Video: How Ave Maria Became the Town with a Catholic Heart – Architect Discusses Town’s Catholic-Inspired Design
She was there in the beginning, so her words are an important part of the historical chronicle of the town of Ave Maria. Architect Elisabeth Perreault, Vice President at Cannon Design, delivered a detailed presentation about Town Planning and the Oratory at Ave Maria, Florida, at Judson University’s James Didier Symposium on Christ & Architecture.
This video is a great piece of history, and is “must see TV” for anyone who has more than a passing interest in the town. Ms. Perrault, who was integral in the master plan of the town, recounts what her clients hired her firm to create.
In the video she reveals that in fact her job was to design a “Catholic town” – meaning the very design of the town was intended to evoke, represent and encourage the Catholic culture of the town. That is NOT to say that it was ever intended to be a town just for Catholics, of course. However, Ms. Perrault’s words underscore the faith-based historical inspiration and genesis of the town, which remain the key reason so many people choose to live in Ave Maria.
Some interesting highlights:
- Client Barron Collier Companies thought there was a market for a Catholic community;
- Her firm understood they were being asked to design an ideal Catholic community;
- There was a Catholic faith-based foundation for the community;
- To come up with the plan, she and her colleagues looked back to a time in Italy when church and state weren’t divorced;
- The Oratory church was intentionally designed as the center and cultural heart of the town;
- They were designing a town whose identity was to be Catholic;
- The Church was front and center as a landmark and symbolic heart of the community;
- The church was placed and designed so that it would literally shout to everyone, day and night: “this is what we are all about as a community”;
- The church was designed so a person approaching the town sees the towering oratory from miles away and immediately discovers the faith based origin of the community.
After watching this video, we can be even more confident when we describe Ave Maria, Florida, as “the town with a Catholic heart.”™©. And the town where all persons of good will are welcome.
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Hanging where this once was placed
Image of the light of grace
Giving all and keeping naught
This for ages men have sought
Strong of arm did once approach
Upon a swift and fabled coach
But ashes, ashes, dust and dust
That’s all this is, admit we must
Reflecting is what this does best
Just as I ought to pass life’s test
Ave Maria’s boom-town status is now undeniable, as it moves to the top of the list of single family communities in the red hot Naples-Fort Myers market (based on number of home sales).
So hot, in fact, that there’s a new fire station coming to Ave Maria.
These two aerial photos taken in 2014 and 2015 show the growth in just one of the booming areas of town where the Hampton Village and Maple Ridge neighborhoods are located.
Robb Klucik has lived with his family in Ave Maria since it opened in 2007. In addition to running his law practice in Ave Maria, Robb edits this blog, administers a Facebook forum for 1000 Ave Maria residents, serves as a director of the West Point Society of Naples, and enjoys spending time with his family and friends.
When was the Culture of Life first proclaimed against the culture of death? It could be said that the Culture of Life began with John Paul’s encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae,” promulgated in 1995. It could also be said that the Culture of Life began in 1973, in response to the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs. Wade. It might even be said that the Culture of Life was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1968, with his encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” You could make a good case for any one of those claims.
Here’s an easier question: When was Ave Maria University founded? Well, depending upon how one counts such things, we can say that Ave Maria University is looking forward to soon celebrating its twelfth anniversary. That is true, but it is not quite correct.
I think that Ave Maria University, and the Culture of Life which it serves, were both inaugurated at the Annunciation, the great solemnity we are celebrating today. At that moment, when the Providence of God met the humility of Mary, human life was given an identity, a dignity and a destiny that the pagans of the ancient world could not have imagined, and which the modern world cannot match or even comprehend. In that moment, in the “fiat,” in the “yes” with which Mary responded to the Archangel Gabriel, the horrifying power of sin and the culture of death it spawned, began to be broken.
Consider this lovely image from Saint Irenaeus. He wrote: “Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it“. Our Blessed Mother, by her love, trust and obedience, cooperated with God so that within her very body, the seed of the Culture of Life took root.
We here at Ave Maria, love and serve the Culture of Life begun at the Annunciation; we here at Ave Maria, in opposition to the culture of death which is devouring both human bodies and human souls, wish to imitate the love, trust and obedience of Mary. In imitation of our Blessed Mother, we too wish to cooperate with the saving plan of God. We want to say “yes” to what God would do with us, body and soul. That is why this glorious Solemnity of the Annunciation, a cause of joy for all Catholics, is held especially dear to us here at Ave Maria. The Annunciation is for us here at Ave Maria our icon, our charter and our measure.
The Annunciation is our icon, for it helps us to see what our lives should look like—a humble, grateful and fruitful trusting of God’s Power and Providence. The Annunciation is our charter, for Mary’s “fiat”, her “yes” to the work of God must be echoed and implemented by us here. And the Annunciation is our measure, for we can only judge our success or failure by our obedience to the call of God.
