Robert Rambusch, 93, liturgical artist, designer

Robert Rambusch.

BY SHARON WOOLUMS | Robert E. Rambusch, a liturgical artist, stained-glass designer and one of the four nationally recognized pioneers in the profession of liturgical design consultation, died May 23 at age 93. He was a Villager for more than 70 years.

On the board of the Liturgical Conference and a founding member of major liturgical associations, Rambusch participated in the design and renovation of 24 U.S. and Canadian cathedrals and 400 churches and synagogues. 

Over the course of his 65-year-plus career, he won the major accolades and awards in his field, including the Frederick R. McManus Award from the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in 2005, in recognition of his “significant contributions to furthering the liturgical renewal in the United States,” the Berekah Award in 2001 from the North American Academy of Liturgy, the Mathis Award from Notre Dame in 1983, and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) Award in 1979, for his “contribution to religious architecture.”

Bob Rambusch worked for more than 35 years at Rambusch Decorating Company, the firm founded by his grandfather, Frode, in New York in 1898. He left in 1984 to found his own firm, Robert E. Rambusch Associates.

Rambusch did post-graduate work at Le Centre de L’Art Sacre in Paris with founder Father Marie-Alain Couturier, a close associate of the artists Henri Matisse and Fernand Léger. These studies informed his approach to sacred art and worship spaces, embracing the principle that religious art cannot develop outside the artistic life of its time.

He was appointed the international secretary of the Young Christian Students while studying in Paris. For Rambusch, social justice and charity were primary virtues. In 1948, he began working with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker serving those in need. He corresponded with Thomas Merton.

An example of Robert Rambusch’s liturgical artwork.

In World War II, Rambusch served in the 45th Infantry Division under General George S. Patton in North Africa, Sicily and Europe. He participated in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, forcing the S.S. troops to give the rotting corpses a decent burial. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

In 2014, this writer facilitated an oral history with Bob Rambusch at the Jefferson Market Library. (See: https://oralhistory.nypl. org/interviews/bob-rambush- y0ehxf )

A resident of One Fifth Ave. and Greenwich Village since 1945, Rambusch spoke of the infectious spirit of the Village having formed him artistically, politically and socially.

“It’s a haven for creative people,” he said, “the only place to live if you want to stay young.”