MODERN PARISH CHURCHES.*
MR. MICKLETHWAITE'S book does not pretend to be a profound or exhaustive treatise on modern Church architecture ; indeed, its size—that of a small-octavo volume—precludes the possibility of this; but it contains a large amount of information, given in the clear and simple manner only attained by one thoroughly ac- quainted with his subject. The author has, in his mind's eye, a representative church, perfectly built, without stint of cost, and adapted to the requirements of the moat elaborately deve- loped ritual which our very comprehensive Anglican Church pei- mits ; but he writes neither for High Churchmen nor millionaire patrons alone, every one, be he High-Church or Low-Church, rich or poor, may build his church the better for reading it. Mr. Micklethwaite claims for architecture a place which it ought to occupy by the side of music, poetry, painting, and sculpture, as one of the fine arts, and he inquires how it is that in the present day this position is denied it, and that an architect is too often regarded simply as a man who is " engaged to bully the builder, and to take care that he performs everything which is contained in his contract." He divides men who choose architecture as their profession into three classes, " good architects," " bad architects," and " no archi- tects ;" the first are men of genius,—artists who, understanding both the practical and the aesthetic aspect of their work, go straight ahead, neither pandering to false taste nor allowing themselves to be led astray by public opinion ; the second are the polished pebbles sometimes mistaken for diamonds,—they are often honest men, who, if left to themselves, would work with truth and feel- ing, but possessing neither strength nor originality, they are overpowered and carried away by the current around them ; the third comprises " any man with a brass-plate and a door to put it on . . . . a large number of surveyors, auctioneers, house-agents, upholsterers, &c., with a sprinkling of bankrupt builders and retired clerks of works." As this class is by far the most numerous, the cause is obvious why architecture does not hold its place among the arts, and why modern buildings are so often more or less un- satisfactory.
The architect is, however, not always to blame for defects in modern churches, inasmuch as he is not always a free agent. A man who has climbed high, and has become a leader in this or any other profession, may be an autocrat, and may undertake nothing which he is not permitted to work out in his own way ; but there is a weary ascent between the first step and this last ; it is not every man who can afford to live for art, and to wait for its truths to be acknowledged. While eschewing the dictum of the prig who said that "that was the best church which held the greatest number of people," Mr. Micklethwaite is essentially practical, and he gives the result of his experience, both as regards utility and ornament. He says, understand what will be required as to interior arrangements, and form the general plan to satisfy these requirements ; instead of which, the practice too frequently is to form a plan in apparent disregard of probable requirements, and
• Modern Parish Churches. By T. T. Micklethwaite. London: Henry S. Sing and Co.
—endeavouring, in fact, to fit square pegs into round holes.
The chapter on Ornament may be read with pleasure by many who have no especial interest in Church architecture, for the truths it teaches are of general application. Simplicity is not meanness, neither is ornament synonymous with richness. Ornament is a superfluity and a luxury; it should give emphasis to and enhance beauty, it should bring with it sentiment and refinement; there should rest upon it an individuality, a reflex of the worker's mind. One test of artistic feeling in an architect is the manner in which he employs ornament. In poor churches ornament is more often than not worse than wasted. If money sufficient to ornament well cannot be obtained, the substance of Mr. Micklethwaite's advice is,—build well, and do not attempt to decorate. To be poor is a misfortune, to be shabby-genteel is a fault.
The present is, we are told, a church-building age ; more churches have been built during the last few years than in any since the thirteenth century. There may be two causes for this, —the rapidly increasing population, and the fact that the old churches have arrived at a state of decay which necessitates, if not rebuilding, at least extensive repairs ; we abstain from using the word " restoration " advisedly, because it too often runs parallel to touching up an old manuscript with gaudy pigments, and replacing the cover of silk, gold, and jewels, beautiful even in its decay, with cheap velvet and clasps of Brummagem lacker.
Those whose attention has been directed towards Church archi- tecture will have noted that, by a certain class a standard, not of, but styled " correctness," has been adopted, and to this standard every consideration, whether of beauty, fitness, or convenience, is made to bow. The uninitiated may suppose that to be " correct" means all that can be desired of beauty, fitness, and the like, but it means nothing of the kind. The disciples of the " Correct " school, whether architects, clergymen, lay patrons, or others, appear to have conceived the idea that all old (Le., ante-Reformation) churches are good, and that the further back they date the better they are. The thirteenth century has, we believe, given to the " correct " school her favourite models. These churches are copied, in forgetfulness or disregard of one fact, namely, that the wants of the thirteenth and the nineteenth centuries are not in all instances the same. For exam- ple, we no longer require the seats known as " misericords" in our chancels, neither do we need a niche by the door for the cross formerly carried in out of-door processions, but we do require space for our large organs, which would have been useless when organs were small and rare. Again, in the olden time space was in excess of requirements, now, on the contrary, the require- ments are almost always greatly in excess of available space ; this of itself should cause alterations in interior arrangements. Not that we would remove a single landmark of a past his- tory from an old church, but to introduce what is useless into our new churches is to provide so many ecclesiastical toys. The " cor- rect" school set off with a truth,—that old churches are in general superior to new churches ; but this truth is speedily misapplied, and in common with truths so handled, it is difficult to convince people of their error. But to copy servilely is not really to imitate our mediaeval forefathers,—it is only keeping to the letter, while losing the spirit. They were neither copyists, nor of the number of people to whom change is impossible ; they were practical, and built according to their wants ; as times changed, they altered both their churches and their dwellings, the former " to such an extent, that even in their present state it is possible to ascertain what were the special conditions under which churches were built, and thereby to distinguish a parochial from a collegiate, a secular from a regular, and even to point out to what particular order a church may have belonged." But it is easier to copy and to follow suit than to examine evidence, understand a past age, and adapt its excellencies to the requirements of a different ph ase of life.
