Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs in the Nineteenth Century

By Ryan K. Smith | Go to book overview

Epilogue

A wave of revivalism swept through America’s Catholic parishes during the mid-nineteenth century. Led by traveling, charismatic priests, these “missions” featured thunderous preaching and prayers aimed at awakening the souls of the attendees. The revivals drew from established European traditions, but they also mirrored a practice perfected by generations of American Protestants. Indeed, their conspicuous similarities led some Catholics to complain that the popular missions were “an imitation of the old Methodist revivals.” Clearly, denominational accommodation could run in more than one direction. Earlier in the century, lay trustees in various Catholic parishes throughout the country had claimed the right to control church finances and to appoint or dismiss their own priests. This democratic initiative, which reflected the customs of neighboring Protestants, soon clashed with the church’s hierarchy and produced an extended battle over parish control. Other examples abound: the furnishings in Catholic family parlors began reflecting the pious advice given by such Congregational daughters as Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe; Catholic “summer schools” and Chautauqua-like institutes popped up in response to successful Protestant lecture programs; and by the twentieth century, Southern-style gospel music echoed throughout many Catholic parishes. Such exchanges only hint at the cross-pollination that has taken place among America’s denominations.1

Though the Protestant appropriation of Catholic art was only one element among these encounters, it proved to be a decisive element. For it articulated a shift in the very nature of the church itself. Among earlier generations of America’s Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Baptists, the definition of a “church” centered on people, not a building or an institution. A “church” consisted solely of a

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Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs in the Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introductions 1
  • 2 - Catholic Churches 19
  • 3 - The Cross 51
  • 4 - The Gothic 83
  • 5 - The Flowers 119
  • Epilogue 157
  • Notes 163
  • Bibliography 185
  • Index 215
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