Sunday, September 18, 2011

The New Two-Spire Temple Style

I love seeing the new renderings for LDS Temples.  This week the press leaked the rendering of the Payson Utah Temple (the church confirmed that this is indeed the temple rendering, but that it wasn't supposed to be released until next month).  The church also broke ground on the Trujillo Peru Temple and Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple this week.  Pictures can be seen here, or later in this post for Philadelphia.

The Payson Temple looks like it may be a modified version of the Draper Utah and Gilbert Arizona Temples, but it could be unique.  The Trujillo Peru Temple is clearly the same style as the Cordoba Argentina and Phoenix Arizona Temples.  Then there is the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple which is one of the new two-spire style temples along with the Kansas City Missouri Temple, Brigham City Utah Temple, Rome Italy Temple and at least one other temple that hasn't had its design publicly revealed.  As a refresher, here are renderings of these 4 temples:

Kansas City Missouri Temple Rendering

Brigham City Utah Temple Rendering

Rome Italy Temple Rendering

Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple Rendering
The main element that ties all of these temples together is the use of two spires to represent the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.  Many Mormon temples have used either two spires, or two sets of three spires to represent the Priesthoods.  It is nice to see this symbolism returning to temples.

I think this new style of temple is distinctly Mormon and iconic.  These temples are taller with 3-4 stories in addition to a basement.  Their shape accentuates their height, as do the twin spires.  I like the vertical soaring nature of these temples.  The first two make good use of detailed architectural precast concrete while Rome and Philadelphia appear to use stone.  Either way, the detailing is done well.

I like how the Kansas City Missouri Temple and Rome Italy Temple are both modern.  Rome seems more modern with its numerous curves, sleek design, and cutaway spire.  I think this was a good choice as Rome is so overwhelmed with classical and other architecture that it would have been difficult for the temple to stand out (in a good way) and not look contrived with classical or neoclassical architecture.  The Kansas City Temple, on the other hand, has a modern and somewhat simple exterior, but uses traditional pyramidal spires in addition to arches to visually link it to the Salt Lake and other pioneer temples.  This is fitting as it is being built where a lot of early church history occurred.

The Brigham City Utah Temple is obviously meant to look like a pioneer style temple.  The church has stated that it is a mix between the Salt Lake Temple, St. George Temple, Logan Temple, and Manti Temple.  This helps it fit in with the Box Elder Tabernacle across the street and with the history of the area.  At the same time, if you look at the temple closely you'll notice that it is a modern interpretation of the pioneer style.  Precast concrete is used.  Also, the way the spires taper, concrete details are recessed, and other elements of the building are shaped, are very modern.  Crenelations have been replaced by recessed triangles in the concrete panels.  The buttressing, although present, is somewhat subdued.  So I see the Brigham City Temple as a successful blend of the historic pioneer style temples and present day architecture.

The Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple is now the most classical (really neo-classical) of these temples (or any for that matter).  It looks like it could easily be 200 years old, and not like a modern take on a 200 year old building.  This appears to be intentional.  It helps the temple fit in a very historical city.  In the rendering you can see that the temple borrows elements from the building across the street (I think a court building).  It will also fit in with a nearby Catholic cathedral and other architecture in the area.  The spires should seem familiar.  They definitely fit in with spires in the city.  I can see that the architects have obviously borrowed elements from the spire of Independence Hall, also in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were written and signed and where the Liberty Bell once hung.

I love the fine details of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple, and look forward to seeing them in more detail.  I love the fluted columns with Corinthian capitals (I hope they are unique capitals).  I like the mixture or rectangular and cylindrical columns and the clustering of columns at the front.  The window variety is also interesting.  I particularly like the elliptical windows along the fourth level.  There are other details such as the short parapet railing running along the roof line and repeated at two heights on each tower.    I also like the floral bunches (would you call this a wreath or a garland or something else?) on the towers and look forward to seeing what types of flowers are put into them.  I also look forward to seeing the fine details on the cornice.

I also like the large details of the temple.  The corners of the building have a weightier look that makes the building appear strong while at the same time making the center windows seem even more open and beautiful.  The first level is also made of massive blocks which gives it a weighty look.  This is a good architectural trick to give balance to an exterior and makes the temple look enduring.  The soaring spires, combined with the 4 stories and somewhat slender proportions, make the temple appear tall and grand in a great way.

