ALL SOULS CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
Since its dedication in 1913 our church has been growing along with its congregation.
The text that follows is taken from the 1983 booklet “All Souls Congregational Church” written by L. Felix Ranlett and is a revision of his earlier history published in 1962. It recounts aspects of the history of the church and the structure and key church furnishings.
The following links correspond to the various sections relating to the church structure and its furnishings:
The Building Layout
The ground plan of the building is the Latin cross traditional in Gothic architecture. The narthex (vestibule), nave, and chancel with ambulatory passage, provide the body and head of the cross. The transepts provide its arms. The orientation is approximately east and west, with the portal at the east and the chancel at the west; the right transept, viewed from the entrance, being north and the left, south. That this orientation is directly opposite to what is conventional in Gothic churches appears due to the position of the lot and the necessity of having the entrance at street level on Broadway rather than at the top of the high bank on French Street.
The extreme outside length of the building, buttress to buttress, is 126 feet, 7 inches. The inside length from the narthex screen to the rear wall of the chancel is 100 feet, 7 inches; the width of the nave is 37 feet, 8 inches; and the width of the whole at the transepts, 64 feet, 4 inches. From floor to ridgepole inside is 42 feet 8 inches. The height above the ground of the summit of the flèche, the arrow-like spire, is some 100 feet. The seating capacity now totals 739; 390 in the nave, 237 in the transepts and transept galleries, 54 in the choir, 23 in the chancel choir, and 35 in the chapel.
The face of the east front with portal and rose window is framed in heavy buttresses. The narthex gables protrude at either side. The south narthex gable is divided by a tower with a pointed roof. In it hangs a bell whose rope drops into the well of the stairway leading to the choir loft. There is no internal access to the tower. A bronze plaque near the bell rope reads: “The bell in this tower was given in loving memory of Deacon Daniel Arthur Robinson, MD, and his wife Lettie Harlow Robinson by their children, October 2, 1966”. Before the installation of the bell this tower served as a ventilating shaft.
On the north side a flight of 25 steps from the sidewalk leads to a timbered portico with entrance into the north transept. To the west of this portico is a door, like a postern gate, at terrace level, admitting to the vestry. Over this door is a stone with the words “One is your Master”, from Matthew 23:8. A path on the same level leads along the French Street face of the building to a large doorway with double panels. This is permanently walled over inside and no longer serves as an entrance. All three of these stone door frames were salvaged from Central Church.
In an outside well on the south side are service stairs leading to the furnace room. In the angle between the nave and south transept is an ornamental chimney serving the heating plant, an incinerator, and the fireplace in the vestry. The entire roof is of heavy slate. The building is softened by a fine growth of Boston ivy (Ampelopsis Tricuspidata). Until the installation of 1982 of the south transept window, an area of brick appeared to the roof of the peak of the south transept. This is where the original plan with a parish house (activities building) of three stories would have been attached. On the left of the entrance walk is an identification board with hours of services. This is suspended from a bracket supported by a heavy column of pink granite blocks.
The tower, or flèche, without interior access, that rises some 55 feet from the crossing of the nave and the transepts, is of steel and copper, naturally weathered green. Reminiscent of the flèche of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, it is embellished with crockets, conventionalized leaves. It is surmounted by a conventionalized fleur-de-lys approximating a cross in appearance and symbolic of the human nature of Jesus, or variously, of the Holy Trinity.
At the east entrance, from a walk at street level, three granite steps lead to the portico. The metal door of the coal hole is at the right of the steps. The stone door jamb, arch, and tabled with superscription all came from Central Church where they had not been destroyed by the fire. They, and the walls of the portico, are of Indiana limestone. The inner frame is decorated with carved stalks, leaves, tendril, and grapes of the vine, symbolic of Jesus and his followers (John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches.”) The outer frame carries a larger leaves devoid of symbolism. The corbels of the arches are decorated with angelic childlike winged figures, called cherubs, clasping books. At the peak of the arch is a large fleur-de-lys-like, and with the same symbolism as that of the flèche. This symbol also appears in the chancel window where it crowns the canopies of the Evangelists.
The heavy double door of oak with six lancets of amber leaded glass is decorated with wrought iron bosses and heavy handles. The bronze lamp hanging from a chain in the portico is decorated with capital crosses in outline and is similar to the lamp in the narthex and others elsewhere in the church. The superscription reads: “Enter into His gates with Thanksgiving and into His courts with Praise” from Psalm 100:4.
