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Buffalo Religious Art Center
149-157 East Street, Buffalo, NY
Buffalo Religious Art Center - Online Art Collection

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Fr. Raphael Pfisterer, O.S.B.
Buffalo Religious Art Center sanctuary and north and south transept chapels muralist










St. John the Baptist RC Church

Year donated:


Rev. Raphael Pfisterer, O.S.B.[Order of St. Benedict] / 1877-1942 - Saint Anselm Abbey:

Even cursory evidence indicates that mural painting was a flourishing art as early as the 1850s, much of it produced by German-trained painters.

Part of that rich efflorescence must therefore be attributed to groundbreaking Benedictine patronage, and to Bonifaz Wimmer. From the beginning, Wimmer set a coherent policy for the role of art in public life, then ensured its survival by seeing to it that the next generation of monks could continue the policy in practical ways.

For example, in 1880 he sent Bonaventure Ostendarp, a promising young artist-monk who had enrolled in St. Vincent in 1877, back to the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich to study. When he returned to the United States in 1884, Ostendarp opened up an atelier called the Studio of Christian Art, first in Newark, New Jersey, and later at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Ostendarp and his most famous pupil, Raphael Pfisterer, painted several churches in the Mid-Atlantic states in the 1890s, the most famous of which is St. Mary's in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. That church, too, was frequently compared at the time to St. Boniface in Munich.

- Kathleen Curran, The Romanesque Revival: Religion, Politics, and Transnational Exchange, p. 92

In 1893, a young Bavarian named Raphael Pfisterer arrived at Saint Anselm to study at the Studio of Christian Art. It was Fr. Raphael, O.S.B., who, nearly 40 years later, oversaw the painting of the student chapel's vaulted ceiling. His intention was not only to please the eye but to "arouse and move the mighty hidden powers of the soul."

In the spring of 1930, Fr. Raphael had a 35-foot-high scaffold constructed and enlisted 20 students ... to paint the ceiling. While the students used stencils designed by their mentor, Fr. Raphael did free-hand paintings above each stained glass window.

His allegorical paintings illustrate moral lessons about such things as the temptation of worldly goods and "the destructive serpents of evil literature." The paintings are packed with symbols: the lamp of reason, the chess game of life, the flowers of humility and purity. (Thankfully, the artist produced a 15-page key to their meaning.)

Fr. Raphael was pastor of St. Raphael's parish in Manchester and remained at Saint Anselm until his death in 1942.

- Laurie Morrissey, Art and Soul of Fr. Iain

The Alva deMars Megan Chapel Art Center (to give it its full name) was indeed the college chapel until 1967 when an abbey was built.

Since then the little gem of a building, with its stained glass windows and lunette murals by Benedictine monk Fr. Raphael Pfisterer, has been Saint Anselm's art center and gallery.

The Chapel Art Center is a bit off the beaten art path, but if you're in Manchester to visit the Currier Museum of Art it's worth crossing the Merrimack to find it.

- Edgar Allen Beem, In the Realm of Ideals Mirare at Saint Anselm

The particular set of Beuronese-style murals ... was executed between 1908-10 for St. Mary's Catholic Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania by Dom Bonaventure Ostendorp (1856-1912) and Dom Raphael Pfisterer.

These Benedictine artist-monks were members of St. Vincent's Archabbey of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, an abbey established under the patronage of Bavarian King Ludwig I.

- Rev. Fr. Kenneth Novak, The Art of Beuron

Special thanks to Buffalo Religious Arts Center Founder and President Mary Holland for her cooperation in 2010
Photos and their arrangement 2010 Chuck LaChiusa
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