Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Religion, Art, and Money: Episcopalians and American Culture from the Civil War to the Great Depression

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Religion, Art, and Money: Episcopalians and American Culture from the Civil War to the Great Depression

Article excerpt

Religion, Art, and Money: Episcopalians and American Culture from the Civil War to the Great Depression. By Peter W. Williams. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2016, Pp. 277. Illus. $39.95.)

In a study both pioneering and fascinating, Peter W. Williams offers a cultural history linking wealth, status, and power to the aesthetic revolution that began during America's Gilded Age. He focuses upon Episcopalians, by far the richest economic element of a rising business elite, whose bounty created munificent churches and cathedrals, preparatory schools, and art galleries serving the general public.

Williams begins by covering the emergent wings of the Episcopal Church (high, low, and broad church); the urban context of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh; the Gothic revival and the Arts and Crafts movement; "muscular Christianity"; and philanthropy. Detailed discussion begins with architect H. H. Richardson's Trinity Church of Boston and its rector Phillips Brooks, then moves to such Anglo-Catholic structures as Boston's Church of the Advent and New York's St. Thomas' and a broad church edifice, New York's St. Bartholomew's. The cathedrals of New York, Washington, and San Francisco are treated in detail. Williams stresses how such buildings influenced a more urbanized "highbrow" civilization. Indeed, they could well have contributed to the transdenominational acceptance of the visual and the material as an expression of a culture long dominated by a Puritan plain style. To Gilded Age benefactors, for something to be material does not mean that it is necessarily contaminated by sin; rather, it can serve as "an authentic means for the experience of divine grace" (17).

Williams moves on to architect Ralph Adams Cram and to the Arts and Crafts Movement espoused by British public intellectual John Ruskin and pre-Raphaelite William Morris. Then comes a series of movements: the institutional church, the Social Gospel, the creation of deaconesses, and monastic orders. Episcopal boarding schools are presented through the models of Henry Augustus Coit's St. Paul's of Concord, New Hampshire, and Endicott Peabody's Groton School of Groton, Massachusetts. The book's concluding section delves into patronage of the arts, both concerning private collections and museums open to the public. …

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