The cornerstone is in the base of the buttress at the right of the entrance. It is the cornerstone of Central Church, re-cut internally to contain two copper and zinc boxes. The larger box contains, among other things, the printed histories of First Church and Central Church, and calendars of those two churches, and of the early services of All Souls. The contents are listed in full in column 3, page 12 of the Bangor Daily News of August 20, 1912, which may bee seen at the Bangor Public Library. The smaller box is the one that was placed there on June 16, 1902, when the cornerstone of Central Church was laid. It was not opened before being placed in the cornerstone of All Souls. First Church had no cornerstone. When its building was remodeled in 1859 a box containing printed matter and manuscript was placed in one of the supporting columns. This was destroyed in the fire of 1911. On the front of the cornerstone of All Souls is the date 1912. On the south side are two dates: 1830, when the second meeting house of First Church was built, and 1859, when the building was remodeled and enlarged. On the north side are two dates: 1852, when the first meeting house of Central Church was built, and 1902, when the second building replaced the original.
Higher on the right buttress is a bronze plaque with the wording: “All Souls Church (Congregational) 1912 Uniting the First Church 1811 The Central Church 1847”. The actual corporate name of the organization is All Souls Congregational Church. In 1961 All Souls became a member of the United Church of Christ.
The narthex (vestibule) is separated from the nave (main auditorium) of the church by a narthex screen of 21 panels of oak and amber leaded glass, pierced by a central door of two leaves and two single, side doors. The depth of the narthex from portal to inner doors is 14 feet, 9 inches. There are four cylindrical hanging lamps of bronze with capital heraldic crosses, similar to the portico lamp. Storage closets lead off the narthex in the front wall on both sides of the main door, and from one staircase leads to the choir robbing room, the furnace room, and the vestry. A third closet, at the north end, occupies the space originally planned for a staircase to the gallery which in 1970 became the choir and organ loft. It now contains storage space and the air intake for the organ. At the south end, behind a leaded glass screen is a true staircase to the gallery. The narthex is furnished informally with benches, coat racks, literature racks, and a table carrying a guest register. The table was made by Albert E. Westin, a member of the congregation, and presented by the Six-Thirty Club upon its disbanding.
On the east wall of the narthex are six frames of pictures and information about the building of First Church and Central Church. These were gathered by James Reid, clerk of the church 1939-1941.
Also on the east wall of the narthex are two framed, hand-lettered scrolls entitled “Honor Roll of European War”. These are honor rolls of the church for the First World War. They contain, in the two panels, a total of 74 names, of which 6 are women and 68 men. They indicate that two of the men died, having been killed in action. These were John Elliott and John C. Spooner. One frame carries an inscription in Latin which in translation reads, “Let us fight for our people and for the city of our God.” The other carries an inscription in Greek, which is from John 15:13, and translated means “Greater love hath no man than this.”
Between the Nativity window and the Peace window in the nave is a bronze plaque worded: “In memory of the six young men of this church who fell in World War II: Robert A Brautlecht, Richard B. Jones, Austin R. Keith, W. Carleton Orr, Fields S. Pendleton III, John F. Steinmetz: and in thanksgiving for the safe return of the others who went from this parish to serve in that war.”
There is nowhere on view in the building a full listing of all the parishioners who were in the service during the Second World War. In a corner of one of the First World War frames is inserted a partial list of Second World War service men and women. It is a printed list that appeared in the church bulletin of Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945. It names the two women and ninety-five men who had been enrolled up to that time.
In the nave the pews are divided alternatively, with single, raised arms, into sections seating three or five persons. There were also originally, when pews were privately owned, partitions from floor to seat at the locations of the arms. As they prevented circulation and the full use of the seating capacity, they were later taken out. The carving on the ends of the pews is a quatrefoil, which appears also in the chancel lamps and at other places in the detail of the church decoration. It is variously symbolic of the four Gospels or of the four evangelists.
Demi-barrel vaults with fluted ribs support the rails of the rear balcony and the transept galleries and overhang the aisles. They are an interesting detail. Niches with flat arches are inset into the walls under the nave windows. They originally contained radiators. Now the heat enters through grills in the floor of the niches. Larger arches of the same shape support the transept galleries.
Lighting in the nave is by incandescent electric lamps in ten chandeliers that take the form of royal crowns enclosing white glass inverted bowls and suspended by triple chains. In the upper part of each transept are two lamps of similar design, and in the lower part of each, three lamps.
The trusses and the timbering of the auditorium command attention. The trusses, supported on huge, stone corbels projecting from the walls at the exterior buttresses, curve upward in fine Gothic arches, not to the ridgepole, but below it. On the peak of the arches rest cross timbers that support vertical members that reach to the ridgepole. The rafters, closely spaced at eighteen inches on the center, are intersected by purlins (lengthwise members), that coincide with the bows of the trusses, so that the entire roof is sustained at many points. Sprinkler pipes parallel the principal members, but they are nearly invisible and do not detract from the rich appearance of the timbering.
