Architecture: Interior of the Church
As one enters the church through the front (west) doors and passes into the narthex (or “vestibule”), a second set of interior doors opens to the church proper. The church has a central aisle which directs the beholder’s eyes along the central axis to the high reredos rising above the marble altar in the curved apse (photo at left). Here the Tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament contains the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the “Bread of Life.” A pair of exquisitely carved marble kneeling angels stand on the sides of the altar; these sculptures were imported from Italy, probably in the nineteenth century. Situated above the reredos in the springing of the three central arches of the apse is a triptych of small stained glass lancet windows. The church’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1225), is honored in the center window and is flanked by the Sacred Heart of Jesus to his right and the Immaculate Heart of Mary to his left.
Flanking side aisles between the pews and the walls facilitate movement throughout the church. Worshippers may move easily among the fourteen square, polychromed (painted) plaster relief sculptures of the Stations of the Cross placed between the windows (photo at right).
The auxiliary altars dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary (located on the left of the high altar, photo at left) and St. Joseph (on the opposite side of the nave) are readily accessible for private meditation.
The side aisles are reflected in the ceiling in the two narrow rows of six ribbed vaults which flank the large central row of six vaults. The traditional columns which usually help support the vaults of the side aisles are missing in order to allow for more seating and an uninterrupted view of the altar.
The church has undergone several renovations but strongly retains its Gothic character. In the 1920s an elaborate pattern was stenciled on the vaults and walls. Frescoes of saints were also painted in the sanctuary. None of this decoration remains.
The most recent renovation of 1988-89 included the replacement of the original slate roof with copper, the installation of central air conditioning, and the structural reinforcement evident in the tie-rods spanning the vaults. The interior walls were replastered. Liturgical restructuring of the sanctuary for the purposes of worship according to the decrees of the Second Vatican Council included separating the altar from the reredos, moving the altar forward.
Most of the significant pieces of art have been preserved, including the original stained glass windows, the sculpted Stations of the Cross, the marble and alabaster side altars with statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. The oak pews are original. The traditional baptismal font in marble stands to the right of the altar. The new red oak altar of sacrifice with matching ambo and sanctuary chairs blend with the Gothic patterns which can be seen throughout the church. The small chapel on the south side of the altar has been dedicated to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Additional spaces in the church building not open to the public on a regular basis include a reconciliation room (confessional), a vesting sacristy, and a working sacristy.