An Open Letter: Dominic Galicia’s Proposed Sanctuary of the Most Holy Trinity Parish Sampaloc
Last June 3, 2012, during the Misa ng Bayan in celebration of the 80th Patronal Feastday (1932-2012) of the Most Holy Trinity (MHTP) Parish of Balic-Balic, Sampaloc, Manila, Fr. Enrico Adoviso, parish priest, announced the proposed enhancement of the main altar of the parish church.
The Most Holy Trinity Parish worked with Dominic Galicia Architects to envision the changes in the main altar. As early as May 9, 2011, Dominic Galicia Architects uploaded a YouTube video rendering of their proposed design. In addition, the Dominic Galicia Architects website shows seven (7) renderings or drawings of the proposed changes. Publicly, the MHTP Parish Pastoral Council have provided no explanation behind the need to renovate the main altar of the Most Holy Trinity Parish.
More importantly, the architectural firm, while providing visual images of their proposed plan, remain “textually” silent as to the philosophy behind their proposal. No explanation exist in their website as to their approach behind the proposed “sanctuary of Most Holy Trinity Parish Church of Sampaloc”. To be fair, neither have Dominic Galicia Architects provided any background to most of the other projects mentioned in their website. In view of this silence, the curator of museo santisima trinidad offers this open letter regarding Dominic Galicia’s proposed sanctuary.
Dominic Galicia Architects. The proposed design opens up the main central altar and the left and right minor altars allowing for light (maybe even the wind, and the rain) to enter and fill the church. Maybe, the seemingly bare “whiteness” of the altar walls were envisioned to “clean” the minds and hearts of the faithful so that they will be ready to focus on the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The proposed redesign presents a massive “meditative” whiteness broken in the central main altar by a image of the crucified Christ. The current main altar’s “resurrected” Christ is no more, the sacred iconography returns to the crucified Christ. Why? And where will the “resurrected” Christ go? In addition, a green ambo and green altar table breaks the altar’s whiteness. The Presider’s chair combines two triangles (one inverted) to form a single wooden structure.
In addition, the architects opened the walls of the smaller left and right altars and only the outline of their past function remain. The opening of the minor altar walls seem to invite the parishioners to see “behind” what was once hidden from their eyes. In the former lower left altar, a standing column houses the tabernacle while the former right altar became but a passageway. The current sacred “occupants” of these minor altars were relocated further away from the central altar. In their proposal, Dominic Galicia Architects transferred the 1932 Holy Trinity patronal image to farthest left side and counterbalanced in the right most side by the image of the Our Lady of the Blessed Trinity.
This is Not A Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity. In the view of this author, the proposed design diminishes, and yes, minimizes, instead of strengthening the “presence” of the Triune God. The key historical and iconographic weakness of the design is the continued placement of the 1932 image of the Holy Trinity at the farthest distance possible from the main central altar. What is the rationale behind this distancing?
The 80th anniversary of the patronal feast of the MHTP provides an opportunity to proclaim and reclaim the centrality of the Holy Trinity as the key mystery of the Christian faith. Only by returning the 1932 image of the Holy Trinity to a central location in the altar will this proposed enhancement live up to the title as a “sanctuary” of the Holy Trinity. If Dominic Galicia’s proposed sanctuary is implemented, then, sadly, the parishioners of the Most Holy Trinity Parish of Balic-Balic, Sampaloc, will always face the question: Why did you place the Holy Trinity at the side, instead of being at the center, of your lives?
Historical. The Most Holy Trinity Parish of Balic-Balic, Sampaloc Manila is the first church in the Archdiocese of Manila with the distinction of having the Holy Trinity as her patron. Old photographs of the small chapel at that time show the Holy Trinity image, crafted by Talleres Maximo Vicente and donated by Mr. Basilio J. Murillo, at the center of the altar. For many years, notwithstanding three major renovations of the church, the 1932 Holy Trinity image remained at the central location in the church’s altar.
However, by the fiesta celebration of 1992, the 1932 Holy Trinity image was transferred to the side left altar and a more modern interpretation of the Holy Trinity placed at the main altar. According to the Fiesta Souvenir Program, a resident of Balic-balic, Architect Ramon Orlina, with the guidance of Msgr. Manny Gabriel, designed the new Trinitarian patronal image represented by God the Father as the cross (The Father gives and receives the sacrifice), Christ as the resurrected One, and the Holy Spirit as rays of light. Unfortunately, the Holy Spirit as rays of light fell and broke and was never replaced. Thus, parishioners of today view the image as that of a “resurrected Christ” instead of a Trinitarian cross as it was originally intended. Thus, instead of having two Trinitarian images, the MHTP now only has one. Worse, the failure of this new interpretation of the Holy Trinity resulted in the continued “displacement” of the “old” 1932 Trinitarian image.
What prevents us from returning the 1932 Holy Trinity image back to the central altar. Since the 1932 Holy Trinity was relocated on the installation of a “new” 1992 Holy Trinity image, then the iconographical intent has always been for the central altar to contain a Trinitarian focus. If the Dominic Galicia Architects will replace the “resurrected” Christ with a crucified Christ, then why not bring back the 1932 Holy Trinity to the central altar? The failure of the 1992 Trinitarian image does not diminish the soundness of the belief that only a Trinitarian image can replace the 1932 Trinitarian image. Again, the question remains, what prevents the return of the 1932 image to the original place?
Christian Theology. Some will say that the image of the crucified Christ should be at the central altar since the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass recalls the sacrifice of Christ. Thus, placing the cross with the crucified Christ at the central altar is much better than returning the 1932 Holy Trinity to the original place. Unfortunately, this very Christological interpretation forgets the Trinitarian dimension of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. One can easily forget that the story of Christianity is not of Christ alone, but together with God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. The celebration of the mass is the celebration of the whole Trinity. Thus, being a church and a parish named after the Truine God, the MHTP has the sacred obligation to give witness to the fullness of the Trinitarian story of salvation. Our main altar needs to affirm this very Trinitarian dimension. But how can this Trinitarian dimension be affirmed when our iconographic design places the Trinity at the sideline, at the edge, and not as the central focus of our worship. Our liturgical life begins, journeys, and ends in the Trinitarian faith. Yes, bring the light into the altar, and we shall see, not the glory of Christ alone, but the whole Trinity.
Image: A Trinitarian Image of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In summary, historically and theologically, the 1932 Holy Trinity needs to be returned to the central altar of this so called “sanctuary” of the Holy Trinity of Sampaloc. We need to reclaim the centrality of the Holy Trinity in our faith, in our liturgy, in our sacred architecture. Dominic Galicia Architects’ design minimizes our Trinitarian faith and Trinitarian church history. Even the token presence of a Trinitarian inspired Presider’s chair of two triangles in the altar would not be sufficient to project the Trinitarian identity of this proposed altar enhancement project. The good news is that there is still time to come to some dialogue and reconsider the historical and theological parameters of this design project.
Images of proposed sanctuary from Dominic Galicia Architects (http://www.domgalicia.com).
1992 MHTP Fiesta Souvenir Program.
~ by Martin Gaerlan on June 4, 2012.