Thursday, September 6, 2007

Salvaging Catholic Artifacts and Antiques


When a Catholic church closes, especially a historic church or older church, what happens to its artistic expressions of the Faith? Its statues, stained glass, altars, etc.? I guess in the worst case they get destroyed or dismantled. However, there are some companies that specialize in acquiring and selling these items to other churches or individuals, hopefully allowing further use in an appropriate setting. I've been wondering about this for some time, given that over the years we may be able to incorporate a few major items (statues or otherwise) into our chapel.

After searching on the internet I have come across a couple online sellers who specialize in salvaged Catholic artifacts and antiques. The first is Fynders Keepers.
This online seller has pretty much anything Catholic you could think of, at least items that would have been in a Catholic church at one point. They have everything from Roman-style light fixtures to confessionals. Prices vary wildly depending on the item (how about $38,000 for this antique Gothic high altar?), but I'm sure there's a good deal or two to be had, especially for modest items like an individual kneeler, or a crucifix. Some notes about the site: it's extremely slow (every picture you see on the front page apparently is totally uncompressed and takes on the order of 30 seconds to load), and they don't just sell Catholic items... there's also some other things they specialize in (for instance, this is probably the one place to go to get a gorgeous monstrance for adoration... and some new hub caps, all in one convenient shopping experience!).

The other online retailer I have come across, which specializes specifically in Catholic items, is King Richard's.
This is a much more professional and easy-to-navigate website. They seem to have at least as wide of a variety of items as Fynders Keepers, but the main drawback is that there are no prices listed for most of the items (so you would have to call to get a price). That seems like kind of a waste of time, especially if you don't even know if you are interested unless you see the price. For instance, they have quite a selection of stations of the cross, many of them quite beautiful, but no price so there's no way to tell if you would even be in the ballpark to purchase.

If you know of any other good options I would love to hear it. A buddy of mine knows a person in Southern Minnesota who does not have an online presence but has a vast array of Catholic items, but I haven't gotten the phone number. I am also interested in good online retailers of new Catholic items. I'd be even more interested (pipedream here) if there is anyone who's willing to donate items (statues, etc.) to, say, a nice Catholic family that's building a house with a chapel in Minnesota :-)


John Curran said...

Have you ever received the catalogues from the auction house called the Red Baron, located in Atlanta, GA? They often have incredible works of religious art, some of which might be appropriate-- stained glass, statuary, Gothic furniture and much more.

A bit of a distance, but should you find yourself in the area for one of their weekends...

My own idea would be to find one spectacular piece of stained glass, preferably salvaged; something to color the light in the chapel and create the proper mood.

Brian Crane said...

I have visited King Richards in Alpharetta, GA. They have many beautiful things, but their prices tend to be rather high. They will haggle a little. But I frankly was a bit taken aback by the prices. Still, they are a great resource, especially for priests who want to restore their parishes (KR can even have new marble high altars and statuary manufactured to order).

You might check out also. I am going there in a few weeks myself to look for a chalice.

One of my friends, whose parents have a chapel in their house, found the pews and the altar, as well as a stained glass window, of all places, on eBay. The condition for buying it was that they had to go to St. Louis to pick it up (and they live in Virginia). So, the dad of the family flew out to St. Louis and drove a small moving truck back with everything in it.

You might also check around your diocese -- maybe there is a church that is looking to remodel/upgrade, and some of their old pews could be reconfigured and refinished and do nicely in your chapel. You can check with Protestant churches on this also. Also, if in your diocese churches have been closed in the past, it is possible that the diocese maintains an archive with the old pieces of art and furniture. Perhaps, if you have a good rapport with your parish priest and/or the bishop, you could broker some sort of deal with them: after all, it would be better for the things to be used than to sit in some storage room.

A final site which comes to mind is I think they are in St. Louis. They seem to have a number of nice things.

Brendan Koop said...

John and Brian:

Thank you for your help! I'll take a look at the extra resources you gave me.

Brian, if you have any pictures of the home chapel you mentioned it would be great! My e-mail is on my profile page if you ever get any pictures.

Debbie (Nana) Koop said...

I know the priest who is charged with deconsecration of Catholic churches in the diocese. Archbishop Burke has had to close quite a few churches there, had to deal with angry parishioners and even had one parish who refused to close and caused all sorts of controversy. Anyway, I am sure that there are archives of things in each diocese. As a deacon of the diocese, my husband receives the clergy bulletin and there are often ads there for old furnishings, etc. that are for sale or to give away. You might even be able to submit a request yourself (not sure). Many parishes have old Monstrances and chalices and crucifixes which are being stored and if a request came through the clergy bulletin that a nice Catholic family is looking to furnish a home chapel, they just might contact you. Good hunting.

Ponsonby Britt said...

A great place for Catholic church salvage is

They have quite a lot of items for sale and the prices are reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Are you still interested in any of the historical artifacts? My uncle just purchased everything left in Red Baron's warehouse when they changed locations a couple of weeks ago. There is a large amount of stained glass, one huge piece roughly 15 feet tall maybe 8 feet wide. There is also an antique confessional, as well as numerous other items. My email is let me know if you are still actively looking as we are in the process of removing everything and placing it in storage or selling it all off in a bulk lot. His prices are VERY reasonable.