WASHINGTON — Pope Francis can’t very well pack up the altar from St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City and bring it with him when he visits the U.S.
So, while he’s at the mass being held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Sept. 23, he’ll be using an altar constructed especially for the occasion by a Maryland carpenter, and designed by Catholic University students.
Joe Taylor, Matthew Hoffman and Ariadne Cerritelli made up the winning design team for the papal furnishings –the altar, the papal chair, the deacon chairs, the ambo and the cantor stand.
Taylor, who graduated with an architecture degree in the spring, says this is technically a side project, but will probably go straight to the top of his resume.
“I think I peaked early in my career,” he told WNEW with a laugh.
“We wanted to bring the geometry and the materiality of inside the basilica out to the people,” he said.
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Because the National Shrine is much too small to accommodate the expected crowd of 25,000, the canonization Mass will be held outdoors, on the east portico.
But once the furniture was designed, it then had to be constructed.
That part of the process was handled primarily by David Cahoon, a Catholic carpenter who also serves as a deacon at his church in Darnestown, Maryland.
Cahoon also built the altar used by Pope Benedict at Nationals Park in 2008.
For this project, he also recruited his friend Doug Fauth, the owner of Carriage Hill Custom Cabinets & Millwork in Frederick, and Lawrence Wroten, a woodworker based out of Mount Airy.
Wroten was in charge of designing the seal that’ll go on a panel of the papal chair.
“What I had to do, primarily, was figure out how to get it to be three-dimensional but very low profile so if he sat down and leaned back, it wouldn’t be stabbing him in the back,” Wroten says.
You can see more photos of the process on Wooten’s blog, MidnightWoodworking.com.