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St. Michael Roman Catholic Church

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1952, Father Michael McInerney. 1225 National Rd. (northeast corner of the intersection of National Rd. and Seibert St.)
  • (West Virginia Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

A late Gothic Revival church, built of varicolored granite, this is a major work of a Benedictine monk, priest, and architect who deserves to be better known. Over a sixty-year span, Michael McInerney (1877–1963) designed more than 500 buildings, mostly churches and Catholic institutional structures, from his headquarters in Belmont Abbey, North Carolina. As his biographer notes in The Art of Michael McInerney, St. Michael Church, one of his later works, illustrates his tenets that a building “should be an ornament in itself and should not depend for effect upon decoration.”

The gabled facade fronts National Road, and a perhaps too-narrow tower is set far back to one side. Decoration is minimal, but the overall proportions, lancet windows, and occasional wall buttresses easily connote a Gothic spirit. The interior, as expressive of McInerney's precepts as the exterior, is a vivid testament to his dictum that “good craftsmanship and a discreet use of symbolic ornament will give character and charm.” Unadorned Gothic arches separate the aisles from the nave, which has an extraordinarily light open-timber ceiling. The dramatic reredos is centered with a carved statue of St. Michael standing on a tall plinth guarding the altar, sword in one hand, shield in the other. To either side, carved angels stand on lower stone pedestals.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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