The dry pipe sprinkler system, installed by The Grinnell Company in 1952, extends to all parts of the church. At 5:10 a.m. on January 16, 1962, the sprinkler system gave alarm and initial control of fire that, originating near the chimney pipe close to the ceiling of the boiler room, burned through the floor of the nave at several points along the south wall. Lesser fires occurred at the same location on April 8, 1969 and in May, 1970. Following the latest of the fires the smoke pipe was relocated to avoid any further chance of overheating. The church school building, opened in 1954, had sprinklers installed throughout during the course of its construction.
The Lectern Lamp
The lectern lamp is a focus of interest, but its full meaning becomes apparent only with close study. It is supposed to date from the fifteenth century and to have at that time been plundered by barbarians from some Greek Catholic church. The material is brass. The only lettering upon it is Arabic. The style is Moorish or Byzantine, intricate design, repeated infinitely, and all worked in tiny perforations and incised lines. The design is really a series of pictures. This shows that the lamp is Christian, for if it were Islamic the detail would be design only. The principal theme of the pictures, repeated over and over, is the martyrdom of St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris and patron saint of France, his head in his hands. He was martyred by beheading in 275 AD. The name Montmartre reminds us of this event. Tradition says that the martyr walked two miles to his grave, carrying his head. Here and there among the pictures are executioners with axes and also two other men, perhaps his companions in martyrdom, Rusticus and Eleutherius. The secondary theme is a series of deer in the thick foliage of a forest, perhaps illustrating Psalm 42:1: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.” With them, occasionally, are other animals and birds. The lamp was brought to America about 1870. It was given to All Souls Church by Mrs. Albert H. Thaxter.
The Baptismal Font
The baptismal font, which is below and to the left of the pulpit, is of carved oak, like the chancel woodwork. It stands on a base of one step. Its column and rim are decorated with the same carved roses and vine elements that decorate the chancel. Its cover is a carved spire surmounted by a twisted wrought-iron loop handle. The font bowl itself is of pewter with folding handles. The font was given by Charles D. Crosby in memory of his wife, Miriam Robinson Crosby (1862-1926). Also in the nave is a stand which on Sundays contains the church’s Book of Remembrance that at other times is found on a special shelf in the chapel. The stand, constructed by the Rev. Edward G. Ernst from the wood of a pew formerly in the church, was given by Dr. and Mrs. Richard E. Durst in honor and memory of his three brothers, Ralph, Kenneth, and Arden Durst.
The two hymn boards are carved with nodding stalks of wheat framing a Latin Cross. The inscription is “Presented by C. Winfield Richmond in memory of his mother, Clara Richmond 1857-1903.” C. Winfield Richmond was organist of the church from 1918 to 1945.
The chancel is approached by three steps. The oak floor is of key-plug construction – that is, the heavy planks of the floor instead of being nailed in place are held together by wooden plugs so cut as to draw them together and to prevent any possibility of cracking through shrinkage. The lectern is carved with various ecclesiastical symbols: a whorl of flames (inspiration), Greek and patee crosses (Our Lord), and roses (the Messianic promise of Isaiah 35:1 – “…and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”) There was formerly attached to the lectern an adjustable shelf and bracket to hold a vase of flowers. Upon its breaking off it was not replaced. Brass bowls in wrought-iron stands, located in front of the lectern and pulpit, now serve to contain the flowers that on many Sundays are provided through several specifically designated funds.
Until 1970 when the Moeller organ was installed in the east end of the church, the columned screen at the right of the chancel enclosed a space for the organ console, organist, and a quartet. The organ chamber was behind the organist in the space now occupied by the chapel. It was fronted by large, speaking, yet decorative organ pipes and by a carved screen embellished by medallions containing crosses whose terminals suggested trumpets. One of these now forms the back of the bookcase in the chapel.
To the left of the chancel is another columnar screen behind which are pews for a small choir. Both screens are decorated at the top in carving with the vine (Our Lord) in flamboyant patterns, with grapes and leaves of the vine (“Ye are the branches…”) and with Messianic roses. This same symbolism and carving is carried to the pulpit, the canopies of the seven chancel seats for the minister and deacons and the communion table, to which are added quatrefoils (the evangelists). The heavy pendentives of the chancel seats terminate in large carved roses. The pendentive over the entrance to the choir from the chancel carries a small smiling face and other decorations not found elsewhere. These are a sort of signature of the individual woodcarver himself.
Occupying the space above the central deacon’s seat is a cross, continuously illuminated, that was dedicated April 1, 1979, a gift from the Woman’s Association in memory of Lucy H. Crane. It was crafted by Clark Fitzgerald. It is of oak, framing a gilded metal stem with shining leaves, continuing the vine motif that runs throughout the chancel carving.
An ambulatory leads from the small choir space, behind the deacons’ seats to the chapel. The north transept gallery is reached by stairs hidden in the east wall of the transept.
