The National Trust Conference, hosted in Buffalo in October 2011, put our city’s architectural treasury of civic, sacred and residential landmarks “front and center” for a national audience. In the aftermath of this high profile event, a new collaborative, titled the Buffalo Alliance for Sacred Places, was formed “to promote the preservation and appreciation of the art, architecture and history of Buffalo’s houses of worship.” The member organizations are First Presbyterian Church, Blessed Trinity Church, Corpus Christi Church, the Chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery and the Buffalo Religious Arts Center. Each site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Buffalo Alliance sites have chosen to participate in The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s third annual Sacred Sites Open House Weekend on May 18-19, joining dozens of religious institutions throughout New York State in welcoming the public to special programming during this unique event, as follows:
Blessed Trinity Church, 317 Leroy Avenue
Saturday, May 18 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 19 from 12:00 Noon – 2:00 p.m.
Information at: www.blessedtrinitybuffalo.org or 716-833-0301
Blessed Trinity is recognized as the purest replication of Lombard-Romanesque architecture in the United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The extensive use of terra cotta in its construction (1923-1928) provided for one of its most unique features: an elaborate display of medieval iconography created by Rev. Thomas Plassmann, then President of St. Bonaventure University. The church contains more than two thousand symbols which depict this “summa” or summary of Christian beliefs in ceramic tiles, paintings and sculpture, and docents will be available to help interpret them.
The Buffalo Religious Arts Center, 157 East Street
Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Information at: www.buffaloreligiousarts.org or 716-481-2350
The Buffalo Religious Arts Center is located in the former St. Francis Xavier Church, in the historic Black Rock neighborhood on the West Side of Buffalo. This unique gallery is dedicated to the preservation of Buffalo’s rich religious heritage through the collection and display of art and artifacts from many of the area’s closed houses of worship. The artifacts on display include stained glass, statuary and paintings, all of which reveal the story of the many immigrants who settled in Buffalo.
Corpus Christi R. C. Church, 199 Clark Street
Saturday, May 18 from 12:00 Noon – 2:00 p.m.
Information at: www.corpuschristibuffalo.org or 716-896-1050
On Saturday at 11:00 a.m., Henry Swiatek, a specialist in church painting and restoration, will give a presentation in the chapel on the significance of recently restored murals in this space. The chapel is located in the former convent building on Clark Street, to the right of the church.
Corpus Christi Church is located on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and was honored in 2010 with a Preservation Buffalo Niagara Preservation Award. The iconic mural above the church altar, considered one of the most significant pieces of ecclesiastical artwork in the United States, was recently restored to its original splendor. This exquisite artwork is a rendering of a Vatican masterpiece by celebrated, Renaissance painter Raphael Santi. The mural was originally painted in the 1920’s by Marion Rzeznik and Gonippo Raggi, both of whom are considered premier, 20th century artists of ecclesiastical paintings.
First Presbyterian Church, One Symphony Circle
Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Information at: www.firstchurchbuffalo.org
First Presbyterian Church, a Buffalo city landmark, was the first faith community in Buffalo. Founded in 1812, it is often referred to as the “Mother of All Churches.” Even Teddy Roosevelt worshipped here! The Romanesque church was designed by Buffalo architects Green and Wicks. Notable features include the main dome, towering 64 ft. above the floor of the nave, decorated in a Persian design. The apse features four medallions depicting the Four Evangelists, adapted from carvings on the doors of St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy, while the chandeliers are copies of those in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
Chapel at Forest Lawn, Delaware & West Delavan Avenues
Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Information at: www.forest-lawn.com or 716-885-1600
Forest Lawn’s historic chapel was constructed in 1882, 32 years after the first burial took place, using plans created by Joseph Earnshaw, an engineer from Cincinnati. The facility was constructed using limestone from Forest Lawn’s own quarry. In 1933, the Wurlitzer pipe organ –made in North Tonawanda, NY – was installed. The chapel’s terrazzo floors and vaulted ceilings provide ideal acoustics for recitals and receptions.
Renowned local architect Edward B. Green was contracted to design a crematory and a columbarium for the chapel; they were completed in 1933. A chancel was also added, as well as a cloister. In 1954, the portico was constructed, extending from the chapel entrance to the road.
As Forest Lawn embraces its new purpose as a cultural destination for local residents and tourists alike, the chapel has become an integral part of many events and activities. Over the past few years, the chapel has hosted more than 5,000 guests for such special events as lectures, concerts, special group tours, symposiums and more. Forest Lawn is the only local full-service cemetery for traditional and cremation arrangements listed on the State and National Registries of Historic Places.
ALL EVENTS ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Since 1986 The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program has supported more than 675 religious institutions throughout the state which have received over $7.7 million in matching grants. Sacred Sites is the country’s oldest and largest statewide grant program to help landmark religious properties. Corpus Christi, Blessed Trinity, First Presbyterian and the Buffalo Religious Arts Center have all received matching grants from the Sacred Sites program.