Random header image... Refresh for more!

The Burning of the Provo Tabernacle

tabernaclefireBurning_of_the_House_of_Lords_and_commonsOne of the primary ways I see the world is through the lens of art. I remember a remarkable professor, Norma Davis, saying that after she saw the sculpture of Henry Moore, she never looked at natural rock formations in the same way again. That’s stayed with me and I often find myself looking anew at the world–and people–because of my relationships with art.

Yesterday, the Provo Tabernacle burned down and all who have attended concerts, church services, addresses, and other events in this nineteenth-century architectural gem are mourning its loss. Delicate stained glass, elaborately worked wood, and paintings by beloved LDS artist Minerva Teichert were among the casualties. When I heard the news, I cried. And when I ventured downtown to see its remains, I wept.

And I saw the works of Romantic artists J.M.W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich appear before me. And I recall how hordes of Londoners gathered to watch the burning of the Houses of Parliament and how they stood entranced before the sublime spectacle, with flames engulfing the architecture and mirrored in the waters of the Thames, and the billowing clouds of smoke obscuring the familiar lines of the building’s gothic architecture and creating new contours to the cityscape. Turner captured this powerful experience in his iconic canvases of 1834. And when I looked with dismay at the carcass of the most architecturally interesting and culturally meaningful building in Provo, Friedrich’s Abbey in the Oak Forest of 1809-10 appeared before me. In this painting, the tracery of the lancet windows, emptied of their stained glass, is mimicked by the delicate lines of the branches of the oak trees that surrounded that ruined abbey.

Provo Tabernacle Fire

Over the years, these two paintings have spoken to me about the power of nature and of God, of the cycles of seasons and ages of men, and of the inevitability of loss and death, yes, but also the assurance of generation–and regeneration.

Check out the story and photographs of the tragedy here.

Conversation topics: If you have lived in Provo, share your favorite memory of the Tabernacle. If you’ve had an experience that was filtered and refined by your engagement with art, share it.

And P.S. Apparently none of my tweets for the last two or so months have been linked to the site. I’m working on fixing it. But you can follow me with my erratic tweeting @ ArtHistorySalon


1 Kalisha { 12.18.10 at 1:22 pm }

Thanks for this post! I think that there are many mourning the loss of the Provo Tabernacle. I myself have only been there for Stake Conference, but I remember feeling that the lack of interest of the speakers was easily made up for in the architecture that I had fun visually exploring from my seat.

As I was watching the news I also thought about Turner and Friedrich. I actually think that this will give us a unique opportunity because many people feel awed by Friedrich’s “Abbey in the Oak Forest” but feel little connection to it? What have we ever had that was old and destroyed? What do you we have that hearkens back to the Gothic? Well, now we have an experience that links with his beautiful aesthetic.

2 Erin { 01.28.11 at 4:35 pm }

I thought of Friedrich too! That morning I drove down there with my dad. Both of us grew up in Provo for our entire lives. We stood there and looked at the flames and cried. He talked about going to every stake conference there when he was younger, and speaking at his seminary graduation in there. I remembered when I was younger, pretending I had to go to the bathroom but really just wanting to walk down the spiral staircase by myself. In high school we had choic concerts there, and I often think about the beautiful songs we got to sing in that building. I’m glad you posted about it, and included the very painting I thought of when I first went down there.

Leave a Comment