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Interrupting the profane

Chiotti, Roberto (1998) Interrupting the profane. The Canadian Architect, 43 (6). pp. 33-35. ISSN 0008 2872


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The two orthogonal axes defining the plan of the infirmary relate to the cardinal points of the compass. They are extensions of the existing 70 year-old Abbey's sacred templum which reaches out to embrace the infirmary, thereby ensuring the Sisters of the continuity of Christ's presence. The rotunda, the spatial centre of the infirmary situated at the intersection of these axes, is a space left empty in the middle of the community village. According to historian of religion Mircea Eliade in his book The Sacred and the Profane, it is precisely here "where a break in plane occurs, where space becomes sacred, hence preeminently real." While the rotunda, or spatial centre of the infirmary, can be understood to serve as the point of orientation for the day-to-day lives of its residents, the chapel, or spiritual centre of the infirmary, serves as the most significant point of orientation for their faith and prayer lives as Catholic religious. Metaphorically, the chapel fills the space left empty in the middle of the community village. Its prominent central location, adjacent to the rotunda, establishes its pivotal role in linking the two primary axes of the infirmary. The proximity of the rotunda and chapel is not meant to confuse or appear conflicting, but to emphasize that the struggles and joys of day-to-day existence experienced by the Sisters living in the infirmary are understood to be intimately connected to their spiritual well-being. Thus all roads that lead to the rotunda, or spatial centre, also lead to the chapel, or spiritual centre. To serve as microcosm of the heavenly realm, the chapel must meet certain criteria regarding directional position, proportions and shape. The chapel is oriented in an east-west direction. One enters through the western front and approaches the altar at the eastern end. The shape of the chapel is defined by two intersecting forms. The seating area is fan-shaped, a form that enables those gathered to be aware of each other's presence as a community. The ceiling over its central eastwest aisle is barrel vaulted and supported by four stone columns similar in shape and style to the columns that support the dome-like ceiling of the rotunda. The four columns represent the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The stone finish, unique to the chapel's columns, makes reference to the role of this space as the building's cornerstone and, in the words of the consecration ceremony, pays homage to the symbolism of Christ as "the faithful stone holding the structure together."

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: architecture, Religious buildings
Divisions: Faculty of Design
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2017 19:43
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 16:46
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/1353

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