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Historic Church Updated With LED Lighting Technology

It has been 200+ years since Benedictine monks emigrated from Switzerland and built the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper, Indiana, and it was time to bring modern lighting technology to this historic site to make the sacred space more flexible to the needs of its parishioners.

The richly decorated interior and exterior of the restored St. Joseph Church in southwestern Indiana was accomplished with ERCO LED lighting products, which included 48V spotlights as well as custom-made product applications, and high-power outdoor projectors that provided the church with a sustainable and flexible lighting solution with high visual comfort.

In the small town of Jasper, which still celebrates its German roots and traditions today, the 235’-high bell and clock tower of the St. Joseph Church has been known as the “faithful watchman of the city.” Built in the Romanesque style from massive sandstone blocks from regional quarries, the church has been a National Historic Landmark since the 1980s.

In a four-year planning and construction process, the architectural firm Browning Day from Indianapolis, renovated the church building down to the last detail — from the enormous vaulted ceiling, terrazzo floor and the 14 sandstone veneered columns to one of the three Italian marble altars and the historic pipe organ.

“When it came to the lighting, it was important for us to emphasize the outstanding historical architecture and sacred art,” says Michael Eagan, Principal, Director of Browning Day. “We installed the luminaires as invisibly as possible. We were primarily concerned with the light.”

For the impressively elongated nave, which measures 193 feet long, the aim was to highlight the renewed vaulted ceiling, which is painted a light blue (the vault above the chancel is painted a midnight blue). To provide adequate illumination, a total of 120 ERCO Parscan48V spotlights were used: four Parscan48V luminaires, all with narrow spot (8°) lighting distribution, were mounted directly on the capitals of each of the two rows of columns supporting the 90′-high nave in order to precisely illuminate the individual vaults from below. “The lighting makes the vaulted ceiling appear even higher,” Eagan said, emphasizing that the light reflected from the ceiling also creates indirect general lighting in the church interior, which is perceived as pleasant and calming.

In order to ensure a sufficient light level for the parishioners during church services, eight custom-made chandeliers were installed above the four seating areas at a height of approximately 55 so as not to obstruct the open church space. Given the immense distance, luminaires with high luminous intensity were essential: six ERCO Atrium surface-mounted luminaires were integrated into each of the chandeliers, which were designed according to historical models. The Atrium luminaires guarantee a high level of visual comfort within the rows of benches with a total of 1,200 seating berths: and also provides the desired energy efficiency by avoiding spill light.

ERCO Parscan48V spotlights were also used for the accent lighting of the interior to illuminate and highlight the holy figures, the magnificent altar pieces, the frescoes, the chancel of the sanctuary, and the elaborate stained glass windows from the inside. The lighting system, which can be digitally controlled via Casambi Bluetooth, enables flexible light scenes and also facilitates church operations. Light scenes can be saved and called up as required — for example for baptisms, communions or during the Holy Days.

The exterior of the sacred building is illuminated by a total of 34 ERCO Kona projectors. Its supporting buttresses are each illuminated from below by an ERCO Kona projector fixed to the ground along their entire length of over 65 feet, highlighting the vertical architecture of the building. All of the Konas utilized here have a color temperature of 3000K to accentuate the bright, extremely warm sandstone of the façade.

The stone bell tower of St. Joseph Church – which has a large clock facing all four sides – is illuminated by a total of 12 Kona projectors mounted directly on the imposing church tower. The bells inside this formidable tower are reportedly heard from as far as 10 miles away. As a crowning touch, two ERCO Kona fixtures illuminate the gilded cross of St. Joseph Church at the very top of the church spire.


Architecture: Browning Day, Indianapolis, Indiana

Lighting Design: Browning Day, Indianapolis, Indiana

Photography: RLI Photography

Products: Parscan 48V, Atrium, Casambi Bluetooth, Kona

Photo credits: © ERCO GmbH

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