Friday, September 27, 2013


 Traveling again, but I must pause for a moment of admiration and awe at what passes, by almost universal assent, as one of the architectural wonders of our great nation: Trinity Episcopal Church at Copley Square in Boston.  I must have seen it before--perhaps as long as 70 years ago--but I never gave it sustained attention until yesterday.  I say "almost universal" rather than merely "universal," based on one indisputable item  of evidence: myself.  For my money, this is one of the most gobsmackingly ugly heaps of misbegotten rubble I've ever laid eyes on outside of a combat zone.  It looks like the woman's prison in a knockoff sequel to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  It looks like a dope dream generated by Mad Ludwig of Bavaria in consort with Isabella Stewart Gardner on a poisonous February morning. It looks like--but perhaps you get the drift.  I'm not a fan, except in the sense of something  so jaw-droppingly misbegotten has to be a source of high entertainment.

I read that the building dates from the 1870s.  I gather it is the third building occupied by this religious community and you'd have to say it was con-veen-ient that the second one burned down just as plans for the third were getting under way (nah, I kid, I kid--I do not suspect the rector of insurance arson).  The whole project does seem--I'm getting serious now--to have been conceived by someone who wanted to show the Europeans that he could go them one better, but who really didn't have a clue as to what European church architecture was about.  The outside is an improvisation m√©lange of garrets and gables.  The inside is dank as a tomb, but the real problem is that apse: he's fashioned some kind of a half-dome up there, except that in its very halfness, it doesn't do any of the work that a proper dome would have to do.  The consequence is that he has had to impair the face of his own work with massive crosspieces that he seems to have retrieved from the  underpinnings of a giant sleigh.  There are plenty of stained-glass windows but so heavy in competition with their stained-glass medievalism that they do almost nothing to overcome the pervasive gloom.

I suppose one could be diverted by the obvious pride the proprietors take in their heritage and their mission of preservation.   And the truth is, you've got to admire it.  There are some national wonders you just have to accept on their own terms, like the world's deepest hand-dug well; or the Friends of Hopalong Cassidy Birthday Celebration.  Trinity Church occupies a proud and central place in that company and as the tour guides surely say, should not be missed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i was in boston when i wa 19 years old -- training as a merchant marine radio officer on gallups island in boston harbor for what i later learne was the invasion fleet of japan. truman took care of that - the war ended while i was still in training, the school phased out and a few weeks later i was on a ship as unrated seaman. don't remember those buildings. but in '73 i was there again, dropping a child off in cambridge for college, and right near harvard yard there's a church cemetery with graves of peopledating back to birth in the 1600's.