Richard S. Vosko

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Richard S. Vosko
Born 1943 (age 74–75)
Nationality United States
Occupation Roman Catholic priest & liturgical design consultant

Richard S. Vosko (born 1943) is an American Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Albany and liturgical design consultant who has overseen the redesign and renovation of numerous churches and cathedrals in the United States.[1] Vosko has worked throughout the U.S. and Canada as a designer and consultant for worship environments since 1970.

He is the author of God's House Is Our House: Re-imagining the Environment for Worship (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2006) and Designing Worship Spaces: The Mystery of a Common Vision (Meeting House Essay #8; Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1996).[2]

Design principles[edit]

Vosko states that today's cathedrals should "resonate" with the makeup of the dioceses they serve." The role of the cathedral in today's society is different from the times that came before. "The vision of 150 years ago had to do with a reflection of their own understanding of the Church and its liturgy." They were churches "designed to house a liturgy of a different age and genre – a different, pre-Vatican II understanding of what liturgy is." Since then, the Church in America, originally conceived as a missionary country, has shed that identity by having more than 70 million members. "The reasons for retaining and building our churches have changed."[3]

Vosko's perspective draws heavily from Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (EACW), a 1978 document drawn up by a standing committee of the Bishops Committee of the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops(USCCB). Although the EACW was never voted on by the full body of bishops and did not carry the force of law,[4] it was used as the standard for new church design and renovation for over 20 years.[5] EACW’s status has been controversial since its inception not only due to its canonical standing but also its content. EACW uses as a basis the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on Christ’s presence in the assembly celebrating mass and – in what some consider a stretch – shifts the basis for the design of the “liturgical environment” to “the action of the assembly” of believers rather than the principles from liturgy, theology, or architecture.[6] The EACW states: "Among the symbols with which liturgy deals, none is more important than this assembly of believers." Vosko states that the "new focus on the assembly" comes from the "recovered role of the people of God during acts of worship and not because of any subversive movement to discount the presence of God in the church." In Vosko's opinion, it is the assembly, not the church building, which must "transcend the ordinary."[7]

In 2000, the EACW was replaced by Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture, and Worship (BLS). The BLS has been voted on and approved by the USCCB.[8][4] Vosko has been a critic of this new document.[9]

Vosko church designs and renovations emphasize:[10]

  • the Visual – Improved lighting and sound so as to allow all to see and hear the actions of the priest. This often includes moving the organ from the choir to the position directly behind the altar.
  • Participation – As every worshiper is called to participate in the Eucharist, the altar is relocated as far forward as possible often to the center of the church so the priest is part of the assembly. This also improves sight lines. Items such as altar rails and pulpits are removed as they inhibit the sense of participation. Worshipers should be arranged around the altar so they can see each other. The baptismal font is generally moved into the assembly and includes full immersion capability.
  • the "Horizontal" – Traditional "vertical" churches orient in one direction treating God as transcendent whereas more ascetic "horizontal" churches emphasize God's presence in and with the community.
  • Symbolism and Simplicity over Ornamentation – Noble simplicity is better than sumptuous display which only distracts from the actions of the priest during Mass. Elaborate reredos behind the altar, baldachinos, and excessive statuary are generally removed.
  • the Imagination – As the community changes, the church needs to adapt to new art, music, language, and ritual practices
  • Flexibility – Church pews are often removed and replaced with chairs to allow the church to be used for other functions.
  • Other – The tabernacle is typically moved into a separate chapel away from the main church to allow for private eucharistic adoration. Private confessionals are removed and replaced by face-to-face confessional rooms.

Completed projects[edit]

Vosko has presided over renovations or contributed to the design of the following cathedrals and churches:[11]



  • St. Joe's Catholic Church (De Pere, Wisconsin)
  • St. Vincent de Paul Church, Albany, New York[13][14]
  • St. Cecilia's Catholic Church (Warrensburg, New York)[15]


Some have branded his church renovations as wreckovations due to their objection to the large scale removal of sacred art and ornamentation in service of Vosko's iconoclastic effort to achieve a non-traditional re-alignment of essential church elements.[16][17][18][19][20] Architect Michael Rose accuses Vosko of being a "liturgy deconstructionist."[21][22]


Vosko served as the chief liturgist for Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.[23]


  1. ^ Richard S. Vosko website Archived 2011-03-14 at the Wayback Machine.,; retrieved May 23, 2011
  2. ^ Vosko, Richard S: "Things to Remember When Building or Renovating Your Church" March 07, 2007
  3. ^ What's a cathedral anyway? The Evangelist – official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany by Karen Dietlein November 14, 2002
  4. ^ a b United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Authority of Environment and Art in Catholic Worship retrieved February 24, 2012
  5. ^ Rose, Michael, "Environment and Art in Catholic Worship: A Critique" 2004
  6. ^ The Institute for Sacred Architecture: "Environment and Art in Catholic Worship – A Critique" by Duncan Stroik Volume 2 — Summer 1999
  7. ^ Adoremus Bulletin: "Displeasure at Domus Dei draft delays new document" Online Edition – Vol. VI, No. 5: August 2000
  8. ^ Adoremus Bulletin: "Bishops back 'Built of Living Stones'" December 2000 – January 2001
  9. ^ Built of Living Stones: Seven Years Later by Richard S. Vosko Spring 2008
  10. ^ God's house is our house: re-imagining the environment for worship By Richard S. Vosko
  11. ^ Richard S Vosko website: Projects Archived 2011-03-14 at the Wayback Machine.; retrieved May 23, 2011.
  12. ^ Seattle Catholic: "Weakland's Cathedral Renovations" July 27, 2001
  13. ^ Huffington Post: "This Is The Best Religious Architecture Of 2015" by Antonia Blumberg December 31, 2015
  14. ^ NewsOK: "Does where you worship affect how you worship?" by Kelsey Dallas October 25, 2015
  15. ^ The Post Star: "Mass in the round" by MADELINE FARBMAN June 11, 2007
  16. ^ Catholic Culture: "Liturgical Design Consultant Reveals His New Age Religion"
  17. ^ Canadian Catholic Journal 'Challenge': "How a Canadian church was saved from destruction" Archived March 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ The Friends of St. Colman's Cathedral: "Renovating or Ruining Cathedrals?" Archived August 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.; accessed October 15, 2001.
  19. ^ US Catholic: "Who moved my tabernacle? The ruckus over renovation",, July 24, 2008.
  20. ^ Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission: "You Can Dress Her Up, But You Can't Take Her Out",, April 2001.
  21. ^ "Church Renovator Thrives on Manipulation Skills" Archived August 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. 2004
  22. ^ Michael S. Rose "Church Renovator Thrives on Manipulation Skills",; accessed March 1, 2017.
  23. ^ "The Wanderer: "The Bishop's Denials...Reflections on a Press Conference and Agony in Albany" by Paul Likoudis". Archived from the original on March 13, 2004. Retrieved February 27, 2014.