Constructed in 1892, The Church of the Immaculate Conception is the spiritual home of The Sisters of Providence, an apostolic congregation of Catholic women founded by Saint Theodore Guerin in 1840.
Located at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, the church is a majestic limestone structure featuring beautiful architectural details, stained glass windows, sculptures and art. The Italian Renaissance style edifice was completed using the same Indiana limestone used extensively throughout Washington D.C.’s monuments and cathedrals that give our nation’s capital its iconic appearance.
Unfortunately, the beauty of this church wasn’t visible. Years of tree growth had overshadowed the facade, and the front of the church appeared dark and hidden, especially in the evenings. We knew cutting back the tree growth and installing new lighting would reveal the church in all its glory.
The goal of this lighting project was to highlight the beauty and history of this church. One of our hopes with lighting was to reach the top of the building and really showcase the architectural detail. We chose to embed the LED’s into the hardscape itself, rather than choose freestanding fixtures. This introduced certain constraints, like the angle of the beam and ensuring the architectural features of the building itself didn’t obstruct the light.
Prior to installation, we conducted several preliminary tests to understand the angles of the church and what we could achieve. We selected low-voltage LED lighting, which also meant a reduction in power over traditional halogen. Part of this testing phase also helped us understand exactly how far the fan and projection of the lighting would span, allowing us to illuminate the entire height of the church.
Additionally, we installed lighting underneath the benches surrounding the pathway that leads visitors to the front entrance of the church. By lighting the underside of these benches and bouncing the light back down, we created a broad, diffuse wash of light across the pathway. This had the effect of acting as indirect path lighting and creating broad pools of light on the surrounding area. We knew that freestanding lights would potentially be damaged by the groundskeeping staff at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and chose this indirect approach so lawnmowers wouldn’t have the opportunity to knock over or hurt pathway lighting.
By revealing the beauty of this church, we hoped to inspire new generations and help them understand what a special place this church maintains in the heart of The Sisters of Providence and their congregation. Illuminating the church at night helped the congregation and visitors feel more connected to this place of worship, especially in the evenings or on short Winter days. The Sisters of Providence also hold special prayer groups and outreach programs in the evening and at night, so the lighting is important to make people feel welcomed.
In light of the historic importance of this project and our firm’s commitment to preserving and enhancing our community, all labor and materials were donated to The Sisters of Providence.