Last week I visited our old hometown Philadelphia and ended up going to see The Cathedral – as we know it – the grounds for several impressive Gothic and Romanesque style buildings built between 1913- 1919 known as Bryn Athyn Cathedral. When we lived here we used to go for pleasant walks on the grounds to enjoy the extensive flower plantings and to admire the architecture.
I had never really looked carefully at the metalwork that exists in the cathedral and was quite amazed how very interesting it is and then learned it uses some impressive techniques. I especially liked all the handles in the various doors that are made with monel metal. The animals depicted in these door handles have some type of biblical symbolism. So, what is monel metal? Monel is a natural alloy of nickel (67 percent) and copper (28 percent), with a small proportion of other metals. It is very tough, more difficult to work with than iron, and can be welded only using oxygen and acetylene. It will not rust, and will maintain a white, nickel-like beauty without being reflective. When hand beaten, its surface presents a pleasing texture of light and darker tones. While outdoors it develops a lovely patina of gray-green.
Throughout the Cathedral the locks and latches are also fashioned of monel. There is a collection of forty-seven handcrafted monel keys that open the locks!
Another interesting detail about the cathedral is that there are no right angles or straight lines – this used to be common in medieval buildings.
The stair railings that you see in the picture are quite remarkable work of art. They have a lovely green patina and work so well together with the stones of the building.
The stained glass windows of Bryn Athyn Cathedral were created using the medieval method—melting various pigment and metallic oxides into the glass itself and then having a glass blower create a disc of glass with varying degrees of thickness and brightness.
There is a set of doors that are made out of single sheets of hammered copper, together with these monel handles they certainly demand attention!
I became interested in metalwork recently so I never actually paid attention to these marvelous details. This sure gives you an appreciation what a real metalsmith and craftsman can do!
As visitphilly describes it “This welcoming stone Cathedral, with Gothic archways, stained glass windows and carved woodwork, is the spiritual center of Bryn Athyn, a religious community with its own school system and museum. Symbolism connects theological doctrine to the Cathedral’s design, using elements of medieval simplicity and the American arts & crafts movement.” If you wish to learn more about the Bryn Athyn Cathedral metalwork see: http://www.newchurchhistory.org/articles/cathedral/09themetalwork.php