The Chapel of Saint André : ancient and modern patterns
At first glance the little chapel of Saint André appears to be a very simple building. Sitting in the shadows of the Oratoire Saint-Joseph, it is perhaps often overlooked. However, the chapel has several unique design elements that, I believe, reveal a distinctly modern spatial understanding of the religious experience. The general organization of the chapel is nevertheless at its base traditional. The inherent symbolism repeats the spatial pattern long established by the tabernacle of Moses. Therefore, the end towards which the chapel attunes a lived sense of space is similar to other churches within the tradition.
However, as many theorists like Peter Sloterdijk have noted, we have developed in modernity a conflicting sense of space to the pre-modern. I argue that in the chapel of Saint-André this modern sense of space shows up in the architecture of the saints room on the second floor, and its relationship to the altar on the ground floor below. To examine this configuration, and to discuss how perceptions of space differ from the pre-modern, I also draw upon the work of British philosopher Owen Barfield. Ultimately, I argue that the chapel repeats traditional symbolism, but also contains a unique architectural response that belies Saint André’s modern relationship with the divine. The goal of this study is to better understand the function of the church building type, how it affects imaginative perception, and what new problems and opportunities arise in the modern cultural context.