A Romanesque Temple
With the help of eminent Benedictine monk and architect Fr. Michael McInerney O.S.B., of Belmont Abbey, North Carolina, a Temple was designed that reflected the spirit of the Benedictine tradition of liturgical architecture and one that suited the needs of the parishioners who gathered there as a parish family. Completed in 1933, the Church is Romanesque in design and proportions: clean, elegant, direct and always focused on the worship of the Lord through the Liturgy of the Church. The Romanesque atmosphere is resplendent with the mystery of light and dark. This architecture gives rise to God who is Light. For Saint Benedict Church, artists, artisans and craftsmen trained in the medieval-revivalist style in America during the post-World War I era, brought to life a temple rich in architectural theology.
- massive, thick walls
- rounded arches
- sturdy piers
- use of capitals and symmetry
- decorative arcading (rows of arches)
- latin-cross-shaped floor plan
- use of stained glass
"Stained glass...shuts out the glare of the world with its distractions, leaving a calm quiet suitable for prayer and recollection." -Fr. Michael McInerney, O.S.B.
Angelo Leopardo Pitassi
Saint Benedict Church’s Stained Glass Artist
Angelo Leopardo Pitassi was born in Pacentro, Italy (the province of L’Aquila) in 1886. He was educated in the Catholic Seminary of Sulmona from the age of eight to eighteen, living at home only in the summers. His studies and religious training prepared him in many ways for his life’s work, creating stained glass windows for churches.
In 1903 he emigrated alone to the United States of America. He worked in New York City at a variety of jobs to support himself. Naturally gifted in the visual arts, he began to apprentice in stained glass studios in New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. In the early twentieth century Pittsburgh was an important center for this art, which was pioneering the revival of the great medieval style of the 12th and 13th centuries. Pitassi joined this movement and while working he attended Carnegie Technology School of Fine Arts at night for five years. He became a much-sought-after designer.
By 1920 Pitassi’s dream was to build his own independent studio which became a reality in 1926. During this period he and Hazel Wright were married in 1923 and had their only child, Louise, in 1926. Also in 1926 the building of his studio was completed at 5345 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. This initiated two decades of being his own creative boss. Unlike big production-oriented studios, Pitassi drew all the full-size window designs and participated in all the art procedures that followed. For the mechanical work he hired cutters and glazers. Mr. Pitassi’s ideal studio method allowed a personal artistic statement to evolve; he worked in an atmosphere where art could happen.
With glass, lead, fire and brush, and the artistic vision of Angelo Leopardo Pitassi, the windows of Saint Benedict Church in Baltimore were born. Using an ancient technique of fired and painted glass along with an antique art glass called Normandy, Pitassi crafted the life and miracles of Saint Benedict in 27 roundels, as well as many ancillary panes. The overall effect is best viewed at a distance so that the serene beauty of the composition and positioning of colors may be appreciated and experienced.
Fr. Michael McInerney, O.S.B.
Saint Benedict Church's Architect
Fr. Michael McInerney was a Benedictine monk of Belmont Abbey, North Carolina, where he worked as an architect and designer. It was here that he developed a nationally important architectural practice that encompassed scores of Catholic churches, schools, hospitals, and other structures. Typically built of brick, sometimes in local stone, they combine architectural distinction with the modest size and simple forms suited to the budgets of the state's small Catholic parishes of the early to mid-20th century.
As a monk-architect, McInerney focused his art almost exclusively on Catholic projects. His designs were primarily institutional--approximately 200 Catholic churches, 27 hospitals, 18 convents or monasteries, 10 gymnasia, and others--but they were particularized and colored by his personal investment in the life and values of monasticism. Exterior ornamentation was usually intrinsic rather than appended; his interiors were characteristically austere. McInerney customarily signed his building with a long-stemmed cross.
In his early work, Father McInerney developed a variation on the German Gothic Revival that acquired the popular designation "American Benedictine" from its frequent use by monasteries.
In the middle period of his architectural career (1930-1945), McInerney shifted his emphasis from brick to stone and from Gothic Revival to a striking conception of Romanesque arches imposed on sturdy, classically simple façades. This proved the most prolific and artistically fruitful period of his career. His rectories for St. Benedict (1932) and St. Francis (1934) parishes in Baltimore, are vivid expressions of the maturity and power of his art.
McInerney's final period (1945-1963) reversed his earlier intentions. With a new economy of exterior line, and a taste for flat roofs and squared towers, he emphasized rather than disguised the box form.
The recipient of many awards and honors, Fr. McInerney was honored with a doctorate (honoris causa) by Saint Vincent College in 1959 in recognition of his five hundred plus buildings and his "devotion to ecclesiastical art, the sacrifices and labors of the priest and monk, and the economy of church funds [secured through] the endeavors of his artistic and architectural talents."