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A letter from an alumnus about the architect Ralph Adams Cram

November 1, 2002

It was a shame to see the attempt in PAW (cover story, March 13, 2002) to suggest that the architect of Princeton’s Gothic Chapel, Ralph Adams Cram, would have celebrated the turning of the Chapel into a U.N.-style religious hall.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Even a cursory reading of his book The Catholic Church and Art or his introduction to Henry Adams’s classic Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres would reveal a passionate enthusiast who would never have considered a smorgasbord-approach to religion or architecture or anything less for that matter, as anything but a road to irrelevancy.

What Cram celebrated in his life and work was a unique architectural expression and the unique “spiritual impulse” that besouled it. He considered the Middle Ages “The greatest epoch of Christian Civilization,” singularly united and at one with itself.” His consuming passion for the times is underscored when he writes: “To live for a day in a world that built Chartres Cahtedral” would be to share in “its gaiety and light-heartedness, its youthful ardor and abounding action, its childlike simplicity and frankness, its normal and healthy all-embracing devotion.”

Kenneth A. Stier, Jr. ’54
Great Neck, N.Y.

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