by Fr. Sabato A. Pilato
Associate Pastor, 1992-96
I. SANCTUARY PANELS
When entering Christ the King Church one sees immediately the beautiful and large three panel stained glass windows above the raredos in the sanctuary. The central panel has a representation of Christ the King seated on a throne with the crown on his head holding scepter and orb. Around his throne are the symbols of the four evangelists or authors of the four Gospels. The human head symbolizes St. Matthew’s Gospel. The eagle represents St. John’s. They are above the throne. The lion representing St. Mark’s Gospel and the ox representing St. Luke’s Gospel are below the throne. Three people are also below the throne. One is holding a chalice and this could represent the priest at the Mass. The Mass is the earthly foreshadowing of the heavenly wedding banquet or the eternal liturgy in heaven. The connection between the Mass and heaven is most appropriate in the sanctuary of a Catholic church. Next to the figure with the chalice is a person holding a crown. Another person is holding a thurible that contains the charcoal used to burn incense during Mass. Incense is a reminder that Christ is not just a king but a divine king. Incense is reserved for divinity.
There are many figures in the right and left panels. The figures in the upper part of these panels represent the angels and saints in heaven. The figures in the lower part of these panels represent the people on earth. There is a division that runs across the lower mid-section of all three windows which represents the boundary between heaven and earth. The people in the lower panels are wearing different types of costumes representing different classes of people: royalty, poverty, motherhood, and the Pope – leader of the Church on earth. People of different races and ethnicities are also represented.
In the upper sections of the outer two panels the angels and saints are represented. Two figures in the left panel and one in the right panel hold instruments. The playing of instruments reminds us of the music in heaven and the angels and saints singing the praises of God.
II. UPPER WINDOWS ON NORTH AND SOUTH WALLS
As we look at the upper windows in the main body of the church we see a unique aspect of this church – not one but six rose windows.
There are also four sets of three panels – two sets of three on the north wall and two sets of three on the south wall. The central window in each of the four sets of panels is a representation of one of the four evangelists. The evangelists are very much emphasized in the art of this church. The symbols of the evangelist are around the Christ the King window above the sanctuary. The symbols of the four evangelists are also on the cornices of the columns around the sanctuary.
Beginning with the first set of three windows closest to the sanctuary, we find the evangelist, St. Matthew, author of the first gospel. He is depicted in the central panel on the upper south wall and his name is written on a strip that is on either side of his shoulders.
In the panels on either side of St. Matthew are various symbols that may be alluded to in his gospel. In the panel to the left is a Jewish menorah reminding us that St. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience. Below the menorah are two figures. One may be a carpenter’s tool, an allusion to St. Joseph who is referred to at the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel. The three crowns at the bottom represent the three kings who visited the Holy Family at Bethlehem. The panel to the right of St. Matthew contains four more symbols. The upper symbol is a star representing the star of Bethlehem or Jesus as the “Morning Star.” In the middle of that window is a heart with a sword through it with two doves representing the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple at Jerusalem. The two turtledoves were the gifts of the poor when presenting the first-born. After the Presentation, the prophet, Simeon predicts that a sword of sorrow will pierce the Heart of Mary. Another dove represents the Holy Spirit descending upon the world. M and J stand for Mary and Joseph. There is something dividing the two letters, which could be a carpenter’s tool or an artistic design without any special meaning.
On the north wall across from St. Matthew is a representation of the evangelist, St. John. St. John is the youngest of the Apostles and is usually depicted without facial hair. He is holding an open book – his gospel. St. Matthew is also holding a book. There are four symbols in each panel on either side of St. John. The upper panel contains a crest with a red cross. The Passion account according to St. John is read each year on Good Friday.
The central two symbols include the stone of the tomb with rays representing the Resurrection of Jesus. Across from the tomb is a skull and below it the word, Golgotha. This gospel refers to Calvary as Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” Sometimes on old crucifixes a skull is depicted at the base. One legend has it that Jesus was crucified over the grave of Adam. The bottom symbol is the cross without the body of Jesus but with cloth draped across the horizontal bar similar to decorations used at Easter to represent Jesus risen from the dead.
