The Met Gala 2018

The annual Met Gala 2018 took place this week to raves across social media for the clothing and also the exhibition itself. For those who don’t know, every year the costume department of The Met – Metropolitan Museum of Art – in New York City mounts a themed exhibition which is kicked off by a star studded ball filled with celebs from Hollywood, music and sports worlds. Attendees can (though don’t have to) come dressed in some kind of take on the theme – though it’s not specifically a costume ball it certainly seems as such. This year, the exhibition theme is Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination which is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters from May 10 through October 8, 2018. Here is a video on the exhibition which really looks fantastic.

As a Catholic, I am always fascinated by the sacred and the secular and how they intersect and influence each other. As a music student I studied music history which was all about sacred music and the influence of the Catholic church, followed by the Lutheran and Protestant churches, on music composition. Likewise, art, design and architecture. Following all the hoopla around the Met Gala and the exhibition itself, I started thinking about how the Catholic church influenced my sphere of interest of architecture and design.

Gothic Architecture


Gothic Saint-Denis_-_Façade Met Gala
The Basilica at St. Denis in Paris is one of the oldest example of Gothic Architecture in the world, with the choir (where clergy and choir sit) in 1144. Photo by Thomas Clouet


Gothic Felix Benoist Cathedral St Denis Met Gala
Another view of St. Denis, by Felix Benoist .


Gothic Revial Washington_National_Cathedral_in_Washington, Met Gala
The National Cathedral in Washington is an Episcopal church, though is used for many multi-denominational services, is an example of Neo-Gothic architecture in the English Gothic style of the late 14th century. Construction started in 1907. Interestingly, the final “finial” was placed by then President George HW Bush in 1990.


Gothic Chetstone House in New Haven, Connecticut, on the market via William Pitt : Sotheby’s International Realty met Gala
Neo-Gothic style Chetstone House, built 1875, in New Haven, Connecticut is on the market. Gothic design enjoyed a revival during the Victorian era.


Sagrada Familia Basilica by Gaudi
Sagrada Familia Basilica by Gaudi.

In 1882, construction of Sagrada Família started under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. In 1883, when Villar resigned,[4] Gaudí took over as chief architect, transforming the project with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted the remainder of his life to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. (from Wikipedia)

Sagrada Familia nave roof met gala
Nave of the Sagrada Familia by Gaudi

Spanish Mission Style

Mission_San_Luis_Rey_de_Francia_current Met Gala
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, St., San Diego. Built in 1811. Today, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is well maintained. This Mission is architecturally distinctive due to the combination of Spanish Renaissance, MoorishMudéjar, and Spanish Colonial architecture styles.


Mission Revival El_Sueno_designed_by_Kevin_A._Clark Met Gala
Spanish Colonial Revival El Sueno designed by Kevin A. Clark.

The Vatican

Well known for it’s opulent interiors, The Vatican, center of the Catholic Church, showcases the desire to honor the glory of God by designing spaces which reflect the majesty of heaven.

St. Peter's Basilican Chair of St Peter Met Gala
St. Peter’s Basilican –  Chair of St Peter


St. Peter's Basilican Vatican Altar Met Gala
St. Peter’s Basilican Vatican Altar

The Palace of Versailles, in Catholic France, is also known for its opulence, gilding, marbling, etc. Built to showcase the glory that was the various King Louis’ and also their “divine right” to the monarchy.

Versailles palace interiors Met Gala
Versailles palace interiors


Louis XVI Period Giltwood and Tapestry Armchairs, Met Gala
Pair of Louis XVI Period (1780) Giltwood and Tapestry Armchairs. $30,000.00 on 1st Dibs.

The Protestant reformation was brought about, in part, by a revolt against the extravagances of the Catholic church – they eschewed ornament and idolatry. While the Catholic French Court is OTT ornate, the Protestant Gustavian Court style is usually thought of as more paired down. Looking at images of Versailles versus Drottingholm Palance in Sweden, there is a slightly less opulent style, though they are pretty close. I think the court of Gustav was just not quite as blinding the house Louis built.

Drottningholm Palace Interiors Met Gala
Drottningholm Palace Interiors
Pair of Swedish Gustavian Armchairs, 1790 Met Gala
Pair of Swedish Gustavian Armchairs, 1790. For sale at 1st Dibs for $16,000.00



Bringing it to modern interiors, symbols of the Catholic church still abound in our design styles, though generally stripped of their original meaning.

The Fleur-de-Lis and Quatrefoil symbols were originally very strong symbols and references to the Cross, though we don’t see it as that today so much.

Fleur.iris.2 Met Gala
Fleur de Lis – Lily


Fleur de lis Clovis_recevant_la_fleur_de_lys_-_XVe_siècle Met Gala
Fleur de lis –  St. Clovis, 15th Century.


Quatrefoil,_St._Guthlac,_Croyland_Abbey Met Gala
Quatrefoil, image from St. Guthlac, Croyland Abbey


I’d always heard that the traditional 6-panel door was a reference to the Cross and an open bible, but this is apparently not true. However, those who wish to “see” this symbolism will certainly continue to do so. We imbue images with the symbolism we want, even if it wasn’t the original intent.

Will you be going to see the Met Exhibit Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination ? What did you think of the clothing worn to the Met Gala? Bloggers Tom and Lorenzo have a ton of detailed posts about this unique red carpet/fashion show/costume ball.

You might also enjoy:

A Cool Church Conversion

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