St. Anselm Priory (Tokyo)
ST. ANSELM PRIORY (TOKYO)
A postwar foundation from st. john's abbey, Collegeville, MN, serves a parish that was established on November 28, 1947, by Abp. Peter Totsuo Doi of Tokyo. Beginning with a congregation of nine it developed, under the pastor and prior Hildebrand Yaiser, OSB, to a congregation of 1,250 within a decade. Located on a minimal plot of land between an elevated railroad and a busy street, the compound is economically planned for maximum use of space without giving the sense of congestion. With architectural force the structure fuses 20th-century Japan with a vital Christian liturgy. In 1956 the church was consecrated, and the kindergarten, library, and assembly hall were completed. A few years later the rectory (St. Anselm Priory) was added.
The architect Antonin Raymond not only designed the complex but was able to oversee construction, plan interior design, and, with his wife Noèmi Pernessin Raymond, design and execute the altar, crucifix, tabernacle, candlesticks, and stations of the cross. Raymond, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, planned the church as central to the rectory-priory and the school building. The open court to the rectory side is a traditional Japanese garden while the court on the school side serves as playground and outdoor parish meeting area.
The church, of reinforced concrete and rectangular plan, seats 500. The baptistery juts out toward the street and is surmounted by a large cross on the exterior. The concrete, poured in thin sheets, is interrupted along the nave by thin slits of glazing extending from ceiling to floor. The unsurfaced concrete has been polychromed in panels with earthy colors such as ochre, indian red, and gray-green. The communion rail, lecterns, and baldachino are all of concrete. The graceful baldachino, covered with gold leaf, and the altar candelabra suggest the rhythmic flow of the Japanese flower arrangements, which originated as a part of temple worship. Behind the altar the concrete wall has been painted white with circular patterns inscribed on the surface, suggesting the Japanese shoji walls. A simple granite altar, of Sendai Ishi, dominates the sanctuary from a platform of Japanese sandstone. The tabernacle of wrought iron has an outer shape echoing the arches of Shinto shrines. The Stations are simple designs in metal, comprised principally of expressive hands, placed directly on the concrete panels between the nave windows. A fine 13th-century Byzantine Virgin icon is enthroned in a simple enshrined area. Besides being well-planned religious architecture, St. Anselm is a living center for the culture and faith it represents and serves.
Bibliography: j. pichard, Les Églises nouvelles à travers le monde (Paris 1960). c. j. barry, Worship and Work (Collegeville 1956) 319–320.