The Assumption of Mary, A Model of Perfection
A special Mass to honor the annual Feast of the Assumption was celebrated by Bishop Timothy Senior, together with clerics, parishioners, and Canning crew members. In celebrating the Blessed Mother, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hanover, PA received a special blessing to recognize the completed restoration work throughout under the direction of John Canning & Co. The combined gifts of fine art, sacred music and the Sacrifice of the Mass offered the joy of profound beauty to all in attendance.
The driving intent of the project was to prepare the most beautiful and honorable setting for the Mass in restoring the original decoration and artwork. If fulfilled to the best of our ability, the church’s beauty will also serve its secondary purpose — drawing visitors from far and near, inspiring wonder. Thus, the beauty of this restoration reflects the teachings of the church, the beauty of the Mass, the abundant love of the Sacred Heart, and the perfect virtue of the Blessed Mother. To emphasize the teaching lessons found in sacred art, Bishop Senior reminded the congregation during his homily to keep the Blessed Mother as a model of perfection in joy and sacrifice in order to also be united, body and soul, with God the Father in Heaven.
The Preservation of Beauty
Following the Mass, a beautiful feast was prepared to celebrate the joyous event. Father Dwight Schlaline, formidable leader and pastor at the Basilica, gave a speech aptly paralleling the importance of the physical realm to the dogma of the Assumption. The Blessed Mother’s body mattered; therefore, she was preserved from the decomposition of the earth and assumed into Heaven. So also, the preservation of beauty in the restoration of the Basilica matters in order to offer appropriate honor to the Greater Glory of God. David Riccio also offered a few words expressing the great honor and privilege it is to complete such a project as the preservation of Sacred Heart Basilica. Events such as this are a unique reminder of our responsibility to the proper preservation of sacred beauty.
A Beacon for the Catholic Church
The existing church was completed and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1787. The church was then rededicated following an enlargement project on August 15, 1851.
Historically the parish dates back to 1637, when the Jesuits established a mission in the region. The chapel became known as Conewago Chapel in 1730 and shortly thereafter, a new building was constructed to accommodate the growing congregation and was named for the Assumption in 1741. From its early beginnings as a Jesuit Mission, the parish has remained a beacon for the Catholic Church in America. In this current restoration, Sacred Heart continues to set a high standard for the rejuvenation of Catholic teaching and makes a visual statement on the importance of sacred beauty. Further, the restoration recovers the historic interior decoration as a reparation for the beauty concealed beneath the overpaint for so many years. For more information about the history of Sacred Heart, click here.
Canning's Part in Her Restoration
Sacred Heart required a comprehensive preservation approach including extensive plaster repair to the historic substrate, conservation of numerous fine art murals and decorative treatments, and some restoration efforts where the historic scheme was lost. The project also included the demolition of the 1960s reredos and the commissioning of a marble high altar to replicate the original. It has been a sincere pleasure to work with the Basilica. We are grateful for the blessing of good work and the friendships cultivated along the way. Thank you, Sacred Heart!
When we began the process of restoring and conserving the Basilica, we use scientific analysis using various forms including on-site exposure.As you can see in this “before” photo, this process revealed a beautiful painting of the Assumption of Mary on the ceiling.One of the bedrocks of our process is historic finishes investigations, analysis and interpretation to determine the best course of action. In this case, the artwork needed careful restoration and beautification.Our artists filled in the missing sections of the scene and restored the image to its current glory.
The altar will be installed in September of 2023. More details on the history of the building, the intricacies of the historic scheme, and Canning’s process for conservation and renewal will be shared in the coming months. Stay tuned!