The defining architectural feature
of Shadyside Church is the lantern. This
element (derived from
) spawned many church lanterns in our region.
I can think of at least seven and we will consider four of them
Other lanterns followed closely on
the heels of Shadyside Presbyterian (1890), and some were near neighbors.
Christ Methodist (Aiken Avenue, 1893) made their tower octagonal, a
softening of our square shape. Bellefield
Presbyterian’s 1896 tower approaches circular, with sixteen facets (a
hexadecagon!). Both churches
added gabled dormers and surface ornament, accounting for their decidedly
Trinity Reformed in
is the most compact of our subjects. Belying
the austerity one might expect of that denomination, its ornament includes
some non-functional buttresses. On
the slopes above Lawrenceville,
’s Church (1899) has a lantern above the “crossing” of its cruciform
plan. The photo shows a round
apse in the foreground, which like ours, houses the chancel.
Aside from fashion, what accounts
for the appeal of the lantern? Light.
In eleventh century Romanesque churches, small windows made for
dark interiors. Where a
lantern was used (like
’s Old Salamanca Cathedral), natural light could illuminate the center
of the nave. By the nineteenth
century, structural techniques permitted large windows in the walls.
The lantern’s clerestory windows, however, eliminate the
cavernous dark volume of a conventional roof.
The elevation introduces an indirect light and a worshipful
second appeal of the lantern concerns proportion of the worship space.
A lantern works best when the room it tops is nearly square or
nearly round. This shape
gathers the people close – and is sympathetic to a Protestant emphasis
on participation. Participation,
illumination and fashion help explain
’s embrace of the lantern.