It is interesting to note how extensively the device of architectural canopy like that of the deacons’ seats is carried out elsewhere in the building. It appears, to name a few places, over the five central figures and the five base panels in the Chancel window, above the archangels in the north transept window, in the Nativity window, and in the Resurrection window. In church buildings canopies were first used outside to keep the snow and rain from the heads of the carved saints. Later they came inside, where they have no use, over the same saints in the windows.
The high pulpit is reached by six steps from the chancel floor. The pulpit desk is supported by a wrought iron cross visible only when a ray of sun enters from the open front door. Ross and Company, of Cambridge, MA, was responsible for most of the chancel woodwork and fittings.
The Communion Table
The communion table, characteristic of New England Congregationalism, is of Gothic pattern to harmonize with the building in general. Upon it are two memorial candlesticks and a memorial bible stand, incised with a Maltese cross, which carries a King James pulpit Bible bound in red leather on the cover of which are the words All Souls Congregational Church in Memory of Wesley Worcester. Another pulpit Bible, rescued from the First Church, is now held in the archives. A ministerial chair made from portions of pews 33 and 56 is at the right of the chancel, behind the lectern. Pulpit and lectern hangings of violet are used for Lent and Advent, green from Pentecost or Trinity to Christmas, and white during the rest of the year.
The original organ, installed when the church was built, was by Kimball, Small and Frazee of Boston. By 1970 it had worn out and was removed. The new pipe organ, comprising 25 ranks, was designed and built by M. P. Moeller Inc., the world’s largest builder of pipe organs, located in Hagerstown, MD, with a tonal design in keeping with the acoustics of this church and the requirements of the church services. There are 1419 pipes, 12 couplers, 19 pistons and 4 reversible pistons. The Unenclosed Positiv is to the left of the Rose window, the Unenclosed Great to the right of the window, and the pedal Division is behind either of these organs. Two Swell divisions are placed on either side of the balcony with individually controlled swell shades operated from a pedal at the console. A three horsepower blower supplies wind to operate the electro-pneumatic action and the pipes with 3 and 3½ wind pressures. A three manual draw-knob console, incorporating the latest in action design, places the entire instrument under the control of the organist. The fine Degan chimes, given to the church in 1958 by Dr. Robert M. McQuoid and used with the old organ, are now installed with the new action in the right Swell chamber. The casework also built by Moeller, encloses the mechanics of the organ, but allows for a good projection of sound into the auditorium.
(Click here to read more about the Moeller Pipe Organ.)
The Book of Remembrance
The Book of Remembrance is to be consulted for a description of the several communion sets, offering plates, candlesticks and other ecclesiastical equipment and lay service utensils either with memorial inscriptions or without.
The Public Address System
The public address system was installed in the chancel early in 1978. It is of Rauland Spectrum-Master manufacture, put in place by Maine Sound and Intercom Company. The speakers are inconspicuously located in the chancel screens close to the hymn boards. The control mechanism is at the rear of the nave, housed in a cabinet built by Rev. Edward G. Ernst, a member of the parish, using wood from a pew formerly used in the church. Paired individual receivers for the use of the deaf members are located in pews 9, 11 and 74. The microphones are on the pulpit and the lectern.
The chapel, dedicated on November 27, 1976, is spanned by a fine arch that was revealed when the Frazee organ was removed. It occupies the former quarter space, console space and organ chamber. Its entire equipment was furnished by individual memorial gifts, each identified by appropriate memorial plaques and detailed in the Book of Remembrance. The door by which the chapel is entered from the north transept was cut through the wall of the one-time organ chamber. Several pews were moved to storage from the north transept to give an approach aisle.
The twenty-six stained glass windows that comprise so great a treasure are, it was the pride of their maker, true windows. To the outside of the church, through the texture of their leaded lines and the patina of the glass, they give a texture that blends with the stonework and the ivy. They are weather-tight. They are far less liable to breakage than a window of large panes. The lead lines make them flexible, yielding to gales or to mild shocks. A blow by a stone or falling branch breaks only one small piece of glass, not more than a few inches in size.
They meet that high test of a work of art: to reveal something new to the beholder each time he views them. This is not only because of their wealth of detail, but even more because of the way that their colors vary with every hour of the day and with every season. Before sunrise they begin to feel the coming sun. The whites prevail before sunrise and after sunset. As the sun begins to come, or is nearly gone, the greens strengthen and, with the light blues secondary, they succeed the whites. Then, as the sun grows stronger, the greens brighten. All darkness leaves them. The reds spring out suddenly, with the yellows secondary. The strong blues assert themselves and, with the reds, shout in royal purple. Quiet when the sun is low or the day lowering, the windows are hot, exciting, triumphant, when the clear sun is directly on them.
This cycle is visible in all windows. The eastern window shares in it but adds to it. By moonlight it is radiant with new colors not seen at all by day. (Click here to read more about the windows.)
Date of last Update: 04/17/03October 2, 2003: Report by Marilyn Soper