Church interiors reverting to traditional look

Today I went to First Friday Mass at a local church where I haven’t been for a while and that was closed for renovation over the summer. Once inside I noticed that the whole sanctuary had been renovated into a traditional one with a freestanding tabernacle (previously the tabernacle was a door that opened in a wall with a sparkle painting of the Holy Spirit), a statue of Mary in its own big niche on the left and Joseph on the right in another niche, both in the sanctuary since there are no side altars, and I think they put in a new marble altar and lectern too. It looks nice, although I wasn’t thrilled about their moving the Holy Spirit sparkle painting, which is nicely done and not ugly or particularly “modern”, to the back wall of the worship space.

This is the third church I’ve attended that made its interior more traditional in the last few years, and there’s a fourth one where the pastor said he wanted to do this but due to COVID I have not been back there and not been able to see if he got it done.

Any churches getting renovated back to traditional in your area?


Our parish main church building (nave, narthex, etc.) has been closed since February for re-modelling, and we are all eagerly looking forward to the re-opening, which is scheduled to happen Nov. 14!

The re-model was sorely overdue–there were no bathrooms on the main floor–they were in the basement, which is dark and creepy! This was not only inconvenient for many, but dangerous! We had a few incidents of children going downstairs and suffering some kind of sexual incident–so parents were told to accompany their children downstairs to the bathroom.

The “fellowship hall” in the parish was the basement–hardly inviting, although it’s amazing the miracles that a good decorating committee could work on that dreary place for church dinners, fellowships, receptions, etc!

But for older people and anyone with limited mobility, that basement was a deathtrap–in the event of a fire, the elevators would have been off-limits and the old folks, or anyone with a disability would have had to be carried upstairs!

So now we’re getting a big UPSTAIRS!! fellowship hall with a kitchen–great for fish fries, luncheons, fellowships, etc.! And also a real narthex, with plenty of room for tables to be set up for various groups–K of C, Ladies Luncheon signups, Bible study interest groups, Bake sales, etc.

And this means that people can “fellowship” (ha ha --sorry that term offends so many Catholics, but it’s appropriate!)–talk, laugh, discuss the Bears and Packers, etc.–without disturbing the people still in the nave–hooray!

And it will be warm! Up until now, that tiny narthex-like room was FREEZING in the wintertime, and no one hung around very long, and the poor souls at the K of C table would freeze waiting for people to sign up for their activities!

As for the nave–I’m pretty certain it will continue to look “contemporary.” That was what the original plan called for. There will now be a Holy Spirit window at the front–beautiful! And the organ/piano/choir loft will still be at the front near the pulpit/sanctuary–I personally wish that could have changed, but…it’s ok.

But we will see! I’m excited to be out of the gym (where Mass has been held since Feb.).

1 Like

One of our nearby parishes redid their 1990s renovation a few years ago

old st jc

new st jc

st jc


Have a look in a Ukrainian Catholic Church now thats a sight to see.


Wow! That is an amazing transformation!

Fortunately for us, our parish buildings have not changed much for the most part, with the exception of the altar rail removal.

One building had its full wall murals removed or painted over… not sure why that was allowed to happen. I don’t think the pastor should be given free reign to do things like that, but he did. It was all done before I lived here, so it is not as much of a tragic memory for me as it is for others.

There is little money for renovating in my area. Churches are closing and/or being sold. A private group now owns one of the buildings because they did not want to see it sold off. It was declared a shrine years ago, but was still closed and another church building nearby (walking distance) was kept open. As you might imagine, it caused quite an uproar. :confused:


I got to see a lot of different churches during a Christian unity week and I was totally in awe of what I saw in Ukrainian Catholic Church felt like old time Christianity although they chant which was quite different the mass is not the same.


The church had good “bones,” as they say, and I don’t think the marble altar rail had ever been removed. It definitely went from a much plainer look to a more ornate and beautiful space now, and the pastor who undertook this restoration project deserves much of the credit.


What makes it traditional?

The free standing tabernacle is the only comparison you offer. Do the statues of Mary and Joseph fill empty spaces? Or displace murals? I am just curious what is more “traditional” about it

Old - appears to be 1970s or early 1980s with sparkle paints and Jesus in the wall, no statues anywhere:


I would note that this church previously had zero statues anywhere in the worship space. There was a small Our Lady of Fatima and a larger statue of the saint for whom the church is named, out in the vestibule; those are still there. The Mary and Joseph in the sanctuary are brand new. It’s good to see them.

This is all happening under the new pastor who appears to be in his 30s and just took over last year.


Thanks for the photos.

