The Great Doors of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
June 16, 2009
The Great Doors of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina seek to reveal Christian faith within a liturgical framework. The ordering of the images and their setting integrates iconography with the larger environment.
The parish committee and pastor proposed twelve biblical themes that in some way reveal the Trinity. I first organized the subjects systematically and then, considering the interplay between doors and viewer, designed the images. The viewer was considered a participant in the experience of entering; thus, interaction between image and people was essential.
Rather than follow an historical sequence or traditional typology, each section represents a specific theme. The way a person encounters the images influenced the organization and themes presented. The outward theme draws people into the space, while the inward theme speaks to those being sent forth. These themes are further refined in each section.
The left theme is of hospitality and welcoming. Beginning at the bottom, Abraham welcomes the Three Visitors and is blessed with a son. That blessing foreshadows humanity being blessed at the Nativity with the Son, who is also Redeemer. Hospitality again plays a role as “there was no room for them at the inn.” The Child is offered gifts by the Magi. Finally, the Child of the Nativity feeds his people by multiplying loaves and fishes.
The right section represents moments of encounter with God and transformation. Moses encounters the burning bush and is transformed into a liberating leader. Encountering the Cross transforms and liberates the believer from sin and death. The Risen Christ (Pantocrator) transforms all of creation.
The Divine Name is also revealed. The flames of the burning bush form the Divine Name in Hebrew. Moses’ hands held up in supplication are paralleled in the hands of Jesus on the Cross. Above the head of Christ is the placard inscribed “INRI” - the Latin abbreviation of “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Arms held in self-sacrifice and submission are transformed into the Pantocrator’s arms of embrace and blessing. Greek letters abbreviate “I AM” in the halo. Thus, the Divine Name is fully revealed in the eschatological and cosmic Christ, who is God Incarnate and Redeemer of the universe.
The inner doors become a portal for both entry and departure. By flanking entrance to the font, they represent passage to new life, and the Font of Life flows out into the world through the same passageway.
The left section at the top. A swash of light wood with tripartite form sweeps through the cosmos, creating nebulosities, galaxies, stars, planets, and the earth. The Fall violates the primordial character of Creation and the Prophet proclaims a redeemer. The figure represents an embodiment of those who proclaimed the prophetic message. Pointing to the Divine Name, which appears three times, the Prophet proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” and “make straight the way of the Lord!” The Spirit of Creation envelops Mary in the Annunciation. The Creator of the Cosmos has now become one with Creation in the Incarnation.
These themes lead naturally to the font where the believer is reborn -- recreated -- as a Child of God; thus, the original character of humanity is restored.
The right section, flowing from bottom to top, recalls three “sacramental” events of the New Testament. Christ is baptized in the Jordan by John, a foreshadowing of Christian Baptism by which believers are reborn. Christ is also revealed as Son and begins his public ministry. In the Lord’s Supper, the Greek words from John 6:52 reveal Christ as the Bread of Life. Finally, the Paraclete is sent as Comforter and as a source of strength to proclaim the Gospel “even to the ends of the earth.” The Descent of the Holy Spirit parallels primordial Creation and the Church goes forth to “renew the face of the earth,” thus bringing the Divine Action full circle.
Contemplative Images and Representation of Themes
The goal was to represent the subjects with a multilayered subtlety so that at each encounter the viewer could discover something new. Hopefully, the themes and their arrangement will suggest spiritual and theological insights that go beyond anything intended by the committee or artist.
George Hoelzeman of G.R. Hoelzman Studios, Hattieville, Arkansas, USA, is a liturgical artist and design consultant.
Photos provided by George Hoelzeman