In the panel to the right of St. John are again four symbols. All of the symbols refer to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The scroll was over the head of Jesus on the cross. The gospel tells us that Pilate had the accusation against Jesus, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” written in four languages. INRI are the first letters of the Latin.
The left panel contains the ladder, hammer and pliers for installing and removing the nails that fixed Jesus to the cross. Through the helmet is a lance that the centurion used to thrust through the side of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel. Crossing the helmet in the other direction may be the sponge on a pole, which was used in an attempt to quench the thirst of Jesus. He did not partake of it because it had some type of drug or vinegar used to deaden the pain. On the bottom of the window is the Tau Cross (Franciscan Cross) with three nails that were used to fasten the hands and feet of Jesus.
At the rear of the church on the south wall, in the middle of the three panels is a representation of St. Mark the Evangelist. His name like the others is in a strip that runs on each side of his shoulders. He is holding an open book with a quill.
In the panel to the left of St. Mark are four symbols shaped like a cross. The upper symbol is a lamp or lantern and may be a reference to Jesus exhorting us to put the lamp on a lamp stand rather than to hide it under a bushel basket. The two symbols in the center appear to be a cup and a pot. The bottom symbol is a chalice and is an allusion to the Eucharist or Jesus referring to the cup of suffering when speaking to the Apostles.
On the panel to the right of St. Mark are four symbols in the shape of a cross. Two crossed keys have a scroll across them and a cloth tying them together. A rope also ties the ends of the keys together. In the center of the panel are two palm branches crossed over each other almost resembling the wings of seraphs. The five loaves and the two fish refer to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. The bottom symbol depicts six jars of water that were changed into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. The bottom four jars are colored red while the upper two jars are either clear or the color of the stone. (This miracle is only found in St. John’s Gospel.)
As we turn around and look to the windows on the north wall, we have a representation in the central panel of the only remaining evangelist, St. Luke. St. Luke has his name on a scroll on either side of his shoulders. He is not holding a book like the other three evangelists. He is holding a picture or icon of Mary and the Infant Jesus. Legend has it that St. Luke painted the first picture of Mary and this image, according to tradition, exists in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.
On the panels on either side of St. Luke are symbols of the passion of Jesus. The upper symbol in the left panel appears to be the veil of St. Veronica with the face of Jesus imprinted on that veil. The upper symbol appears to be the tunic that was removed from Jesus before his crucifixion. To the right is the crown of thorns and on the bottom is perhaps a jar of water with a towel. This could be a reference to Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper. (This is only found in St. John’s Gospel).
In the panel on the right side, four symbols are found again in the shape of a cross. The upper symbol is a rooster, referring to Jesus’prediction that St. Peter would deny him three times before the cock crowed. The column reminds the viewer of the scourging of Jesus. A sword and ear refer to St. Peter striking the ear of the servant in the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus was being arrested. Jesus places the ear back on the person, healing him of his injury. Jesus warns St. Peter that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.
III. LOWER WINDOWS IN THE CHURCH
There are four sets of four small windows. These windows refer to the saint whose statue they surround.
The statue of St. Therese depicts her holding an open book. This statue is sometimes confused with St. Teresa of Avila because the Little Flower is usually depicted holding the Child Jesus or roses. St. Teresa of Avila is usually depicted holding an open book because she was a great spiritual writer. But we know that it is not her because the first window contains 1873-1897. This is the year of birth and the year of death of St. Therese. The second window is a fleur-de lis, (French for flower) and a reference to the national heritage of St. Therese. The third window contains the symbol of the Carmelite Order. The fourth window contains the letters, S.T.I.J. for St. Therese of the Infant Jesus.
In the windows on the north side of the church surrounding St. Anthony of Padua are symbols referring to his life. The first window contains the lily, a reference to his purity and chastity. The second window reveals the monstrance with the Holy Eucharist, reminding us of his great love and devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The third window contains a basket with loaves of bread. On the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, June 13th, it is the custom in some countries to bless bread and to distribute that bread among the people and especially the poor. The fourth window contains a book with the words biblica sacra – which would be the sacred book or sacred Bible. Above the book is the Latin for St. Anthony, and below the book is the Latin for “evangelical doctor.” St. Anthony of Padua was a scripture teacher and is one of over twenty canonized saints in Church history who were declared “doctors of the Church,” or great teachers.
