Remembering liturgical pioneer Robert E. Rambusch

Robert E. Rambusch, New York Public Library Oral History Project

Robert E. Rambusch, a liturgical artist, designer and pioneer in the profession of liturgical design consultation, died May 23 at the age of 93, the National Catholic  Reporter says.

After serving in World War II, he became international secretary of the newly formed International Young Christian Students while studying  in Paris.

His work significantly influenced the shape of worship in the United States and Canada in a career that spanned more than 65 years, participating in the design and renovation of 24 cathedrals and 400 churches, NCR says.

As a liturgical design consultant, Rambusch developed an open, inclusive process in which the faith community was invited to participate in the sharing of ideas on the image of themselves and the church.

Catholic churches are some of the most difficult structures to design, Rambusch said at a seminar on art and environment for Catholic worship in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1995. The biggest problem, he said, is “to satisfy the fullness of the divinity but [also] the fullness in humanity” or the differences between Christ as God and Christ as man.

A congregation at worship is not people watching events unfold on a stage, he said. Church architects have to design to ensure the active involvement of the congregation in the celebration. “We need a lay-oriented special arrangement that supports their common [worship] as a communal kind of action together,” Rambusch said.

Rambusch worked for more than 35 years at Rambusch Decorating Company, the firm founded by his grandfather, Frode, in New York in 1898. He left in 1984 to found his own firm, Robert E. Rambusch Associates.

Rambusch studied at the Pratt Institute, the University of Toronto with Jacques Maritain, and did post-graduate work at Le Centre de L’Art Sacré in Paris with founder Fr. Marie-Alain Couturier, close associate of the artists Henri Matisse and Fernand Léger. “These studies informed his approach to sacred art and worship spaces. He embraced the principle that religious art cannot develop outside the artistic life of its time,” said his daughter Alexandra Rambusch.

In 1948, he met Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and began a lifelong association with the movement.

He is survived by his son, Rob, and daughter, Alexandra, The Tablet adds.

SOURCES

Robert E. Rambusch’s influence on the shape of worship endures (National Catholic Reporter)

READ MORE

Sharon Woolums, Robert Rambusch, 93, liturgical artist, designer (The Villager)

Michael E. De Sanctis, Childlike familiarity with Mystery: an appreciation of Bob Rambusch (National Catholic  Reporter)

Robert E. Rambusch (The Tablet)

Merton’s Correspondence with: Robert E. Rambusch; Robert Rambusch; Bob Rambusch; Rambusch, Bob (Merton Archives)

Robert E.  Rambusch, Interviewed by Sharon Woolums (New York Public Library Oral History Project)

Liturgical artwork by Robert Rambusch (HT: The Villager)

Holy card from Robert E. Rambusch's service

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