By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
The interior of St. Christopher Church in Radcliff, Ky., has been transformed over the last few years from a dark, minimalist, modern interior to a lighter and more ornate church.
Father Dennis Cousens, St. Christopher’s pastor, said the original church, built in 1982, was well designed and that the latest work is an “enhancement.”
“It really was a very attractive church,” he said during an interview after the Friday morning Mass last week. “What I wanted to do was enhance what was already here.”
The result is a mix of 1980s architecture — that now shows mostly in the lines of the high wooden ceiling and its exposed rafters — and a variety of adornments inspired by classical architecture.
The artist who designed the renovation, Stephen Paulovich, said it’s an eclectic blend.
“Some of the style is classical revival — the columns, everything, is fluted,” he said. “It’s eclectic. It’s a little bit of baroque and a little bit rococo, too. It’s traditional Catholic architecture.”
The changes affect nearly every part of the church’s interior.
The stained-glass windows lining the side walls of the church, formerly outlined in dark wood trim, have been refitted with white-washed fluted trim. A shiny gold-leaf cross anchors each corner.
The church’s original carved stations of the cross have been mounted in front of subdued landscape paintings and surrounded by large, gilded white frames.
In the rear of the church, three former closets — one of which served as the reconciliation room — were removed and the area now houses the church’s organ. The space is separated from the pews by three white-washed arches. Similar woodwork was added to the cry room.
The arches are intended to match a large arch that rises above the altar and is lined with delicate-looking finials. The arch frames a new, large crucifix.
The arch and crucifix separate the altar in the main sanctuary from the tabernacle, which rests against the rear wall. The tabernacle is further set apart by a short traditional-looking wooden railing that is reminiscent of a Communion rail. Prior to the renovation, the space between the altar and tabernacle was separated by vertical dark wooden slats.
The church’s original statues have been mounted in handmade wooden niches — with fluted woodwork that’s been whitewashed and gilded in shiny gold leaf.
“St. John Vianney said to give your best to God,” said Father Cousens. “All of this (work) helps to enhance the quality of the liturgy. We want to help people get to heaven.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with it,” he added. “I think a church should be a thing of beauty and lift up hearts and minds to God.”
Parishioners funded the project with Building a Future of Hope Funds and with other donations.
The renovation also includes the addition of two shrines created especially for members of the parish.
To the altar’s left is the image of Divine Mercy, which depicts Christ and members of the Armed Forces. And to the altar’s right is a shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. They are mounted in large white frames with gold leaf accents, similar to the stations.
Father Cousens noted that St. Christopher is a spiritual home to many military families from nearby Fort Knox and, as a result, has members from countries around the world. The shrines are there especially for them, he said.
“We’ve got all the branches of the military represented — men and women and different ethnicities,” he said of the Divine Mercy shrine. “Our Lady of Perpetual Help is important to the Filipino families.”
Father Cousens also said the renovation is attractive to both native Kentucky families who admire the architecture of older churches and to parishioners who come from afar and may be accustomed to traditional-looking churches.
Cathy Lewis and her husband, who stayed in the Fort Knox area after retiring from the military, joined the parish in 1995. And they appreciate the church’s transformation.
“I love it; I think it’s beautiful,” she said, during a phone interview Jan. 27. “It’s not an old church, but you have the feeling of the older churches. I love churches that look like a church. I love the statues and the beautiful stations of the cross.
“I think when you’re surrounded by the statues of the saints and the stations of the cross, it’s a reminder of why you’re there,” she added. “If your mind starts to wander, you can look up and see this beauty.”