A Sermon in Stone

Church Design After Vatican II

One afternoon last summer, Lawrence Hoy and Robert Rambusch toured New York City’s Church of the Holy Family, nodding appreciatively at each other’s observations as they walked. The fifty-eight-year-old Hoy, a well-known liturgical designer and president of Renovata Studios, hadn’t seen Rambusch, his ninety-year-old mentor, in some time. The two friends were relishing this chance to revisit the interior they had created together back in 1998, including a tabernacle enclosure modeled after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Dedicated in 1965 and located near the United Nations—it is commonly called “the UN parish”—Holy Family was designed by architect George J. Sole to express the open spirit of the post–Vatican II reformed liturgy, with its increased emphasis on the participation of the laity, Scripture, and the use of vernacular language. As Hoy and Rambusch toured the church, an older woman who had stopped in to pray watched the pair closely, seeming to recognize them as persons of influence. Eventually she approached and offered a suggestion. Wouldn’t it be lovely, she asked with a faint Russian accent, if the towering statue of the open-armed Risen Christ had some company? There was,...

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The Church of the Ascension in New York City, after Renovata's restoration.

About the Author

Bethe Dufresne, a frequent contributor, is a freelance writer living in Old Mystic, Connecticut.