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Architectural Features of the Church

Architectural Features

This church dedicated in 2010 is the second church for the parish of Saint Pius the Tenth.  Previous to the first church dedicated in 1981, the parish worshiped in a large chapel in the school.  In our initial planning an earnest effort was made to accommodate the former modern style church in the master plan. However, construction code requirements and its central placement on the site necessitated its removal.

In our planning we have endeavored to bring visual harmony to the campus, establishing a consistent color and materials palate for construction. Our recent school renovation is evidence of this effort. The former cross in front of the church which we now incorporate in our parish logo was moved to the front of the school and modeled in brick over the church’s front doors.  

One of the architectural features at the core of the new site plan, and one that highlights the spirit of hospitality in our community, is the Cloister.  Given the mild climate of Greensboro, we see the cloister not just as a courtyard or breezeway between buildings, but as a gathering space.  With ancient and monastic precedents the cloister invokes Psalm 100, “Enter the temple gates with praise and its courts with thanksgiving,” and Psalm 84, “My soul yearns for the courts of the Lord.” The cloister will also have a liturgical function.  It will be the location of festive blessings and the beginning of our Easter Vigils. 

Entrance to the church is through the baptistery, with four columns supporting a light well over the Font, reminding us of how the heavens were opened at Christ’s baptism.   The large Paschal Candle is blessed at the Easter Vigil and symbolizes Jesus Christ as Our Light and Our Way.  Having eight walls, it is reminiscent of the famous baptisteries which are eight-sided in construction.  In Jewish numerology seven (7) represents perfection, i.e. seven days of creation.  Eight (8) in Christian numerology represents something beyond that, a new reality, the new day of re-creation; for it was on the first day of the week, that is the eighth day, that Jesus rose from the dead. This center point of entry reminds us that each of us enter into the New Life of Christ through baptism.  Both in our coming and our going this space will help us remember the baptismal call to holiness.  As we leave we see the image of the Resurrected Lord over the door, reminding us to let the Risen Christ live in us. This sculpture was the work of Bill Rankin, and had hung over the altar in the former church.

Thanks to good engineering and tons of steel we were able to construct a church with traditional elements, yet still conducive to modern liturgical principles.  The four light colored wooden crosses are the dedication crosses from our former church, these crosses again mark the places where the Bishop consecrates the building to its’ spiritual purpose.   We hope that people will find here a design that is devotional and at the same time very much dedicated to the dynamics of liturgy. Our goal has been to accommodate the largest number of people possible for the site, while still promoting the full, active participation of the faithful at liturgy.

The new church may look like a traditional rectangular church from the outside, but if you could look down on the floor plan you would see our church is a giant square, keeping as many people as close as possible to altar.  This is important to note as the ecclesiology of a community – that is how the Church sees itself as a church – finds expression in its architecture.  Jesus Christ, who is present in and as Holy Eucharist, the Source and Summit of our Spiritual life, is placed front and center and at the same time surrounded by the Church, the Living Body of Christ.

Upon entering the Church the design and aesthetics of the room draw one up and forward to the sanctuary. The clearstory provides natural light and emphasizes the central axis of the building. The height of this architectural feature (55 feet – as tall as the city allows us to build without a variance) has a spiritual function; it gives “lift” to the building. This, combined with the layering of all the various elements, the crucifix, the color of the windows, the wall behind the altar and natural light, help us to “lift up our hearts to the Lord.”

 In selecting the prescribed image of our Lord for the sanctuary it was decided to use one with historic precedent. Our corpus in the Romanesque style is six feet tall and hand-carved of chestnut.  The serene expression on the face of Christ is best viewed at the foot of the Sanctuary, midway between the altar and the ambo.  The cross beam is thirty-three feet above the church floor. The corpus is mounted on a cross of oak, cut and milled from our property. The cross for the chapel and the crosses for the stations are also from our own oak, crafted by Tim Samelak and finished by Todd D’Andrea.

The stained glass windows in our church and chapel were made by Dr. H. Oidtmann of Linnich, Germany, the oldest, continuous manufacturer of stained glass in Germany. Originally installed in Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Merrillville, Indiana, in 1908, they were restored and installed by Statesville Stained Glass. They also crafted the round windows of the Fleur de Lis for Our Lady, the symbols of St. Joseph, and the Papal crest of our Patron Saint, Pope Pius the Tenth.  

In each of the window bays you will find a Carrera marble statue. The Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary represents her as Our Lady of Lourdes. The image of Saint Joseph, the foster father of Christ, shows him holding the Infant Jesus. These excellent examples of Italian stone carving were originally installed in the Pittsburgh Diocese during the1930’s.  Our Parish commissioned a firm from Pietrasanta, Italy, to carve the Statue of our Patron Saint Pope Pius X, that it might complement the antique examples.

All of the other marble in the Baptistery and Sanctuary came from Sicily.  It is the gift of the Giamo family, with Sal Giamo personally installing most of it.  The Altar is a primary symbol of Christ in the church, and as such is reverenced by the ministers upon entry into the sanctuary.  The Mensa or tabletop is a solid slab of red Rosso Siciliano marble, weighing over 1200 pounds, sandwiched between two slabs of Perlatino cream-colored marble.  As our campaign to build the church was “To make a place at the Table,” one of the most memorable events in the construction process was when we relied on the great strength of our parishioners to lift the Mensa into place after a weekend mass. The Ambo is the special pulpit/lectern reserved for the Liturgy of the Word. There the Sacred Scriptures are proclaimed and the Good News preached. Having heard the ongoing story of our salvation we turn attention to the Altar, where we give thanks to Almighty God in Eucharist. The arched architectural features of the Ambo, the Altar and the Tabernacle connect them visually and help communicate the mystery of our faith, that here “The Word is made Flesh and Dwells among us.”

The large antique Bronze Tabernacle with adoring angels in bas-relief serves as the ark of the New Covenant, the abiding and Real Presence of Christ made possible through The Blessed Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.  The candle flame in the hanging Sanctuary lamp indicates that the Holy Eucharist is being reserved in the tabernacle.

The fourteen Stations of the Cross along the walls are a devotion made popular during the middle ages by the Franciscan Order, consisting of prayers and meditations on the Passion of Christ.  The Stations were carved in Italy and originally installed by a New Bedford, Mass., Church in 1905.  The bronze Stations of the Cross in the chapel were commissioned for our former church and were cast in Spain.

The flexibility of the chapel seating will allow us to accommodate a diversity of liturgies and devotions.  The glass wall between the Chapel and the Church will provide additional seating for the great feasts of Easter and Christmas.  Several elements in the Chapel will be familiar to parishioners.  The Altar, Ambo and Tabernacle are from the former church.  The silver and gold Tabernacle, in the shape of a small house or tent, recalls the words of Saint Peter at the Transfiguration; “Master, it is good for us to be together.  Let us erect three tents...”  The Tabernacle contains scenes of the Crucifixion, the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Epiphany visit of the Magi, and the flight into Egypt.  The Chapel’s wood carved Corpus and statues of Mary and Joseph were obtained from a church in North Carolina.

In the planning, construction and decoration of our church we have endeavored to imitate Matthew’s Gospel: “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”