Tulsa's Holy Family Cathedral's New Look

Monday, May 4th 2009, 8:17 am
By: News On 6

By News On 6 anchor Rich Lenz

TULSA, OK -- A Tulsa church undergoes an extreme makeover church edition.

Tulsa's Holy Family Cathedral is getting a new look.

If you like color, lots and lots and lots of color, this church used to have a white interior, now that has all changed.

The Holy Family Cathedral will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2014 and by that time, church leaders hope to have completed a $6 million renovation.

You probably have noticed the new copper spires on the outside of the cathedral, but if you're not Catholic, perhaps you haven't been inside.

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The church looked a lot different from a year ago and what a difference a year makes.

"This is Oklahoma and we're a little bit more free-form on how we put this together and I think it works great," said Father Matt LaChance.

Father LaChance has earned two degrees from Notre Dame, one in architecture and the other in art history.

Father Matt LaChance says this is the third time has been renovated. First in 1947, then again in 1974 following a fire. This latest design is under the guidance of Monsignor Gregory Gier.

"Monsignor Gregory Gier would often catch me, just sittin' and lookin' and thinkin'. I've repainted this place in my mind probably about a hundred times," Father Matt LaChance said.

"Fads go away but the windows don't, so, every color in this church can be found in a window and can be traced to its place in this building by virtue of the window it is in," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

For example, Mary's altar is bright blue, based on the color of blue in the stained glass directly above it. Joseph's robes are purple.

"So, if you look at the purples in the windows in St. Joseph's alcove, you'll notice how beautifully it goes with the purples in the walls," Monsignor Gregory Gier said.

And it is beautiful and at least initially, a little controversial too.

Rich Lenz asks ‘what have the reviews of the parishioners been?'

"Well, varied, to put it mildly," Monsignor Gregory Gier said.

"Change does not come to church congregations easily, so we kinda knew it was going to stir the pot," said Father Matt LaChance.

The painting was done in stages, so it was difficult for the congregation to imagine what the finished product was going to look like, but as the work has progressed so has the praise for what is being done.

"People are now using words, eloquent, exquisite, beautiful, where they used to say, 'I don't like the purple.' I think psychologically, it is a much smaller, tighter building than it was before, it was huge in its previous paint job, this, and one of my intentions was to bring the building down to make it look a little more intimate," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

"The only way we could do it was the old-fashioned way, scaffolding, much like Michelangelo," said Father Matt LaChance.

The result was a pristine chapel with Father Matt LaChance grabbing a paint brush to experience firsthand the agony and the ecstasy of retouching the vines on the ceiling 60 feet above the altar.

However, he left the stenciling work to master craftsmen.

"They've used the symbolism of the wheat and the grapes of the Eucharist, and they've used the ancient Christian key row symbol which stands for Jesus Christ," said Father Matt LaChance.

"The stenciling has done more for saying, 'ah, that's why, than anything else. If you didn't like the purple, didn't like the blue, didn't like the burgundy, now, it's 'oh, that's why you did it," Monsignor Gier said.

If you get the impression Monsignor Gregory Gier has heard it all since "green-lighting" this multi-hued undertaking, you'd be right.

"One lady said the wall behind the altar looked like a damask wall and I don't know if you can put this in print, but I said, well, that's so much better to say that looks like a damask wall, than that damn wall, if you can't print that, you can take it out," Monsignor Gregory Gier said.

Print it, Paint it and enjoy it, this latest incarnation of Tulsa's neo-gothic Holy Family Cathedral. Bishop Edward Slattery has given his blessing to the makeover.

There is still more stenciling work to be done, so they are not quite there yet.

Related stories:

1/15/2009 Holy Family Cathedral Rebuilding Spires

5/29/2008 Cathedral Ready To Show Off New Look

2/28/2008 Improvements On The Way For Holy Family Cathedral