Portico Covers Ambulatory Encloses Cloister




“Commodity, firmness and delight.”  Thus Sir Henry Wotton restated, in 1624, the ancient requirements for good architecture.  Less arcane terms of functional, strong and beautiful describe our portico, leading from the sanctuary to the parlor and chapel.  But, isn’t a portico a small porch over an entrance door?  Yes, but more generally it is any roofed space between columns.

Shadyside’s portico functions as a protected passageway – an ambulatory.  More than a century’s service attests its firmness (strength).  While it is a pleasing feature seen from Westminster Place, one best experiences its delight from within.  The rhythm of the colonnade sets a gentle pace for a stroll between the two buildings.  The changing view between successive column pairs takes a series of snapshots of our neighborhood.  The ambulatory doubles as a gracious setting for a summer evening reception.

The columns themselves conform to the Romanesque design of the church.  A Romanesque column is short as compared to a classical column of the same diameter.  It is topped by a “cushion capital,” wider and thicker than its Ionic or Corinthian cousin.  These characteristics yield the appearance as well as the reality of increased strength.

Even in November, a left-hand detour toward the Westminster Entrance is worthwhile on a lingering pleasant day.  The aroma of boxwood may reward a brief pause on one of the twin wooden benches, if the sun re-asserts its warmth.  The sundial faithfully awaits its partner.  We may properly call this a cloister – “an unroofed space surrounded by the walls of a religious establishment.”  If nothing else, it is a delightful passage from portico to portal.