This February 11, St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Scottsdale, Arizona celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes in the church’s transformed interior that has been transformed from simple to splendid.
Almost all of the transformation took place in 2021 and was almost completed last December.
Although the parish building was consecrated in 2017, the spacious 900-seat interior was largely unadorned. Only the canopy, with its golden dome supported by four tall marble columns, signaled what was planned once again the funds raised. The church’s cruciform design, along with the simple traditional lines of the exterior and a 100-foot-tall steeple hinted at what the pastor, the late Father Peter Rossa, had in mind when building the church. ‘church. The same goes for the large inscription above the triangular pediment and Ionic columns framing the main entrance: Gloria in Excelsis Deo – “Glory to God in the highest.”
“When we enter the church building,” current pastor Father Don Kline told his parishioners during the renovation reveal, “we should be filled with a longing for our true heavenly home. and a sense of awe before God.”
The high barrel-vaulted ceiling, once white, is now adorned with eight magnificent murals separated by decorative ribs. These scenes depicting the life of the Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus become the theme. Beginning with the Annunciation, biblical events unfold chronologically through the Visitation, depicting the love shared by Mary and Elizabeth, then the Wives of Mary and Joseph, the Nativity, the Presentation, the Flight into Egypt, the Wedding at Cana , and finally Marie at the Traverser.
“For a parish under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes and Sainte-Bernadette, this seems appropriate,” Father Kline explained to his flock. “Our devotion to Mary leads to worship of Christ, and that is the theme of these murals.”
To enhance the beauty of the sacred art, on either side of the murals, the ceiling features panels framed with azure blue skies, complete with stars. Below them are deeply arched clerestory windows, their once clear windows are now replaced by new stained glass images of the apostles and archangels appearing in traditional artistic designs that echo the timeless beauty of decades past. .
The purpose of the beautiful stained glass windows throughout the church is to lift minds and hearts to Christ, Father Kline explained to the Register. He believes this traditional art will inspire devotion and enhance the liturgy: “The new windows will bring a deeper sense of God’s transcendent beauty.
As the ceiling murals above and the tiled walkways below lead to the sanctuary, both are rich in symbols of the seven sacraments. Joining them, the columns and arches are now intentionally decorated with crosses, vegetation, flowers and lots of rope-like vines, “all intended to represent a garden image, the Garden of Eden”, explained the Kline father. The “strings” seem to go on forever, to evoke the eternal presence of God.
More new stained glass windows on the lower level highlight six images of Our Lady, proclaiming her titles in English and Latin, including Mater Christi, Salus Infirmorum (Health of the sick), Refugium Peccatorum (Refuge of sinners), Comforter Afflictorum (Comforter of the afflicted) and Virgo Clemens (Most Merciful Virgin). Considering them truly unique, the pastor said, after first studying examples from several churches, “We tried to follow tradition,” right down to the floral borders and window decorations.
The Marian theme continues above the numerous arcades of the nave and around the apse with the Litanies of Loreto. Its numerous titles of Mary in Latin surround the entire perimeter of the church. These titles embrace the whole community, acting as Mary’s mantle surrounding everyone.
The traditional look of classical churches and cathedrals continues in the sanctuary, where, under the canopy, the Holy Spirit is depicted radiating celestial rays and hovering above the altar. This marble altar has a sculpture by Michelangelo Last Supper filling the centre, while, flanking it at either end, are images of Saint Bernadette and Pope Saint John XXIII, patron of the parish school.
Decorative painted panels surrounding the apse resemble tapestries filled with symbols, including crosses and vines. Behind the altar, a large crucifix appears within a similar decorated arch.
The apse dome is filled with a specular mural depicting the Immaculate Conception, painted by artist and fresco painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. It was one of seven altarpieces commissioned in 1767 by King Charles III of Spain. The Immaculate Conception was a popular theme in art, this one appearing just over a century after Murillo’s famous version of the Immaculate Conception. By placing it above the altar, Fr. Kline said its importance is to remind the faithful that “the Immaculate Virgin was, indeed, the first tabernacle for Christ present in the Eucharist.”
