Monday, October 3, 2011

Inside Mission Dolores

Sunday I spent most of my time in the Mission Dolores graveyard making photos of the sad charming figures and inscriptions carved on the gravestones during that long-ago time of San Francisco's civic infancy. But I also spent an interval taking some less-satisfactory pictures inside the small Mission church itself. My problem inside was the overly ambitious artificial lighting provided by the all-powerful Fathers nowadays, a combination of neon and spotlights that creates exactly the wrong atmosphere. In some cases (as above) I could work near windows and cancel out the worst of the horrible lighting that way. But in an adobe building finished in 1791 there is bound to be a paucity of windows -- the walls at their base are four feet thick. So haven't these present-day Catholics ever heard of "a dim religious light"? What is with the zillion-watt illumination?

The two side altars (above) came from Mexico in 1810. Apparently the Holy Fathers had workshops down there to produce things like this. The main altar (below) came up from Mexico earlier, in 1796. That fascinating zigzag pattern on the ceiling, although repainted (according to the leaflet handed out in the gift shop) "depicts original Ohlone Indian designs done with vegetable dyes."

To continue the fiendish-lighting theme, a pair of hideous floor-lamps that could only have come from Target occupy pride of place right up inside the sanctuary, looking even tackier in this location than they normally would. Those big unselfconscious plastic roses off to the right are kind of sweet in their way, but not the lamps. Unlike the roses, they cannot even qualify as kitsch. There is such a thing as pure awfulness, unredeemed by humor. That is the most memorable lesson one brings away from a visit to this historic church.