Multimedia Slideshows

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Chapel renovation is looking heavenly

Below, craftsmen sawed boards and above, electricians worked on wiring in the attic of the St. Joseph Chapel at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury as renovation makes its way toward a late-spring completion.

The work is the final phase of the seminary renovation funded by the Faith for the Future campaign. The rest of the project at the college and graduate school of theology, which serves seminarians for the Archdiocese of St. Louis and other dioceses and religious communities, was completed in the fall of 2012. The chapel is to be consecrated on Sunday, May 3.

Immediately, the ceiling stands out. It has been been resurfaced, painted with stars, sunbursts and rays of light. "It's the heavens," architect James McCrery said.

The ceiling "was the one part that took the longest because we had to put scaffolding up to do it," said Father Jason Schumer, director of worship at the seminary. "Everything else waited for that to be done. Now we have three or four things happening at once."

The back wall was painted gold and stenciled with a damask pattern -- a weaving style that originated in the early Middle Ages.

The steel frame for the baldacchino has been set up. It arrives in mid-April from Mountain View Millworks in West Virginia, one of the last aspects of the construction. The firm is preparing all the wood work for the sanctuary. The white oak will complement the organ, choir loft and two confessionals.

Stone masons from Rugo Stone, specialists in Italian marble, are building frames for the altar and for the mensa in back for the tabernacle. The reredos, an ornamental wall structure behind the altar, is being constructed as well.

Floors are being stripped before being re-waxed, and wood floors sanded, stained and re-coated. Pews are being rebuilt and will be returned in mid-April. A new organ will be installed in June or July. Windows are being sealed and protected. A new sound system will be installed, the hanging lights and wall sconces have been removed and will be refinished and rewired.

McCrery said a key to the paint colors was subtle but important -- picking much darker wall colors to complement the stones, allowing the detail of the carved stone architecture to be the lightest feature instead of the darkest. "This is a major shift because there is a lot of detail in the stone you can see now because your eye goes to the light rather than the dark," he said.

By introducing extensive gold within the blue heaven, especially in the zone where the golden stained-glass windows are, there's a blending of the gold vault and the windows. "Now what used to be sort of exceptions to the rule here in the chapel -- the gold windows used to be very jarring -- now they blend very beautifully with the entire color composition of the chapel," he said.

Looking up and around, McCrery smiled and said, "It's really coming along."

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