In the Saint Bernadette mural, Our Lady appears in a sea of clouds and surrounded by depictions of angels. Mary is both majestic and approachable, gorgeous and motherly. Crowned with stars, she tramples a serpent. To update the classic Tiepolo, in this mural Mary is depicted joined by saints, depictions of American saints and blesseds. “We wanted something unique,” Father Kline said. “They are all American saints because she is the patroness of the Americas.” Among these holy men and women are depictions of Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton, John Neumann, Marianne Cope, Katharine Drexel, Damien de Veuster, Junípero Serra, Kateri Tekakwitha, Isaac Jogues, Frances Xavier Cabrini and Rose Philippine Duchesne and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, Fathers Stanley Rother, Solanus Casey and Michael McGivney.
New saints also appear in eight stained glass windows elsewhere in the church. Pope Sts. John Paul II and John XXIII join, among others, Sts. Bernadette, Thérèse la Petite Fleur and John Vianney. Other windows include Our Lady of Lourdes as she appeared to Bernadette, and in the transepts are depictions of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
A more liturgical beauty now enhances the Stations of the Cross, present since the opening of the church. They are described as “old-school type imagery” with full-color, three-dimensional statuary, Father Kline told the Register. They became even more eye-catching as Conrad Schmitt Studios of Berlin, Wisconsin, which was responsible for all aspects of the renovation, added gold backdrops and built frames and pillars around each station.
Bryon Roesselet, the studio’s project manager, said he was satisfied with the “spectacular transfer”. He told the Register: “Obviously the murals are an incredible highlight for the imagery, the depth of the color and the way they ‘read’ from the ground. Everything about the murals turned out quite magnificent. The Litany of Loreto with the titles of Mary around the frieze, the back wall and the apse as another highlight. “The Loreto Litany makes a huge statement and does not overwhelm but provides an opportunity to reflect on their faith and Mary,” the foreman said, adding that it “makes it a prayer and a great teaching tool.”
Roesselet pointed to the “delightful surprise when the scaffolding fell”. The shiny surface of the floor reflects the murals and the decoration of the ceiling “to become aware of the decoration, even before looking at the ceiling”.
“When the church was built, they intended to make it look older than it was,” he said. “We created this sense of permanence and the importance of the church as a place of reflection and worship.”
Worship music was also included in the restoration. St. Bernadette’s commissioned and installed what is considered the largest pipe organ in Arizona. Built by Peragallo Pipe Organ Co. over a century ago, this instrument also follows the theme of building on tradition. With 3,000 pipes, the organ runs on compressed air and uses no electronics.
Father Kline is “hungry with the effect of 34 high quality stained glass windows, sacred murals and pipe organs on our spirituality and contemplation”.
Last year, when the renovation was planned and underway, Fr. Kline made it clear that the goal was to “provide a worship space that speaks of the glory of God and inspires a person with a sense of holiness and reverence from the moment she enters. Why ? Ultimately, to lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. This relationship then leads to greater commitment to Christian service and discipleship.
He explained that the ancient Church tradition believes that the Church building should represent the truth, goodness and beauty of God. “The architecture, furnishings, art, and ambience itself should both represent the kingdom of God and draw us into the great encounter of heaven and earth that is at the heart of the Mass. … The ultimate goal of this renewal is to be inspired to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.
“And who always brings us to Jesus? he continued, “Mary.”
When asked who was responsible for the details of the renovation, Father Kline replied without hesitation that it was “Notre Dame’s idea: ‘I want it to be that way.’ That’s how it all happened. It is such an inspired work of the Holy Spirit, Our Lady and the saints,” he added of the general reverence.
Indeed, Saint Bernadette is a model of what renewal can do to lift minds and hearts to the Lord.
As Bishop Thomas Olmsted said in his homily at the dedication of the church on May 25, 2017, “The architecture of the church impacts how we worship, and how we worship has an impact on what we believe”.