Treasures: New Seminary Chapel Mosaics
Installed just a few months ago, the private chapel for Cincinnati’s seminarians is in a back wing of a big building, Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary of the West. It was, until recently, a nondescript room with little to recommend it, architecturally speaking. Originally a chapel for the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in the 1920s, it had since been renovated in a bare-bones style. The Eucharist was not reserved there, and it was rarely used.
Not any more. The small chapel now sparkles from its marble floor and altar to its state-of-the-art recessed lighting. But what draws the eye is the mosaic wall depicting life-sized representations of the apostles and St. Paul, worshiping at the tabernacle.
Seminary staff and the liturgical design firm Rohn & Associates Design, Inc., designed the new Immaculate Conception Chapel around the theme of “the moment of Christian witness,” says liturgical designer Rolf Rohn.
“What we hope the chapel communicates to the seminarians is an overall formation of being willing to say ‘yes’ to present the truth of the Gospel in a world that is becoming increasingly intolerant of the Church and the Truth she defends,” he says. “The theme of witnessing to the truth in the face of the powers of this world is strongly indicated throughout the body of the chapel by the placing of the crucifix and the figures chosen for the windows. The theme of hope, peace, and the strength one finds in the love of Christ is communicated by the images chosen for the sanctuary.”
Two smaller mosaics at either side of the main chapel depict the Immaculate Conception and St. John the Evangelist. Mosaics from studios at the Vatican flank the altar at the seminary’s main chapel, the large Chapel of St. Gregory. The mosaics in the new chapel reflect that tradition, as well as the ancient heritage of mosaic decoration in both Eastern and Western church design.
But it’s the main that captures the attention and draws it to the tabernacle and the marble altar, which is ringed by a carving of the crown of thorns and stands over the relics of six saints. “The overall theological rationale is to enter into the vision of St John as presented in the Book of Revelation,” says Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Vocations Director for the Archdioese. “The Twelve Apostles with St. Paul stand in Adoration of the Lamb who was slain, presented on the cover of the Tabernacle.”
Next time, we will take a closer look at the tabernacle. It is not, as you might expect, a metal box.
Photos courtesy Rohn & Associates Design, Inc.