I love the symbolism of this temple with its two spires based on Independence Hall.  This is fitting as Pennsylvania is where the U.S. government was set up with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution which we believe to be inspired by God.  The spires represent the priesthoods and remind us that Pennsylvania is also where the government of God, the priesthood, was restored to the earth in 1829.  The Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood were restored to the earth by John the Baptist and Peter, James and John respectively near Harmony Pennsylvania.

The whole interior of this temple should be interesting.  The Manhattan New York Temple's interior would fit the exterior architecture perfectly.  It borrowed the neoclassical elements from the Salt Lake Temple.  I would be happy if the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple also borrowed interior elements from the Salt Lake Temple.  The murals could also show the area around Harmony, Pennsylvania where the priesthoods were restored and where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized.  Depictions of the priesthood restorations and baptisms would be great in murals.  Much of the translation of The Book of Mormon also happened in this state and should at least show up in a painting.  Also, the Founding Fathers who met at Independence Hall appeared in the St. George Utah Temple to have their temple work done.  I would add a picture of that event somewhere in the temple.

I really like the new two-spire temple style and hope that the church uses it for a while.  I think it is the best style in a long time.  Please comment and let us know what you think about this style of temple, the individual temples, or anything else in this post.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

LDS Temple Glass - Trees

Stained glass and other forms of art glass are one of my favorite features in LDS Temples.  This art form was used in several early temples and then became very simple for a long period of time.  In the last 15 years or so, art glass use in temples has increased.  Windows are now made very unique.  A lot of windows depict things and are not purely geometric.  People, events, stars, suns, moons, and trees are depicted in temple windows.

In this post I will discuss how trees are depicted in LDS Temple art glass.  Trees are highly symbolic so it makes sense that they would be incorporated into sacred temple architecture.  The scriptures use trees symbolically and we should recognize what a specific tree might symbolize when we see a depiction of it.  Tom Holdman, who has done windows for the Palmyra New York, Nauvoo Illinois, San Antonio Texas, Winter Quarters Nebraska, Manhattan New York, Boise Idaho, Laie Hawaii, Rexburg Idaho, Draper Utah, and other temples often discusses symbolism he hides in his windows.  You might notice that all the tree windows I am highlighting were done by him.  So expect them to have hidden meaning.

I mentioned that trees have symbolic meanings.  Take for instance the following stained glass window in the rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple that depicts the baptism of Jesus.  Many artists would simply have added some vegetation.  Mr. Holdman has certainly added vegetation, but he has carefully chosen it to teach us more.  Those in tune with the spirit can thus be taught much more deeply than would otherwise be the case.  Two trees are depicted.  On the left is a fig tree and on the right is an olive tree.  Figs may remind us of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve made aprons of fig leaves to hide their nakedness.  They might also remind us of the story when Jesus cursed a fig tree (shortly before his death) because it had leaves but no fruit.  We might remember Jesus' words "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matthew 7:16).  In fact, if you search the scriptures, you will find that figs mean a lot.  Olives similarly have great meaning.  We might think of the parable of the Olive Tree in Jacob in The Book of Mormon.  Or perhaps we will think of olive oil used in blessings, or the olive as a symbol of Israel (just like the 12 oxen also in the baptistry).  My point is that using trees in this window adds a lot of meaning.
Nauvoo Illinois Temple Baptistry Stained Glass Window
Another notable use of trees is in the Palmyra New York Temple.  This temple overlooks the Sacred Grove, a forest where God the Father and his son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith.  Because of this, the temple windows are meant to depict trees to remind us of the Sacred Grove.  One window features The First Vision.  Others generally represent the grove.  The trees are again used symbolically.  Most windows have 7 trees with the number 7 representing perfection, holy things, etc.  Meanwhile, the front door has 5 trees.  This is meant to represent the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil from the Garden of Eden.  This tree is important in scripture and symbolically as we enter the temple and go through this symbolic door we can be reminded that we have all entered mortality just like Adam and Eve and we have things to learn.  The Celestial Room has a central tree that represents the Tree of Life.  There are other symbols (numerical and other) that will be discussed when I write about this temple, but for now here are some pictures.
Palmyra New York Temple First Vision Stained Glass Window
Palmyra New York Temple Baptistry with Tree Windows
Palmyra New York Temple Celestial Room with Tree of Life Windows
Palmyra New York Temple Sealing Room with Tree Windows
  The Tree of Life has similarly been used in other temples.  It appears in the Winter Quarters Nebraska and San Antonio Texas temples' stained glass windows.  It also appears in other temples.
Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple Celestial Room with Tree of Life Windows
San Antonio Texas Temple Sealing Room with Tree of Life Window
Several temples have interesting stylized trees.  The Manhattan New York Temple has tree windows in the Terrestrial Room, in the Celestial Room, and in the Sealing Rooms.  The Sealing Room windows are very interesting because they show two trees with roots intertwining and branches intertwining.  This is an interesting window for a room where couples are married for eternity and children are sealed to their parents.  This is done for the living and on behalf of the deceased.  Fruit is also used symbolically in the sealing room window.  The Laie Hawaii Temple has similar stylized trees in its recently added baptistry windows.
Manhattan New York Temple Celestial Room with Tree Windows
Manhattan New York Temple Sealing Room with Tree Window
Laie Hawaii Temple Baptistry Tree Window
I previously mentioned the Winter Quarters Temple.  It has other tree windows.  You can read about those in my post on that temple.

