He Kerned For Our Sins
September 18, 2008 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Who designed this Jesus-y font that I see all over Christian printed material and churches? What is its significance? Its history?
posted by Lieber Frau to Religion & Philosophy (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I think it just represents a certain era of design in Christian materials. There was a lot of that going around in the late 60s and early 70s, when the church was trying to embrace the youth culture movement of those times. I don't claim to actually know this, but it looks a lot like the kind of posters and church bulletin art from the Presbyterian church I went to as a kid.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:57 AM on September 18, 2008

I've got no history for you, but can confirm the association with the church and the Vietnam War era. My wife refers to it as "radical nun font" and counts it among her favorite typefaces.
posted by wg at 11:15 AM on September 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Heh, heh. "Radical nun font". Your wife is a card.
posted by Lieber Frau at 11:18 AM on September 18, 2008

The shape of the 'A' really pings my memory, but it's been maybe 15 years since I would have had a lead for you.
posted by rhizome at 11:29 AM on September 18, 2008

The A and R especially feel somewhat Celtic to me, as if the symbology indicates a return to the community or traditions of the earlier church, in opposition to stuffy "high church" ritual and formality.
posted by dhartung at 12:14 PM on September 18, 2008

This font was everywhere in the Roman Catholic Church of my youth, on the altar banners and the missalettes and what not. I associate it with the publications of St. John's Abbey--maybe writing to someone there would help?
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:31 PM on September 18, 2008

Response by poster: If it helps, this church is St. Helen's, a Roman Catholic church in the Ukrainian Village of Chicago. It is peopled by a mostly Eastern European clergy.
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:58 PM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: My own personal observation...

This sort of typography started showing-up in religious ephemera back in the 60's and 70's. To me, it seemed to be an outgrowth of churches trying to appear relevant or "hip" to the emerging youth culture. The type somewhat loosely mimics hand-drawn, psychedelic typography of the time, though obviously not nearly as trippy. After awhile, it just sort of became the "official" typography of Jesus. I still see it in posters and wall-hangings at my wife's church.

This stuff went along with creation of (god help us) "guitar mass".
posted by Thorzdad at 1:34 PM on September 18, 2008

St. Helen's appears to have been designed and built in the early 60s, completed in 1964.
posted by zamboni at 1:59 PM on September 18, 2008

Seconding Thorzad. That sort of type also picks up styling from various uncials too, and you might be able to find an analogue in that family.
posted by Haruspex at 2:22 PM on September 18, 2008

Thorzdad is right-on. It is no longer used except in the most lame, dying-out, religious communities' publications.
posted by resurrexit at 2:44 PM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: By "radical nun font" are you thinking of some of the awesome work of Sister Mary Corita Kent from Fort Dodge, Iowa?
posted by mimi at 3:57 PM on September 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: AWESOME reference. Thank you Mimi. Thank you Thorzdad.
posted by Lieber Frau at 4:59 PM on September 18, 2008

I've always loved that style--perhaps not being overexposed to it + its derivatives helps, but it's happy and YAY and warm to me. Do follow up if you find some relevant fonts! That's a neat photo you took.
posted by mimi at 9:49 PM on September 18, 2008

They appear to have almost a litho carving edge to them. I wondered if they might be work of Ade Bethune, who did a lot of illustration for the Catholic Worker, including, I believe, the masthead, a small version of which can be seen via Google Images. From what I understand, the Bethune estate are pretty strict with reproductions of her work, which is probably why there aren't very many on the web.
posted by sagwalla at 3:36 AM on September 19, 2008

If this font ever gets a name, I will be very disappointed if it isn't "Guitar Mass".
posted by ontic at 2:27 PM on September 19, 2008

« Older Is he a cheater?   |   Nurse, get me 50cc's of miso onion soup, STAT! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.