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Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth (formerly Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues)

Wernersville, PA

St. Isaac Jogues Chapel, tympanum and barrel-vaulted ceiling

Crucifixion; Seal of the Society of Jesus, 1930

Commissioned by: Maginnis & WalshMedium: glass mosaicFabricated by: Pühl & WagnerInstalled by: Ravenna Mosaics

St. Isaac Jogues Chapel showing tympanum and barrel-vaulted ceiling

St. Isaac Jogues Chapel showing tympanum and barrel-vaulted ceiling

In April 1929, Hildreth Meière designed a Crucifixion scene for the tympanum, and two angels holding the Seal of the Society of Jesus for the barrel-vaulted ceiling in St. Isaac Jogues Chapel at the Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.

Meière worked on the glass mosaic designs for St. Isaac Jogues Chapel while her model for the apse at St. Bartholomew’s Church was on display at the Architectural League of New York, and the church was raising money for her to decorate St. Bartholomew’s narthex with Byzantine-style glass mosaics. The Wernersville and St. Bartholomew’s commissions were both fabricated by Puhl & Wagner in Berlin, Germany, and installed by Ravenna Mosaics.

In an early to-scale color study for the Crucifixion in gouache, Meière indicated the placement of figures against a gold ground. She changed the ground color to blue and added a mandorla behind the figure of Christ in the final version.

Early to-scale study in gouache for the Crucifixion

Early to-scale study in gouache for the Crucifixion

Puhl & Wagner fabricated Meière’s design for the tympanum from her full-scale cartoons:

Painted full-scale cartoons for tympanum on sheets of brown paper tacked together in Meière’s studio. ©Peter A. Juley Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

Painted full-scale cartoons for tympanum on sheets of brown paper tacked together in Meière’s studio. ©Peter A. Juley Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

The mosaicists interpreted her design in the medium of glass mosaic, so that it would read clearly from a distance.

Crucifixion with blue ground and gold stars

Crucifixion with blue ground and gold stars

The blue ground with gold stars of both the tympanum and barrel-vaulted ceiling with the Seal of the Society of Jesus was inspired by the blue ground of medieval mosaics in the city of Ravenna, Italy.

Angels with the Seal of the Society of Jesus on barrel-vaulted ceiling

Angels with the Seal of the Society of Jesus on barrel-vaulted ceiling

It is similar to the ground Meière used many years later at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis for the south dome. The blue color is composed of a variety of blue, purple, pink, lavender, green, and black tesserae.

Detail, center of south dome

Detail, center of south dome

Today the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth is used primarily for retreats, and St. Isaac Jogues Chapel remains in active use.1

1

For a full discussion of the chapel, see Kathy Miller Scogna, A House of Bread: the Jesuits Celebrate 70 Years in Wernersville, Pennsylvania (Wernersville, Pennsylvania: Kathy Miller Scogna, 2000): 94ff.

Commission Location

Emblem

Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth
501 North Church Road
Wernersville, PA 19565

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