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Title: Kerkinterieurs in het interbellum in Brussel
Subtitle: Spanningsveld tussen traditie en vernieuwing
Author(s): MOREL, Anne-Françoise
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Interieurgeschiedenis en Design
Volume: 35    Date: 2006   
Pages: 159-173
DOI: 10.2143/GBI.35.0.2029545

Abstract :
Ecclesiastical architecture of the inter-war period shows a great diversity of formal language and use of materials. In order to get a sense of religious architecture and how it represented Catholic thinking on the Church, the parish and church buildings, it is important to recognise the diversity in the production of architecture. With the exception of what is now the ‘canon’ of Brussels ‘Art-Déco’ churches, the interwar-churches in Belgium are barely known. In a master’s thesis, ‘Architectural representation of Catholicism: inter-war churches in the Brussels Capital District’, 29 buildings in sixteen Brussels municipalities are studied. These are all parish churches that were built in the period in question according to contemporary designs. The interiors of the churches in question are very different. A small group have a historicised character, and several interiors exhibit Art-Déco influences, while the majority have interiors in a style which at the time had no generally recognised name. Characterised by a contemporary interpretation of the ‘traditional’ Gothic and Romanesque formal alphabet, yet clearly set in opposition to the 19th-century ‘neo-movement’, this architecture is known as Modern Gothic and Modern Romanesque. Both styles enjoyed both national and international success, as they offered the possibility for ‘renewal through tradition’. This statement was highly prized in liturgical circles and the associated Liturgical Movement. Nonetheless, the demand for new church architecture in the inter-war period was repeatedly reformulated. The search for ‘renewal through tradition’ translated itself not only into a huge range of styles; subtle changes to floor plans, the call for a rearrangement of church furnishing and discussions concerning stained-glass windows and statues were also ongoing. In the artistic practice, however, the sluggish economy slowed down the production of both church furnishing and of windows and statuary. A (moderately) modern formal language was promoted by such organisations as Les Ateliers d’Art de Maredsous and La Croix Latine. In Brussels parish churches, there are, however, few examples of total-concepts. The furnishings tend to be simple and even traditional. There is little evidence of stained glass and new statues, at least in the churches in the Brussels District. A number of beautiful pieces were, however, created in conjunction with the world’s fairs, and are now found distributed over a number of Brussels churches. It is also clear that despite their limited financial resources, parish congregations, in the wake of the Catholic Action, invested substantially in their church buildings. Because of the absence of a policy from the church government, the church materials here studied paint a picture of a ‘people who build’. Despite the explicit prohibition in the liturgical directives, rooms with social purposes were provided in a number of churches. The emphasis that came to be placed on the community of faith is characteristic of the evolution of the Church in the 20th century. The growing participation of the community in the parish partly explains the architectural choices between tradition and renewal, between originality and recognisability.

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