Feast of Ralph Adams Cram, Richard Upjohn, and John LaFarge, Sr. (December 16)   6 comments


Above:  Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, New York

Image Source = Detroit Publishing Company

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a24588








JOHN LAFARGE, SR. (MARCH 31, 1835-NOVEMBER 14, 1910)

Painter and Stained Glass Window Maker


Art, including architecture, murals, and stained glass windows, can add much to the atmosphere of a space devoted to the worship of God.  The legacies of these three saints attest to this reality.


Ralph Adams Cram, born at Hampton Falls, Massachusetts, on December 16, 1863, became an architect.  His mother was Sarah Elizabeth Cram and his father was the Reverend William Augustine Cram, a Transcendentalist.  Our saint, educated in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, left for Boston at the age of 18 years.  There he joined the architectural firm of Rotch and Tilden, where he worked for five years.  Then, in 1886, Cram traveled to Rome, Italy, to study classical architecture.  At Rome, on Christmas Eve in 1887, our saint had a conversion experience during a Mass.

Cram, who became an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian, became a founding partner of the firm of Cram and Wentworth in 1889.  (The name of the firm changed over time as partners came and went.)  He originated Collegiate Gothic architecture (such as at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, New York) and advocated for Gothic Revival architecture.  Cram designed churches, libraries, chapels, homes, et cetera.  He also served as the supervising architect at Princeton University from 1907 to 1929, defended Governor Alfred Smith against anti-Roman Catholic attacks in 1928, and led the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for seven years.

Cram married Elizabeth Carrington Read at New Bedford in 1900.  The couple had three children.

Cram died at Boston on September 22, 1942.  He was 78 years old.

Among the structures Cram designed was the building for Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, Georgia.  It is a lovely edifice complete with a hardwood floor, brick arches, and Tiffany glass.  I know this structure, upon which people have expanded gracefully over time, fairly well, for I have attended services there during visits to Americus since 2006.  Unfortunately, as of late 2016, the structure is in peril due to the forces of “progress,” that is, the proposed replacement of the bridge (over railroad tracks) adjacent to the church building.


Richard Upjohn, born at Shaftesbury, England, on January 22, 1802, also became an important architect in time.  At first, however, he was an apprentice to a builder and a cabinet-maker.  Then our saint worked as a mechanic.  In 1829 the family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Four years later they relocated to Boston, Massachusetts.  There Upjohn became an architect.  He naturalized as an American citizen in 1836.

Upjohn was an influential architect.  He favored Gothic revival architecture and helped to originate the Carpenter Gothic style.  Our saint also helped to found the American Institute of Architects in 1857 and served as its President from 1857 to 1876.  Upjohn, based in New York City starting in 1839, designed homes, public buildings (such as the state capitol building in Hartford, Connecticut), and churches (especially Episcopal ones).  Notable examples of his church work were St. John’s Church in Bangor, Maine, and Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City.

Upjohn died at home, in Garrison, New York, on August 16, 1878.  He was 76 years old.


John LaFarge, Sr., born at New York, New York, on March 31, 1835, became a painter and a stained glass window maker.  Our saint, a Roman Catholic, came from a wealthy family of French origin.  Initially he studied law at Fordham University, but, after visiting Paris in 1856, he changed his major and became an artist.

LaFarge, who studied under painter William Morris Hunt (1824-1879) in Newport, Rhode Island, painted scenes from the Bible and classical mythology.  He also studied Japanese art, illustrated works of Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and, in 1890-1891, traveled and painted in the South Pacific Ocean.  LaFarge also taught painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Schools, New York City.  Then, from 1899 to 1904, he served as the President of the National Society of Mural Painters.

LaFarge painted murals and created stained class windows for churches, homes, and public buildings.  For example, he painted murals for Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts; the Church of the Ascension, New York City; St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City; and the state capitol building, St. Paul, Minnesota.  LaFarge also created stained glass windows for libraries, various churches, and the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina.

LaFarge married Margaret Mason Perry (1839-1925) on October 15, 1860.  The couple had eight children.  Among them was John LaFarge, Jr. (1888-1963), a Jesuit priest and a vocal opponent of racism and anti-Semitism.  Two other sons became architects.

LaFarge died at Providence, Rhode Island, on November 14, 1910.  He was 78 years old.






Gracious God, we thank you for the vision of Ralph Adams Cram, John LaFarge and Richard Upjohn,

whose harmonious revival of the Gothic enriched our churches with a

sacramental  understanding of reality in the face of secular materialism;

and we pray that we may honor your gifts of the beauty of holiness given through them,

for the glory of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

2 Chronicles 6:12-20

Psalm 118:19-29

Ephesians 2:17-22

Matthew 7:24-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 123


Updated on December 25,  2016


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