Thursday, 19 July 2012 14:13
Stonemasons happy to rebuild the altarpiece after cautiously dismantling it
By Christopher M. Riggs
It’s generally easier for John Rooney and his men to reassemble a large decorative art piece than to take it apart.
Rooney, a stonemason with Rugo Stone of Boston, Mass., and his six-man crew began taking the reredos in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception apart just before Thanksgiving.
To make sure they could get it back together, they photographed and blueprinted the puzzle that is the decorative altarpiece.
“During the disassembly process it was tough because it was up against the wall,” he said in a video interview last week.
Putting the stone puzzle back together was easier, he said, because the reredos is 15 feet north of its original location and they don’t have all the unknowns involved with taking the stonework apart piece by piece.
Rooney said each piece of the reredos was numbered as it was disassembled. “The numbering system sequence was from top to bottom piece number 1 being the top, the bottom being number 268.”
Pieces on the left side were given odd numbers and right side even numbers to minimize confusion.
“We took measurements of everything prior to dismantling,” he said.
After storing the pieces and waiting for the floor to be prepared for the reredos’ new location, the crew returned to Wichita on May 1 and began reassembly.
It was easier to rebuild the reredos, Rooney said, because he and his men were able to position rigging and scaffolding around the entire job, rather than from side to side.
The work in Wichita is similar to a job they had last year, Rooney said, when he and his men took a reredos apart in New Jersey but had to transport it and reassemble it in Virginia.
Now that all the pieces of the reredos in Wichita are in place, the stonemasons are focusing on the tabernacle, which was moved from the west transept to a location a few feet south of the reredos arch in the sanctuary.
Once again, Rooney said, it was easier to put it back together than taking it apart “because of all the unforeseen secrets of 100 years ago.”
The crew will be in Wichita until mid-August. Their work is complete after they are finished with several smaller pieces including the altar, ambo, and the baptismal, which has been relocated to the main entrance of the church.