In the rear of the church on the north wall is a statue of St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland. There are four windows on either side of St. Patrick. The first window has what appears to be a flame of fire on logs. The second window contains the Celtic Cross – a reminder of St. Patrick’s involvement in Ireland. The third window reveals a tower. The fourth window shows a satchel or cowbell.
A statue of St. Ann with our Blessed Lady is on the south wall. St. Ann is the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandmother of Jesus. The first window near St. Ann shows a bird feeding her young in the nest – an allusion to the motherly aspect of God feeding his young in the Blessed Sacrament and also a reference to the maternal aspect of St. Ann and the Blessed Mother. The second window shows a bushel of wheat tied together – perhaps another allusion to the feeding of God’s people in the Holy Eucharist. The third window shows a closed door, perhaps a symbol of the House of David. The fourth window depicts three crowns. This is a reference to Jesus as priest, prophet, and King or to the Three Kings who travel to Bethlehem.
IV. CHOIR LOFT
In the choir loft we have a number of windows. The central window has three panels. Above the central panel are five circular windows, the largest one being in the middle, with the medium-sized ones on each side and the smaller ones on top of the medium size windows.
The top central window shows an image of Christ the King. He is wearing the crown. He is holding the orb and his right hand is raised in blessing. Above Christ the King is a dove representing the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus or the representation of Jesus with the Holy Spirit. The upper two images on either side of Jesus appear to be angels with hands folded in prayer worshipping Christ the King. Below the angels are either more angels or humans. The bottom two are looking to Christ. Those on top of them have their heads bowed in adoration.
The central window below Christ the King is a depiction of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus and above and behind her is the shape of a cross, a reminder that Bethlehem ultimately leads to Calvary. There are Greek letters on each side of the cross – I.C.X.C. At the top of the cross is the symbol for Mary the A & M crossed over each other, standing for “Ave Maria,” “Hail Mary” from St. Luke’s Gospel. Draped across the horizontal bar of the cross behind Mary is brown cloth. “There shall come a star out of Jacob” is on one side of the cloth going through the horizontal bar and on the other side “I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (Revelations 22:16.) Below Our Lady is fertile ground, green plants, leaves and a small lamb. At the very bottom, again the letters, A&M.
The left panel depicts St. Joseph with staff. One of the three kings is below him. He has with him a treasure chest of gold representing one of the gifts of the three kings. The right panel depicts the other two kings. The king standing is holding a scepter and some type of container, perhaps for the incense. The king kneeling is depicted with dark skin and his sword at his side. His crown is not on his head but on the floor. He is holding a tray or bowl containing the myrrh.
In the window on the left, the horizontal bar has the letters INRI – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. On the top of the window are the letters N.I. and on the bottom possibly K.A. In the window to the right of Mary where the other two kings are located, the upper letters are I.H.C. and on the bottom X.P. and overlapping the horizontal bar, O.E on the left.
King David is depicted on the left side of the central panel. He is holding a harp because he is traditionally considered the author of the 150 Psalms in the Old Testament. This window has four symbols as well. The upper symbol is the Star of David. The bottom symbol below his feet is the slingshot with a rock referring to his slaying of Goliath. On the horizontal bar is the sword he used to decapitate Goliath. On the left side, fertile land and a tower which could refer to the House or Tower of David. Behind him on the right side of the window is a lamb, referring to the sacrifice in the temple. Below his feet is a procession of people carrying the Ark of the Covenant. David is on horse at the head of the procession.
King Solomon is depicted on the right side of the central panels. He is holding the Temple of Jerusalem that he constructed. Behind him near his feet is a bowl with incense. On the other side it appears to be an altar with a burnt offering. Below he is seated on the throne and two women are fighting over a baby. A soldier is in the middle with the sword ready to cut the baby in half. This threat was King Solomon’s way of discovering who the real mother was. The real mother would give up the baby rather than have the baby cut in half.
V. ORIGINAL BAPTISTRY
There are two windows in the former baptistry. Each contains two symbols. The first window shows Noah’s Ark and a deer near a flowing stream, a reference to one of the Psalms. The second window contains the rock that Moses struck so that water would flow out to give refreshment to the Israelites as they wandered through the desert for 40 years. Below is a stone altar with a lamb and a fire behind the altar reminding us of the sacrifice of the Old Testament but also reference to Jesus, the Lamb of God who is sacrificed on Calvary.