I also already mentioned the San Antonio Temple and its Tree of Life window in a sealing room.  There are other depictions of trees including the stunning Celestial Room windows that make us think about the future Celestial kingdom whose Edenic glory will eclipse the original garden's grandeur.  The Boise Idaho Temple also recently received a stained glass dome with trees in its celestial room.  This can be seen here.
San Antonio Texas Temple Window with Trees
San Antonio Texas Temple Celestial Room with Tree Windows
That's my list of trees in Mormon Temple stained and art glass windows.  I likely missed some and you can discuss them in the comments section.  I also haven't spelled out all the symbolism and don't know it all so feel free to discuss that in the comments section as well.  Or just comment on these beautiful windows.  They are wonderful treasures in our temples.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The St. George Utah Temple

Today I'd like to write a little about the St. George Utah Temple.

St. George Utah Temple (see original)
This temple was the first completed after the Nauvoo Temple (the Salt Lake Temple was started before, but took 40 years to complete) making this the oldest temple owned by the LDS church (Kirtland is older but not owned by the LDS church and the Nauvoo Temple was rebuilt in 2002).

The Exterior
The temple sits on an entire city block, giving it its own temple square including a visitor's center and nice grounds which have Christmas lights in the winter.  The temple is very similar to the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, but shows some new temple characteristics.  The most prominent new features are the crenelations, buttresses, and other castle architecture.  During this pioneer time period the temples used this architecture to represent the literal Kingdom of God on Earth and the protection that our temple covenants and ordinances give us.  The temple is bright white.  This is actually a stucco over red sandstone.  The Logan Temple originally had a similar white finish, but the church let the Logan Temple's finish wear off so now you just see the dark stone.

The exterior has few symbols, but it does have the following:
Beehives on the St. George Utah Temple staircases (original photo)
  • Beehives appear on each side of the two front door staircases.  These are a symbol of industry, cooperation, community, Zion, Utah, etc.
  • The aforementioned castle architectural features are symbolically used.
  • The tower has 16 five-pointed stars along the top, just below the dome.
  • The tower also has a weather vane on top.  This was used for practical reasons (like Nauvoo's clock tower with bell) but it can also symbolize how the temple helps us understand life and how to move through life (overcoming storms, knowing which way to go, foreseeing dangers). 
St. George Utah Temple Tower (original photo)
The exterior of the St. George Temple has changed through the years.  Originally it had a short, squatty, poorly proportioned spire that Brigham Young complained about.  Because the temple was already completed he begrudgingly let the spire remain that way.  Several months later Brigham Young died, then the tower was struck by lightning and burned to the base of the spire.  The saints decided that Brigham Young had got his way in the end and rebuilt the spire much taller.  The original temple also had an odd looking round turret towards the back that has obviously been removed at some point.
The St. George Utah Temple shortly after completion
Original plans for the temple called for a different "Holiness to the LORD, The House of the LORD" inscription than the one currently used.  The inscription was supposed to be around the small circular window at the top of the square portion of the tower.  The word "Holiness" would have been written along the top half of the circle and the rest of the inscription, dates, etc. would have filled up the space beneath the window.  So in shape the inscription stone would have resembled the one on the Salt Lake Temple but with a small window where the words "to the" appear.  Instead the inscription looks like this.  I like the original design much better.  If the church is ever redoing the stucco and thinks about moving the inscription, I hope they move it to where it was originally planned.  You can see the original inscription plan in the visitor's center.

