], replacing the current wording in its Book of Common Prayer.” This is more than a little disingenuous on the part of the C of E, since their pattern in the past has been to first deplore, and then later adopt, every left-wing innovation that has come out of the Episcopal Church! But it would be nice if they’d follow through, this time.

Whatever the C of E decides, Matt Walsh points out that

“Today there are fewer Episcopalians in America than Jews or Mormons. This is significant because the latter groups have always been relatively small minorities in America, while the Episcopal church was once the largest church in the nation. [Of course, that was a long while ago!] It’s been all downhill since then.

“What happened? You can easily track the church’s stunning decline over the past several decades and see that it corresponds to the church’s shedding of Christian orthodoxy in favor of liberal orthodoxy [emphasis added]. It began, as always, with the embracing of birth control and divorce. Then they moved to the ordination of women. Then it was a straight line to the ordination of openly gay clergy and the approval of same sex marriage. Now there is nothing surprising about seeing a feminist Episcopal priest blessing an abortion clinic or a transgender priest leading a service in a church adorned with rainbow flags. And it is even less surprising to look around the church and notice that nobody is sitting in the pews.

Why would they come and sit in the pews? What would be the point? The message of liberal Christianity is: “You’re perfectly fine exactly the way you are. Everything you’re doing is acceptable. Make no changes. Keep up the great work!” A weak person may be happy to hear that message, but they need not hear it twice. They need not come back for it week after week.

Traditional Christianity, in stark contrast, recognizes that a) we are all sinners in need of divine grace, and b) as sinners, we have a high recidivism rate, and need continuing infusions of that grace, just as we need to drink water regularly in order to survive.

Indeed, Christ likened himself to “living water,” that brings life eternal – and we imbibe that living water most fully when we “assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits we have received at [God’s] hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those thing which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul” (Book of Common Prayer 1928, Morning Prayer) – and not least, in receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the sacrament of the Holy Communion, as is “our bounden duty and service.”

But for that, we have to show up. I generally offer live broadcasts of Morning and Evening Prayer via Facebook on Sundays, and just as in an earlier time (and sometimes still today) churches offered first radio, later television, broadcasts of their services, I have no doubt that these may serve as a means of getting God’s word out to people who might not otherwise receive it.

But (setting aside for the moment that there can be no such things as a “virtual” Eucharist – one is either present to receive the Body and Blood, or one is not) the fact remains that one must make a decision to be present, and act on it. If you don’t show up (or perhaps, click on the right link), you won’t be able to hear and receive God’s Word. Nor is merely receiving the end of it: you still have to act on it. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” St. James reminds us.

And as Walsh points out,

“If a person wants worldliness, they can go literally anywhere to get it. If they want lectures on diversity and inclusion, they can stop by the Human Resources office at work, or maybe have a chat with a public school guidance counselor. If they want encouragement to continue in their sin, Satan is happy to use a whole variety of methods to communicate that encouragement…

“But if a person wants to pursue something higher; if he wants to be rescued from the dreariness of modern culture; if he wants to find his real and transcendent identity; if he wants to be challenged; if he wants meaning, then he has even less reason to turn to Episcopalianism or any similar variety of Christianity. It is not substantial enough. It is not different enough. It is not saying enough. It is not asking enough of him.

“That is the great secret that ‘progressive’ and ‘inclusive’ Christian leaders are too high on the fumes of humanism to notice or understand. Religions grow when they expect more of their adherents, not less. Religions thrive when they provide a lifestyle that is radically different from the dull, hollow lifestyle provided by the world. People turn to religion for identity. And if all they find is more of the same, more of what caused them to go looking in the first place, they will not be converted.”

Fortunately, there is an alternative. There are a number of alternatives, actually; but there is one that I can speak to and recommend personally because I am not only a member of it, but a priest in it: the United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA, not to be confused with “the” Episcopal Church: TEC, or formerly PECUSA), of which the Oratory of St. Bede the Venerable (a.k.a. St. Bede’s Traditional Anglican Mission) and the nascent St. John’s Anglican Church, Westminster, are member congregations.

The UECNA is a conservative, traditional, and orthodox Church, in the classical Anglican expression of Christianity. We accept the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as “God’s Word written” and “containing all things necessary to salvation”; we look to the ancient and ecumenical (accepted by the whole Church of the time) Councils of the Church, and the Creeds promulgated by them, as our guides to interpreting those Scriptures.

We use the traditional Book of Common Prayer (1928 in the U.S., 1962 in Canada) and other classic Formularies (Ordinal, Thirty-Nine Articles, and Homilies) of the Anglican tradition for worship, devotion, and to guide our theological and moral understanding as Anglican Christians. These documents are to be read in accordance with the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church, to the exclusion of all heresies ancient and modern.

Our Bishops are consecrated in the historic Succession which we believe stretches back to the Apostles themselves. Our Presiding Bishop, Archbishop Peter Robinson, is also Bishop Ordinary of the Missionary Diocese of the East, within which both the Oratory of St. Bede’s and St. John’s Anglican Church are located. The United Episcopal Church maintains the Scriptural practice of ordaining only men to the orders of Deacon, Presbyter (Priest) and Bishop, but maintains the Order of Deaconesses as an ancient, lay vocation for women.

We believe that Christian marriage is to be between one man and one woman, and is a lifelong, sacramental union between them. However, as a pastoral matter, we also accept that marriages can and do fail, and seek to extend proper pastoral support to those whose marriages have failed or are in danger of failing. And we maintain the sanctity of life from conception through natural death.

For more details, see this exposition of our Core Values. You are also, of course, encouraged to visit the Oratory of St. Bede the Venerable’s page, either here or on Facebook.

And in any case, may God bless you!

Chesterton – the “special mark of the modern world”

Chesterton – Special mark of the modern world.jpg

Full quote:

“The special mark of the modern world is not that it is sceptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it. It says, in mockery of the old devotees, that they believed without knowing why they believed. But the moderns believe without knowing what they believe – and without even knowing that they do believe it. Their freedom consists in first freely assuming a creed, and then freely forgetting that they are assuming it. In short, they always have an unconscious dogma; and an unconscious dogma is the definition of a prejudice. They are the dullest and deadest of ritualists who merely recite their creed in their subconsciousness, as if they repeated their creed in their sleep. A man who is awake should know what he is saying, and why he is saying it – that is, he should have a fixed creed and relate it to a first principle. This is what most moderns will never consent to do. Their thoughts will work out to most interesting conclusions; but they can never tell you anything about their beginnings. They have always taken away the number they first thought of. They have always forgotten the very fact or fancy on which their whole theory depends.”

— G.K. Chesterton​, March 15, 1919, Illustrated London News

And, ironically, in our present age it is often those who believe themselves to be the most “liberal,” the most “tolerant,” the most open-minded, who are, in fact, among the most dogmatic – and sometimes, the most repressive.