Today, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the patronal feast of Ave Maria University, let’s pray for three graces, three special blessings. Let’s pray to be alert—alert to the promptings of the divine messengers sent our way, as Mary was. Let’s pray to be obedient—obedient to the workings of Divine Providence, as Mary was. And let’s pray to be fruitful—fruitful stewards of the amazing grace entrusted to our care. If we do that, if we pray and live to be alert, obedient and fruitful, then we can both echo and imitate Mary at the inauguration of the Culture of Life and say, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
Ave Maria University’s Father Robert McTeigue, S.J., preached this homily during Mass for the Solemnity of the Feast of the Annunciation, which is the patronal feast of the town of Ave Maria, the parish of Ave Maria Oratory, and Ave Maria University. Father McTeigue is currently finishing a collection of homilies and essays on preaching entitled, I Have Someone to Tell You: A Jesuit Heralds the Gospel. He recently began writing a weekly column. Father McTeigue earnestly seeks your prayers that his life and work be to God’s greater glory.
Ave Maria, FL, March 25, 2015 – The Blessed Virgin Mary strides forward breaking the confines of the sculptural relief format. That is only one original aspect of this Annunciation.
Márton Váró is a figurative sculptor who understands beauty and he is experienced in showing the beauty of women.
The scene is a break from the traditional Virgin figures who are shown passively reading or praying. Often she would be shown surprised. Here, her pose indicates that this may be after her fiat, after her yes. Váró’s Virgin is a substantial figure who is strong and active. We may read her expression not as surprised but as inspired.
The Archangel Gabriel kneels respectfully before the Virgin Mary. We may imagine that as Gabriel left on his mission he may have asked, “Should I kneel?” Perhaps God responded, “Artists might show you kneeling, or on your toes, or in the air. Don’t worry you will know what to do.”
Sometimes Artists compress time to tell a complete narrative. Gabriel is speaking and Mary has already said yes. It is in the nature of relationships on earth, that there must be a back and forth, and therefore there is always waiting. We may guess that there was a moment when heaven and earth waited for her yes.
The two other innovative qualities of this sculpture are, first that the sculptor is a Direct Carver and every inch of the marble relief was touched by his hands.
Secondly, the work was completed on site and the whole community became a part of the creative process.
The normal procedure for a project of this magnitude would be for a small two foot model of the design be sent to Carrara or Pietrasanta, Italy where it would be enlarged and carved by artisans. With some luck you could have it resembling the model in a general way in a few years. There would be no guarantee that what looked good at two feet would work at thirty five feet. In Ave Maria the sculptor alone began and completed this sculpture and he also supervised the installation.
The church is in the center of the town of Ave Maria in Florida. It dominates the main piazza like a European Cathedral, a Duomo, and it faces Ave Maria University. The church, the town, and the university are all dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Annunciation takes up a very large proportion of the “cathedral”, the Oratory. The art is both traditional and innovative and it signifies that the building is a Roman Catholic Church.
The sculpture saves the odd Post Modern building that kids call a space ship and that has been compared to an airplane hanger. Its silhouette, front and back, resembles a Bishop’s mitre. The architectural vocabulary of the Oratory, employing both masonry and steel, is a mixed metaphor, not having a particular style. The project did not have an architect, it was the vision of a businessman executed by engineers with no regard to the cannons of traditional Catholic Church architecture with its vocabulary of arches and domes and religious art designed for the inside of the church as well as the outside. It is recognizable now as a church because of The Annunciation sculpture.
A parishioner objected to my characterization of the Oratory as an odd Post Modern building. In teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the School of Architecture, I was required to define terms and understand movements such as Post Modernism. That does not mean that I don’t love the church. It is my church too. Sacraments are lived there.
In The Annunciation the beauty of the message and the beauty of the sculptural form are one and work together.
Lest anyone think that art like this is extravagant I remind them of a sentence by Pope Benedict that proclaims the truth that art is essential to the Church.
The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb. – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report, Messori, 1988.
On any given day you can see small groups of people in the remote location on the edge of the Florida Everglades taking pictures of The Annunciation of The Blessed Virgin Mary. Those photographs will subsequently go around the world.
Márton Váró worked for long hours each day in public before the whole community. Covered with white marble dust, (and “looking like a baker” as Leonardo da Vinci said of Michelangelo) he would stop and answer questions for students and pilgrims. When asked at a discussion forum, when the work was nearing completion, if the Virgin Mary had communicated anything special to him, he responded, “Yes, she said keep working.”
* * *
Click here to see an image of the unfinished side angels and to read more about the Ave Maria Oratory and The Annunciation.
Cornelius Sullivan, MFA, is a prolific writer, painter, engraver, sculptor, art historian and lecturer whose work – even his non-religious work – reflects his Catholic faith. He has taught at several universities including the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and currently is an adjunct at Ave Maria University. For years Cornelius has been part of the fabric of life in Ave Maria. His art and writing can be discovered at www.SullivanArt.com
Beautiful gospel, beautiful families and – finally – a beautiful sunny sky. And lots of food, drink and music. What a feast day it was! Annunciation Day festivities in Ave Maria, Florida, March 25, 2014.