The Interior
The interior of the St. George Temple is very nice, but it has changed throughout the years.  Originally it was laid out like the Nauvoo Temple, so it was just two assembly halls, one on top of the other, sealing rooms, and a baptistry.  Later, (1881) one hall was divided into endowment rooms with murals using solid partitions and not the curtains originally used.  In 1937-38 these changes were made permanent.  Other changes due to painting, remodeling, and adding a staircase and annex building have changed the temple.  For the most part it retains its historical feel.


The baptistry used to look like this.

St. George Utah Temple Baptistry
The current baptistry is very similar.  The font is very similar, although the decorative grillwork on the steps appears to have been lost.  A mural of Christ has also been added as well as some chandeliers.  A picture of the current baptistry can be seen here or in the visitor's center.  One nice thing to look at in this baptistry, is the doorknobs to the font room.  They are original to the temple and very ornate brass (or something similar).  They remind me of the original Logan, Manti, and Salt Lake Temple doorknobs.  I don't know if there are other original doorknobs in the temple.  The confirmation rooms weren't anything special and could be improved upon in my opinion, but in general I really like this baptistry.  There is also a model of the temple in the waiting room for some reason.

The endowment rooms have nice murals.  The current murals date to 1937-38 when the lower hall was formally partitioned off into the current endowment room layout (although some division of rooms had been completed in 1881).  The rooms were further altered in the 1975 remodel that changed from the live actor format with progression (moving from room to room) to staying in a single room and watching the acted portions of the endowment on a movie screen.  In my opinion, this lessons the effect of the temple as you only see one mural of the three intended.  It also doesn't make the temple any more efficient.  You could still use film and move from room to room with the same temple capacity as the current setup.  I hope they restore the movement.  I don't have a picture of the Creation room (and have not been in it).  Here are pictures of the Garden and World endowment rooms:
St. George Utah Temple Garden Room
St. George Utah Temple World Room
Currently you stay in one room until the end and then move into the Terrestrial Room for the last part of the ceremony.  The room can be seen below.  It is stunning in person.  The columns are cluster columns and their shape in plan looks like the cross shaped pattern on the exterior of the temple (which is also along the top of this room and the Celestial Room).  There are also five-pointed stars running along the top of this room and the Celestial Room.  The front of the room is semicircular.  Desert pinks and pretty blues color the room in an elegant southwest color scheme.  This is one of my favorite Terrestrial rooms (and the picture doesn't do it any justice).
St. George Utah Temple Terrestrial Room
The Celestial Room is also well done with the aforementioned stars.  It also has cluster columns matching those in the Terrestrial Room.  These are painted to look like stone.  There is a small staircase leading to a sealing room in the tower pictured below.  The ceiling also arches elliptically.  It is a fine example of pioneer architecture, although quite a bit plainer than the Manti or Salt Lake Temples (which isn't a bad thing).
St. George Utah Temple Celestial Room
St. George Utah Temple Sealing Room
 Just outside the Celestial Room there is a staircase that takes you back to the dressing rooms.
St. George Utah Temple Staircase
There are also spiral staircases in the two corners on either side of the tower.  I asked to see these and was shown them.  They have central supports and were fairly simple spiral staircases.  They were also extremely hot.  Apparently they don't bother to air condition them because they aren't used often.

If you go upstairs you can see the original sealing rooms.  Most of these are along the north end of the temple where the middle row of circular windows is.  Many of the rooms are small with a single circular window opposite the door and a beautifully carved altar in the center.  As you walk to the sealing office you might notice that the walls are incredibly thick as you walk through an archway.  There is also a waiting room in the tower.  According to the temple workers, the other half of the sealing room floor is largely empty unfinished rooms.  I guess they have some space to expand.

The top floor of the temple houses the Priesthood Assembly Hall.  This assembly hall is used for special meetings and is similar to those in the Kirtland, Nauvoo, Logan, Manti, Salt Lake, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. Temples.  There are pulpits on each end of the room representing the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.  You can read more in the link.  This room has cluster columns like those in the Terrestrial and Celestial Rooms and gives you an idea of how the endowment and celestial rooms used to look before they were formally divided.  The same stars and other patterns are also in this room.  There are also stars on the pulpits.
St. George Utah Temple Assembly Hall
St. George Utah Temple Assembly Hall Pulpits
I like the St. George Utah Temple.  It has great pioneer style and fine craftsmanship.  I would restore the endowment room progression, replace doorknobs with replicas of the original doorknobs, redo the confirmation rooms, and redo the inscription on the temple's exterior.  Otherwise I love this temple and am glad we have it.

Please comment and let us know what you think about this temple, how it has changed, and how it is today.