This room served as the baptistry from the opening of the Church until the font was moved to the sanctuary in the 1980’s.
The statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the former baptistry originally stood over a side altar in the sanctuary. This side altar was removed and the main tabernacle moved in its place during the renovation in the 1980’s.
VI. OTHER ART
Six paintings are found on the north and south walls of the church. The Annunciation shows Mary bowed before the Archangel Gabriel. The Holy Spirit is descending upon her. Lilies are on either side of her. She is near a well with a jug.
Across from the Annunciation is the Resurrection of Jesus. The wounds in his hands, side and feet are visible. The soldiers who are outside of the tomb are running and flinching as the Resurrection takes place.
In the central window over the Shrine of Our Lady is the Christmas scene – Mary and Joseph and the Infant Jesus. Four shepherds are holding lambs. Two of the shepherds are bowed in adoration. There are angels partly invisible over the scene and two animals in the stable of Bethlehem.
Across from the Christmas image is a depiction of the Last Supper. Jesus is distributing Holy Communion. The Apostles are kneeling and about to receive on the tongue. There is a lamp over Jesus and the Apostles are gathered below him and around him.
Near the loft the twelve-year-old Jesus is teaching the teachers in the Temple at Jerusalem. They are listening as he is asking questions and amazing them with his wisdom.
Over the confessional near the loft is the repentive woman, possibly St. Mary Magdalene, drying the feet of Jesus with her hair after she had washed them. She is expressing her sorrow for her sins. Jesus is having a meal at the home of the Pharisee who is indignant at this display by a woman. But Jesus praises her for her deep love and repentance. He scolds the Pharisee for not anointing him when he entered the house.
A beautiful statue of Our Lady with hands folded is found in a shrine in the center of the church on the south wall. On either side are paintings of angels. One angel on the left is bowed in adoration holding lilies and the angel on the right is holding the crown, a reminder of Our Lady’s Queenship.
Over the central confessional, the words, “He who dons the armor of virtue will never be slained by the sword of vice.” This is written over a very strong, hardy tree with deep roots that read “the love of Christ.”
The rear two confessionals have the artwork linked together. On one side another tree with large roots and on the base: “Love of God.” Seven virtues (humility, chastity, generosity, meekness, temperance, diligence, brotherly love) are contrasted with the tree over the opposite confessional. The roots of the tree say “Love of Self.” The Seven Deadly Sins (pride, lust, covetness, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth) are listed.
The three renovations of Christ the King Church occurred in the early 1960’s, the early 1980’s and the late 1990’s.
In the early 1960’s the west wall of the sanctuary was gold leafed. The icons and the Lamb of God over the ceiling of the sanctuary were possibly painted over at this time.
In the early 1980’s, Father George’s renovation occurred. At that time the old high altar and raredos were completely removed. The traditional three steps of the sanctuary leading to the altar were removed. The large pulpit that was on the right side of the sanctuary was removed. The Sacred Heart statue and side altar on the left side of the sanctuary were removed. The communion rail was removed from the sanctuary and hung on the choir loft. The new altar was made of the shell of the old pulpit. To enter the old pulpit one had to go through the work sacristy on the north end of the sanctuary. There was a staircase with a curtain that led to the old pulpit. The shell of that pulpit was removed, turned upside down with a wood mensa placed on top of it. The original base of the pulpit became the base of the current pulpit or ambo.
The mosaic behind the baptismal font depicts water flowing down from heaven onto the baptismal font. The mosaic behind the tabernacle and ambo reveal various shades of brown and is reminiscent of bread – the Bread of Life in the tabernacle.
After 1996, Father George oversaw another renovation of the church raredos that was installed in the early 1980’s. A beautiful wood piece replaced the 1980’s screens. A very large hand carved crucifix of Christ the King was imported from Italy.
The interior of the church was painted and some of the detail that was lost in the early 1960’s was restored. The Lamb of God again appears over the sanctuary of the altar and some of the detail in the archways was restored into the current interior of the church.