Debate continues to spiral around Tremont Street cathedral pediment

Father Tim Schenk at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Hingham could contain his feelings no more: He just cannot abide the nautilus that now tops the Cathedral Church of St. Paul on Tremont Street:

The nautilus is supposed to be a metaphor for spiritual growth, based on an Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem titled The Chambered Nautilus. I actually don’t mind the sculpture itself - if it was on the facade of a contemporary arts museum it might even entice me to go inside. But labeling it a symbol of spirituality feels contrived and as empty as one of its chambers.

In a comment to the post, John Streit, dean of St. Paul, responds:

I was a little surprised at how closed people seemed to be to the nautilus as a symbol of our faith. It may not be an immediately self-evident symbol, but neither was the cross when it first was used. (“Why are these people glorifying imperial Roman torture instruments?”)




Free tagging: 



Yikes. I wonder if people's concerns revolve around the nautilus being more closely associated with science and math, which has historically had conflicts with religious beliefs. Maybe they think it's the equivalent of putting a math theorem up on the wall instead of cross ("taking away the wonder" of Christianity, or something like that).


Galileo didn't see a conflict between religion and science?

In 1633 Galileo was formally interrogated for 18 days and on April 30 Galileo confesses that he may have made the Copernican case in the Dialogue too strong and offers to refute it in his next book. Unmoved, the Pope decides that Galileo should be imprisoned indefinitely. Soon after, with a formal threat of torture, Galileo is examined by the Inquisition and sentenced to prison and religious penances, the sentence is signed by 6 of the 10 inquisitors. In a formal ceremony at a the church of Santa Maria Sofia Minerva, Galileo abjures his errors. He is then put in house arrest in Sienna. After these tribulations he begins writing his Discourse on Two New Sciences.

Galileo remained under house arrest, despite many medical problems and a deteriorating state of health, until his death in 1642. The Church finally accepted that Galileo might be right in 1983.



Tribalism sucks

Lets see..... Someone makes a point (in this case a theological / architectural point) that you don't agree with. So you look at his return address, decide that somehow his town of residence has something to do with it, and make some general complaint against his town. Kind of a broad brush to be painting with, there, eh?


He can't contain his feelings any more."

Tim Schenck, his wife Bryna, father to Benedict, Zachary and “master” to Delilah, should stay out of Boston and stick his preaching to Bootsy, Topsy, Trip, Hubbell, Missy, Win, Mitzi, Bitsy and Oatsie. and keep his option's to himself. Leave us alone, it is out church and go back to your millionaire town.
Figures were just released today that Hingham has over 248 residents making over $1 million a year, The highest of any town in the South Shore.

Pink and green are not our colors in Boston and remember the teachings from Matthew 19:25

Your bigotry is ugly.

OK, we get it that you have a big chip on your shoulder, and that you hate:

  1. People who, through some combination of birth, hard work, smarts, and dumb luck, have a lot of money.
  2. Anyone who lives in a town that has rich people in it
  3. People who have nicknames that are typically associated with a cultural group that is not yours
  4. People who wear color combinations that are not to your liking

Have I missed anything?


Let the religious folks debate its spirituality, but...

I think it looks pretty bad as art or architecture myself. I'm no expert, and to each his own, but I think that bright tempera-paint blue looks pretty awful on the pediment of a classical building. I applaud the artist and the church's boldness, but I don't think it works. It looks unfinished, to be honest. Or perhaps like a blue-screen movie effect that hasn't had the blue bits filled in with the background yet.



Setting aside the theological issues: You wouldn't put a gaint bas-relief of Poseidon on the side of the sleek modernist Hancock Tower. Why put this nautilus thing atop an otherwise elegant classical building?


I like the nautilus! I work

I like the nautilus! I work up the street and especially love how it looks when it's lit at night. Also, the brilliant blue and simple contrast design makes it visible across the commons. And the juxtaposition of the older neo-greco building and the modern but classical nautilus motif is elegant.. There are three other churches on Tremont within view of St Paul's that have maintained their original facades, and St Paul's is unique. And I say that as a crusty old atheist.


Boston Common.

Singular, not 'commons'. Same with the Public Garden.

As for the design, it was a riskey concept to begin with, and they absolutely blew it on execution. It's bold and visible yes, but so is a billboard.

Love the concept; execution not so much so

I loved the artists renderings. The execution leaves me a little less enthusiastic. In particular, the blue background looks really cheaply executed, and I'm particularly bothered by the horizontal recess about 6" high by about 6' wide, about a quarter of the way up... I assume it's some kind of access panel and not part of the design, but I find it really visually detracts from the whole look.


The individual pieces also

The individual pieces also have these weird nubs on them that make them look like giant versions of plastic model pieces that you had to twist free of the plastic they shipped in.

It looks really cheesy, but whatever. It's their church.