Widely apart from the " Correct " is the " Go " school. It exists principally in the profession, its essential elements being vulgarity and self-consciousness. The architect of the " go" school creates a difficulty that it may be obtrusively overcome ; he introduces mediaeval objects of ugliness, and glaring colours, setting at defiance all laws of harmony ; but then the effect is startling, people gape and wonder, and end in admiring what they do not understand, and say, " What a clever man Mr. — is 1" The true artist is self-forgetful, rather than self-asserting ; praise is sweet to every man who is not a misanthrope ; the praise of the educated inspires to strivings after yet higher achievements, but the praise of the half-educated multitude who admire the "go" school is worth about as much as that of a deaf man at a concert.
study of our old churches ; he wishes, on the contrary, that they were better understood ; but it must be kept in remembrance that study does not mean imitation. Some of the greatest masters, in every branch of art, have been the hardest of students, yet the least of copyists. Let it be understood also that "good "or' bad," though in one sense positive terms, are in another relative, and that in a church it is bad to reproduce anything the use of which has become obsolete, even though the workmanship be fault- less. Although modern architecture is, in Mr. Micklethwaite's opinion, in an unsatisfactory condition, he by no means condemns all modern churches, nor pronounces all old ones to be good. Good and bad were doubtless in an inverse ratio to what they are at present, and we may take it that three-fourths of the old churches were good, while the contrary would be nearer the mark of those now built. The fault of churches does not always lie in defective material, workmanship, or stint of cost ; it often arises from want of harmony. The architect too often regards his work as accomplished as soon as the church is consecrated, whereas it is very rare that all interior arrangements are completed by that time ; afterwards decorators, upholsterers, and lastly, but by no means least, the ladies of the parish, are let loose to do their pleasure, according to their own individual tastes, without organi- sation or any hand to guide them. Each work taken singly may be perfect, but regarded as a whole the result will be about as satisfactory as that Dutch concert in which each man played a different piece of music in a different key. In Mr. Mickle- thwaite's opinion, the architect should be held responsible until everything be completed, and all that is admitted, whether as a gift or otherwise, should be submitted to his approval ; it may not be completed during one man's life, in which case a suc- cessor equally good should be appointed ; it was under guidance such as this, that our old churches rose in the beauty and harmony which we can trace even in their present too frequently mutilated con- dition. It is not possible, within the limits of this paper, to touch on the subjects of all the thirty-three chapters contained iu the book ; everything, from the material and position of the altar to heating apparatus and kneeling-mats, is discussed in a manner to afford instruction of a very practical nature to any who may require it, our author being of the opinion that no subject is too trivial for an architect's attention, if it conduce to the well-ordering of a church, the comfort or convenience of a congregation.
There has been, in Mr. Micklethwaite's opinion, much unneces- sary disputing concerning the material of which the altar should be made, and he conceives that the rubric, in directing that " the chancels shall remain as they have done in times past," distinctly orders that they shall be of stone, for he adds, "in times past, i.e., before the translation of the services, none but stone altars were known in England." In taking this view, we think that Mr. Micklethwaite has treated the subject with something less than his usual careful discrimination. The rubric for "the Order of the Holy Communion " Bays, " The table at the Com- munion-time, &c." Bishop Ridley, in the reign of Edward VI., 1550, issued instructions for the removal of the altars iu his diocese, and required the churchwardens of each parish to provide a table, to be placed in such part of the church or chancel as should be most convenient ; and that a real, movable table was intended will be apparent to all who read the said rubric. The reason of this was, that the use of the altar was founded on the supposition that the Eucharist is a proper sacrifice, which, though it be the doctrine of the Church of Rome, is rejected by our own, in com- mon with most of the Reformed Churches. We believe that we are right in saying, not only that Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, and the greater part of the English Reformers, but that Continental divines also, deprecated the use of altars, as likely to promote superstitious opinions as to a propitiatory mass ; also that tables, and not altars, were used by the early Christians, and by the Church for the first 250 years, until altars were introduced by Pope Sixtus II. The Reformers were alive to dangers which might lurk in the use of a word or a symbol, the very meaning of which is now all but forgotten, for the near contemplation of fiery ordeals renders men keen-sighted ; but to eighty per cent. of church- goers in this year of grace, it is probably immaterial whether an altar or a wooden table be placed at the eastern end of the sanc- tuary, for to them neither the one nor the other has any signification.
Before concluding, we must notice a chapter on Pictures and Images, a chapter which is distinct from that on Ornament, for they are not treated as such ; not only is it full of interest, but it shows the spirit in which our author both writes and works, and how wide apart he is from those men whose souls lie in bricks and mortar, and who, when that part is more or less satisfac- torily accomplished, .believe their task to be. ended.. Mr.. Mickle-
thwaite is an advocate for the- use of pictures in churches ; he says, " Pictures . . . are the. books of. the unlearned." " The.
uneducated. and half-educated are more easily impressed by the eye than by the ear, and they are, and in spite of Education Acts must always be, the, vast majority of Christians, for reading, writing, and . arithmetic alone are not education." He might add, that much beyond those attainments is not education either. The key-note to Mr. Micklethwaite's book may be found in the couplet. from Pope, which he has taken as his motto :—
" Something there is more needful of expense, And something previous ev'n to Taste,—'tis Sense."