Dome Mural and Mosaic at Christ the Redeemer Parish: The Artist's Reflections
February 06, 2009
When Rev. Sean Horrigan, Pastor of Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Houston, Texas, called in February 2008, I realized that the parish I remembered from visits years earlier had outgrown its intimate mission church. Now, a mosaic decoration was sought for a large central dome
Work by Steve Lucchesi of HBL Architects, Liturgical Consultant Ken Griesemer, and Ken vonRoenn of Architectural Glass Art greatly informed mine. The pastor also relayed hopes for a sunburst, skies and stars. Yet the parish name itself proved the richest inspiration. With my travel photo library, mosaic texts, Bible, Catechism, and concordance, I poured over passages containing “Redeem,” "Redeemer," "redemption," etc. The design that emerged was accepted immediately, although with brighter coloration.
At the church’s interior apex, our Source and Summit appears in white fractured glass mosaic as the triumphant Lamb of God embossed on a white Eucharistic host. Around Him swirls a "veil" in 4 colors per the Old Testament, rent as on Good Friday per the New Testament. Heaven’s light beckons in gold mosaic through the pierced veil, the way made visible and possible by His sacrifice. The Lamb’s scalloped texture recalls the medieval mosaics of San Clemente in Rome. In aggiornamento, the veil’s lower mosaic bands include pale and red rays from our time’s Divine Mercy image.
The lower earthly sky and sunburst mural features radial lines from the ochre coffers of a dome at Rome’s Santa Croce Basilica, where our Redeemer’s passion relics are venerated. I shaded the four sky-blue lobes brighter to darker along the East-West axis. With the Perfect Offering between, they visually echo the beautiful priestly words of Eucharistic Prayer III. Gilded discs show cross motifs like those in the stained glass. Not stars, here they represent the 30 worthless silver coins paid to Judas after betraying He who came to save us, literally, our Redeemer. They point out our Lord’s humility, and they call for our own, reminding us even in this resplendent church not to chase the false allure of earthly things but rather, seek first the literally higher things of God.
Over seven Spring weeks, we fabricated the mosaic in fifty shades of Venetian glass and gold on a full-size paper cartoon form. A team of four mosaicists assisted, along with parishioners I met during a weekend parish event dubbed “Meet the Artist.” The event rewarded the parish with memorial fund contributions tripling the dome mosaic’s cost. The event rewarded me by introducing me to the parish, as well as my helpers, who were rewarded themselves with unique memories of their work. And we all enjoyed the communal spirit that emerged in the studio those weeks.
Once the constructors erected the dome in August, we installed 200 mosaic segments in two weeks. Just before, Fr. Sean blessed the segment comprising the Lamb’s face after a weekend Mass. His gaze transfixed parishioners as children patted the nose and face soon to shine down upon them from above. In just under two remaining weeks on the scaffold, we painted the mural and anchored the coins. We also added gold mosaics at the baptistery and tabernacle, as the parish requested in November.
I didn’t sign the dome artwork. It is His image. It is of the Faith of the Church. Even resembling the Church, it is a work of small, humble pieces of many sizes, shapes, and colors. Assembled, they add up to, give life to, and enrich something far greater than themselves. Belonging to and serving the parishioners of Christ the Redeemer, it hopefully bears fruit for the Glory of God. Rather than me writing on it, this work has actually written on me – inscribing me with learnings and experiences during its realization. I hope the same for Enzo Aiello, Judy Lee, Bill Graffis, Bernardo Lopez, and other talented artists and volunteers who assisted.
Photos by Greg Haas.
Greg Haas is an artist workings in glass and stone mosaic, painted and gilded mural, and egg tempera iconography from Houston, Texas. He is also President of Studio D'Oro LLC.