About St. Joseph

 mc68az6zrcrl9ibbp3c881fe0hl.gifid you know...

...that St. Joseph Catholic Church in Winter Haven has an architectural style based on some of the greatest cathedrals in the world?  The Gothic style originated in 12th century France. Characterized by pointed arches, ribbed vaults, flying buttresses and walls of stained glass, the style has seen many variations and revisions throughout the world.  Although St. Joseph Church does not exactly look like a great Gothic cathedral, the basic design elements are there outright or suggested in its construction.  It has, for example, the Latin cross or cruciform floor plan with the front of the church, the altar end, facing east; the direction of the rising sun, or, to commemorate in a Christian way, the Resurrection of the Son.  The main body of the church, the long center aisle where the people sit, is the nave, and is 85.4 feet in length at St. Joseph.

 he arms of the cross, called the transepts...

         ...meet each other in an area called the crossing.  The vault, or inside roof in true Gothic design, has ribs that meet together over the crossing.  These great structures typically support a heavy stone roof that rises higher than the aisles and are supported by columns.  In St. Joseph, there is no height difference between the side aisle and the nave and no columns.  The vault merely appears higher due to the optical illusion generated by the faux ribs and by the arching supports, which appear as flying buttresses between the windows and the window lintels.  These end in a peaked vault rather than a barrel vault.  

   peaking of windows, the higher the better...


         ...according to the Gothic form and they served as a bible for the faithful to "read".  Books were laboriously copied by hand and the majority of people were illiterate serfs.   High walls were possible through the support of ribs holding the weight of the roof and huge flying buttresses along the outside walls which held the thin walls up, allowing extensive window placement despite height.  The tall windows of St. Joseph's do not end in a pointed arch as indicated by Gothic style, nor are the outside walls supported by buttresses but one can still look to heaven and read the gospel story by tracing the buttress like feature between each window.  The buttress theme repeats in miniature in the design of the ambry.


  he clerestory, which in true Gothic style is the "clear upper story" of the aisle roof...

     ...is not seen at St. Joseph. Instead, at the level where the aisle roof would have been, at the west end, is the choir loft, now used for overflow seating.  There, as tradition calls, a large window opening of stained glass illuminates that space.  The St. Joseph Rose window.                      

raditionally, the choir area, which was much larger then, is where the main altar, or chancel, is featured today. 

This is because the clergy sang the mass in Latin to inspire awe and psychological separation from the faithful who were not actually expected to achieve holiness themselves.  A large ornate screen, called a rood screen because the great rood, or crucifix, hung on it, achieved further separation between the nave and the choir area.

 ust imagine how Mass was celebrated...

The priests and monks singing in Latin for hours on end, understood only by each other.  The sinful faithful , isolated behind an ornate screen, clustered in the nave looking at the windows, because the average serf couldn't read English or Latin, only the rich or clergy?  Besides that, what was going on in the chancel was not, according to the teaching of the era, the business of the laity.  

ortunately for today’s faithful, holiness is achievable through the sacraments...

Participation in the liturgy is a pillar of stewardship at St. Joseph.  There is no rood screen or even a cry room to separate us from each other or from God, except our sin if we give it that power.  We know what is going on because the men who are there have given themselves in sacrament to a call that ministers to our understanding.  In the crossing, we meet and share our traditions in a building that reflects traditions from long ago. 

Church Crucifix

  uttressed by faith, we look at the Great Rood...

the image of our redemption and our upturned faces are flooded with light. However, the light that we eagerly strive to reflect does not originate through colored glass but from what we accept in our unworthy human hands.  For there, concealed as the most humble and basic of human food, is God. 


Letter Graphics: 
Architectural Terms and Examples



Carr, Karen. "The parts of a Church Carr, Karen." Kidipede - History for Kids. 2010. January 20, http://http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/medieval/architecture/churchparts.htm

Further reading about this subject:

The Pillars of the Earth 1989 by Ken Follet.
    Historical novel published in 1989. Dynamics of cathedral building in the fictional town of Kingsbridge and its influence on the generations of people who live there.
World Without End  by Ken Follet.
 Ken's Website: http://www.ken-follett.com/bibliography/the_pillars_of_the_earth.html 
 Another example of this subject:

Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe

8300 Vineland Avenue Orlando, Florida 32821 407-239-6600. Shrine Open Daily 7:30 am - 5:00 pm