< Back to History Menu  Main MenuSearch  |  Site Map  |  Contact | Copyright 

The Saint Vincent Library Mural
A Library serving the St Vincent Archabbey, Seminary & College
Latrobe, Pennsylvania, USA

Ceramic tile, 22 ft by 11 ft, 6 inch units, designed and glazed by the artist at St Vincent, 1958-59
 click for larger view


My presentation of the glorified Jesus appears to have its feet, as it were, in two worlds, a medieval Byzantine world with its eyes on a heavenly place and the mid-20th Century world pioneering new directions in the arts & sciences. Some have viewed this feature as a "remarkable fusion of Byzantine and modern art”.  This fusion stands strongly on its own as a unique, original work seeking to present a vision of modern arts & sciences illuminated with Christian traditions that reach back to early Christianity. I was especially interested in presenting this vision with a modern face.  

This goes hand in hand with its symbolism pointing to the giant steps forward in the arts and sciences following World War II. This period saw the first commercial computers, the birth of broadcast television and the space age along with advances in medicine, mathematics, chemistry, biology and ecology. As a deeply committed monk, attracted by the movement to modernize the Church, I wanted to present Christian tradition with a “modern” face.  This led me to symbolize modern endeavors as “enlightened” when they are bathed in the light of the core teaching of Jesus that we "love one another". This teaching also requires that we care for the health of the earth and other life, an ecological ethic that I had learned from my mentor on biology, Father Maximilian Duman, a Benedictine biologist.

click for larger view

ICONOGRAPHIC THEME:  "I am the way, the truth and the life"

The theme presented here views the search for truth in the arts & sciences as a fruitful endeavor when illuminated by a life rooted in a loving care for others that necessarily embraces caring for the health of the earth and other forms of life.  The layout presents enlightenment in the arts & sciences bathed in the light of this teaching. The glorious transformed Jesus image exemplifies that enlightenment. His wounds are transformed into golden flames and the halo is gemmed with golden beads symbolizing how our quest for truth, informed with love for others,  transforms the pain & suffering to be endured along the way.

A golden light passes from the haloed head of Jesus and drops down on both sides of the wall illuminating symbols of the arts & sciences and two human figures. Some are bathed in more light than others symbolizing degrees of enlightenment.  In as much as a discipline, a project or one’s search for truth is guided by a concern for the welfare of others, the preservation of clean air, water, and other forms of life, that pursuit is bathed with light. This is the "way", the "truth" and the "life".


Biology. Flowers, symbolizing biology in this mural, are also symbols of the interdependence of life. Biology has a strong presence at the viewer’s eye level on both sides of the mural.


My recollection of intended representations are as follows.   Arts:  palette (art), lyre (music).  Languages & literature:  alphabet letters  A,B,C and Greek sigma. Geometry & math: triangles, minus &  plus signs.  Theatre: comic & tragic masks.  Biological sciences: plants with blooms.  Chemistry: retort.  Medicine: caduceus. IIndustry: gear wheels.  Astronomy & space science: orbiting planets, rocket, *satellite.


The satellite symbol, representing Sputnik is located on the upper right portion of the mural to the left of the tragic mask.  Sputnik (Cпутник) is the  Russian term for rocket. On  October 4, 1957 Russia shocked the world when it launched Sputnik-1,  the first satellite ever launched into orbit. This pioneer achievement captured the imagination of people around the world as they stood in awe watching it at night moving through space in its orbit.  It spawned the space sciences that have, since that time, made  immense contributions to astronomy and cosmology. 

Image of me preparing batches of glazes to match the model. The finished mural yielded a remarkable fidelity to the model. click here for more detail Above:  After each firing I inspected tiles for color match and imperfections before setting them in their numbered place. Tiles shown here with white flame-like forms were awaiting a second firing with bright reds. The bright reds and gold were achieved with a second firing at a lower temperature to preserve their color. 


The Hierholzer family contributed funds for the materials.


This project received support from many in the St Vincent community. Especially notable were Father Fintan Shonicker, Director of the Library, whose vision  and  support made it possible; Father Emeric Pfeister, Director, Art Department who assisted in firing, Father Campion Gavaler, suggested the theme based on John,16:4; and  Father Rene Gracida, an architect, engineered plans for a welded aluminum frame to cradle the tile in a single stable unit..


Title Theme:   "I am the way, the truth and the life", John, 16:4.

Modern. My generation identified with an emerging “modern” world that included everything from household appliances and furniture to architecture, transportation, language, clothing and the arts.

Modern Art in a Modern Church. My interest in modernizing our experience of the church was reinforced by Pope John XXIII who was  elected on October 28, 1958. With human compassion and openness to change he led the movement to modernize the church.

Ecology. My interest in ecology has remained deeply imbedded in my spiritual journey. I was profoundly moved by  Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato si' , (April 2015),  that addresses the world on ecological concerns.

Click Here for My Spiritual Journey.

Main Menu  |  History  |  Site Map  |  Search  |  Contact | Copyright