Spring cleaning

| March 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

John Allen Kedhe vacuums dust off the ceiling of the narthex to prepare for painting. (Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit)

Expect to see a crowd outside the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis this weekend, as people stop to view the newly restored narthex, before moving on into the church.

Although the $45,000 cleaning and painting restoration project was still going on March 29, the walls and ceiling of the gathering space are nearly blinding in comparison to the still dust-covered worship space beyond.

Ed Magee is managing the Basilica project for Evergreen Architectural Arts, which is based in New York. He said the project, which began about six week ago, should be completed for the Palm Sunday weekend.

Although Magee helped to recreate the original colors in the Basilica and has worked on various restoration projects across the country for Evergreen since 1991, he is impressed by the difference he sees, today.

“You never realize what it’s going to be. It takes on a whole new space,” he said. “Your eye just pulls you straight up.” Before starting the project, Magee said the narthex looked like an alleyway that made him feel like he wanted to run through so he wouldn’t get mugged. “Now it’s like you want to stop.”

Neela Wickreme Singhe removes the material used to clean the Mankato limestone in the narthex of the Basilica of St. Mary. “They spray a kind of rubber on the wall and when they pull off the rubber, it’s like a mask and all the dirt comes off with the rubber, like putting on a facial mask,” explained Johan van Parys, liturgy and sacred arts director for the Basilica. (Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit)

Johan van Parys, Basilica liturgy and sacred arts director, beamed almost as brightly as the areas of newly cleaned Mankato stone, as he pointed out the difference between the stenciling in the ceiling of the narthex and the stenciling in one of the alcoves. The gold-colored stenciling is actually aluminum leaf and Dutch metal, which is outlined by deep blue painted dashes, van Parys said. The same stenciling in the worship space appears to be as dark brown as dirty bronze.

“It’s like a little bit of heaven in our narthex,” said Angie Lien, Basilica marketing and communications director.

The work in the narthex is being done thanks to the many people who voted last autumn on Facebook for the Basilica to receive a $125,000 Partners in Preservation grant. The church was among 25 historic places competing for full funding of their restoration projects through the community-based program, which provided $1 million in preservation grants to historic places in the Twin Cities. The contest was sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Emily Carlson Hjelm, Basilica Landmark Foundation executive director, said of the narthex, “this is our preview” of what the rest of the church could look like if enough money could be raised for a complete cleaning and restoration.

The online contest was a different way to get the whole community excited about the restoration project, Carlson Hjelm said.

“The participation was so different. It’s not just with your dollars,” she said. “Sometimes it’s more difficult than giving money, to say, ‘I’m going to take time to do this [vote on Facebook] every day.’”

Restoration work on the sacristy, which was part of the grant proposal, is to begin early this summer, Lien said.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Featured, Local News