You did not mention the Crucifix over the tabernacle, which probably also reflects the neo Gothic style. (I am glad they kept the dove’s wings on the light above the tabernacle, if hat is what that is)

They did a nice job with the redesign, though the altar seems a little small next to the similar ambo and tabernacle stand. But that may just be perspective. The whole sanctuary seems smaller so I suppose it fits.

The sanctuary is actually bigger now because they took out the flat back wall that was reducing the space.

The first picture is from closer up than the second picture. The first picture doesn’t show the old lectern, which was just plain wood similar to the wooden altar.

I think it looks 100% better. That glitter paint Holy Spirit would have been a huge distraction.

Our church is over 100 years old, I’m not sure it can get any more traditional looking. Over the years there have been updates but all remain in the more small t traditional. We have been blessed by a parishioner who left the parish money to restore our beautiful stain glass windows. The windows have been covered for a long time, you could see them from the inside but not from the outside. Many panes were cracked or broken. The windows are amazing now.


I actually kinda like the painting/fresco on the wall with the tabernacle. But everything around it looks a little barren.


In your photos I like aspects of both. I like that big sparkle painting of the Holy Spirit. It is reminiscient of the window in the Vatican. I like the introduction of the statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph.

I didn’t mind the sparkle painting. The tabernacle in the wall seemed a bit odd to me.

I agree with you that the way it was set up looked barren and frankly, cheap.

As I said, they preserved the center of the painting with the Holy Spirit, framed it, and hung it over the entrance doors to the worship space.


My local church moved the tabernacle from the side altar to the middle of the sanctuary behind the main altar (I actually helped move it - it was heavy!). The rear of the sanctuary is quite plain, but putting the tabernacle in the place of honor really helps. Out of force of habit, we still genuflect towards the side :open_mouth:.

The other church I frequent is Saint Mary’s in New Haven. It closed for emergency repairs 2 years ago. The 1980’s paint was completely ruin by patching the plaster, so the parish hired experts to research the original paint from the 1840’s onward, and created a brand new traditional look taking the best of each era’s paint!

What we did not know two years ago was that God had a plan to restore the church to its original splendor just in time for Father McGivney’s beatification this past weekend. McGivney (founder of the Knights of Columbus) is buried in the Church.


That was probably Father McGivney giving your pastor a nudge to get it done on time :slight_smile:
As a parish priest himself, I’m sure he is attuned to church repairs and such.


I was excited because a church in my area was under renovation this summer. It’s a large church, and very plain. There are plain white walls behind the altar, which is just a small wooden table. The tabernacle is in a separate room. There are no statues or art up near the altar, but there is a mary statue and a Joseph statue way off to the sides… It’s such a big church that you hardly notice they’re there. There is a crucifix hanging above the altar and some banners hanging off to the sides to match the liturgical season, but that’s about it. The part I’ve heard people complain the most about was the ugly green carpet.

I went to mass there a month or so ago because I was excited to see what they did, and basically nothing has changed except the green carpet.They repainted all the walls the exact same color, they bought all new pews that look exactly the same, they didn’t add any art or statues, change anything about the altar, and the tabernacle is still in a separate room. I was so disappointed!

And even though I didn’t like the green carpet before, somehow it looks worse without it! It was the only thing in the room to add any color. Now they have a gray/blue carpet that you might expect to see at a school or office. It makes the already plain room look even worse. The area under the altar is raised, and they did gray tiles instead of carpet there, which is probably better but still very plain looking.

I think that’s a good thing. I could NEVER understand Tabernacles being off to the side or even as I’ve heard in a side room. I’m not talking about the Adoration Chapels at some Churches but the Tabernacle that should be front and center and easily visible as soon as walking into every Catholic Church. Ours was not center for a while but just off to the side in the Sanctuary and one new Priest came in and immediately moved it front and center right behind the altar. I like that.


I can think of some examples of churches that were built post 1950 that have been updated in a more traditional manner. I know of some newer churches that have been built in a more traditional architectural manner for a Catholic Church.

I wouldn’t want to think of these choices as reverting to anything though. I think they are just the pastor’s way of updating from a outdated style, something that was contemporary to the times, to a style that I wouldn’t necessarily call more traditional but I would describe as more being neutral. It’s not 1960’s and it’s not 1860’s.

The remodel that you posted looks like it’s trying to capture some architectural style from the Middle Ages. That would seem difficult to pull off since the architecture in the Middle Ages was very detailed and costly. So I’m not a fan of that particular remodel. At least in the 50’s and 60’s there was a new style of architecture. What’s going on now isn’t very inspiring AFAIC. To me, some of it comes across as a misplaced repudiation of sorts. And that’s probably the same thing some traditionalists said in the 50’s and 60’s about the contemporary architecture.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit