Few rebellious adolescents become saints.
But one of them did, and now a huge church named after him is being built on Daniel Island.
Priced at $ 22 million, the Catholic Church of St. Clare in Assisi is under construction and will be named after the almost 18-year-old girl who escaped from her parents’ home in Italy around 900 years old and transformed the service of his life. goodbye.
Born Chiara Offreduccio in 1194 in Assisi in the middle of the Italian peninsula, Clare, as she was called, was the daughter of a wealthy representative of an ancient Roman family and it was assumed that she would marry in accordance with family tradition. .
Clare didn’t want it.
At the age of 15, she refused to marry, according to a report from Franciscan Media.
Always devoted to prayer, as a teenager, she heard Saint Francis of Assisi preach during a Lenten service. Moved by her words, she asked Francis to help her live according to the gospel.
On the evening of Palm Sunday in 1212, Claire slipped out of her parents’ house and was greeted on the road by brothers carrying torches.
In a small chapel called Porziuncula, she met Francis. There she exchanged her jewelry belt for a regular rope with knots and allowed Francois to cut her long braids. Francis gave her a woolen coat and placed her in a Benedictine convent.
Furious, her father stormed the convent to force her to return home, but she clung tightly to the altar, ditched her habit to show her cropped hair and said she would never be married to someone other than Jesus Christ.
Claire never looked back and befriended Francis as a spiritual guide until his death in 1226.
Claire and the convent sisters – including her own younger sister, Caterina, who joined the church as Agnes and later became a saint – chose to live in severe austerity. They wore no shoes, slept on the floor, did not eat meat, and observed almost complete silence.
One account said they did not own any property and lived on daily contributions.
When the Pope tried to persuade Clare to reduce the difficulties of her practices, she stood firm in her beliefs and reportedly said, “I need to be absolved of my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from it. obligation to follow Jesus Christ. “
Claire never left the Convent of San Damiano in Assisi and continued to serve the sick and wash the feet of her sisters. Popes, cardinals and bishops often came to consult her, driving through what is today 2.5 hours by car.
During her last 27 years, Clare suffered from a serious illness, but she never deviated from her ideal of holiness. She died in 1253 at the age of 59. Her sister died three months later.
Two years after Clare’s death, Pope Alexander IV canonized her as Saint Clare of Assisi.
Not only will Clare’s name live on in the new church being built under the direction of Trident Construction Co. of Charleston with Franck & Lohsen Architects of Washington, DC, and Hord Architects of Memphis, Tenn., But her image will also be present. . in two of the 12 stained-glass windows that will adorn the 850-seat sanctuary.
When the church was first designed to be built near Bishop England High School in 2015, the concept included 16 massive stained glass windows.
But as its development began to unfold on the drawing board, the number of windows was reduced to 12 and the reality was that the church could not afford the elaborate window treatments. Planners opted for plain glass until enough money was available at a later date to replace them with more colorful and quaint versions.
As the church design began to take shape on paper, church leaders learned of the existence of a 300-bed convent in Pittsburgh where membership had declined. The convent, built in 1897 to house the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, was designated for sale and the furniture of the chapel was to be auctioned.
It turns out that inside the chapel were 12 stained glass windows designed by the famous German window maker Franz Mayer from Munich. They were also almost exactly the right size to fit the 18 foot tall by 8 foot wide windows of the proposed new church on Daniel Island.
The church paid about $ 450,000 for the windows and their removal, according to Rev. Gregory West, pastor of St. Clare of Assisi. New ones would have cost several times more than that, he said.
Two of the stained glass windows represent Saint Clare. All are now stored in Pittsburgh. Workers will begin placing them in the new church in August 2022, according to John Edward Griffith, project manager at Trident Construction.
Other items purchased from the Pittsburgh Convent include a marble altar, marble baptismal font, and statues of Saint Joseph, the Blessed Mother, and Saint Clare.
For the building itself, the clergy and architects looked to old-world Italy and incorporated elements of other religious structures in Charleston.
Designed in the Gothic Revival style with hints of Romanesque elegance, the 21,000-square-foot structure was inspired by the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Assisi, where the remains of Saint Clare are found.
It also includes two towers similar to those of Stella Maris Roman Catholic Church on Sullivan’s Island and a towering 170-foot steeple-like spire atop St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church on King Street. An ordinary glass rose window measuring almost 7 feet in diameter will adorn the entrance between the two towers.
“We wanted our new church to have the look of a beautiful, timeless structure that one might find in Italy or even in historic downtown Charleston,” West said. “We wanted something traditional. We wanted something beautiful. We wanted something transcendent.”
The church is not built on stilts, but it includes earthquake-resistant drains or corrugated tubes with filters that provide ground stabilization and water flow in the event of a seismic event, according to Griffith with Trident Construction .
In total, the new church will include 310 tons of steel, 1,000 cubic meters of concrete and 300,000 bricks, according to Trident.
Future plans call for a two-story administrative and educational complex and another structure that will serve as an event space. All the buildings will eventually be connected by a courtyard.
The head of the construction company said the company was “deeply honored to be a part of this historic community monument.”
“Working with the church building committee, Father West, architects and engineers to plan, design and build the new St. Clare Catholic Church in Assisi is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve been to. partner during my 34-year career, ”said Tim Kennedy, President of Trident Construction.
“The Catholic Church of St. Clair of Assisi represents the success and commitment of the congregation today to the many generations to come,” said Kennedy.
The parish of St. Clare of Assisi, which includes Daniel Island and Cainhoy, has 2,300 members. They are currently meeting at Bishop England High School, but will be able to attend church services at the new church in early 2023, West said.
So far, the church, located on Seven Farms Drive near Etiwan Park, has raised around $ 16 million in cash and pledges for the full cost of the land, construction and furnishings. . The church has taken out a loan for the rest of the money, but West believes it can be repaid in about five years with new contributions.
“It’s a great honor to be a part of a project like this,” Griffith said. “Churches like this don’t get built much anymore.”