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St. Aloysius

Detroit, MI

Upper rear wall of chancel; altarpiece

Christ as the Good Shepherd; Death of St. Aloysius; Mary, Christ, Joseph, 1931

Commissioned by: Donaldson & MeierMedium: glass mosaicFabricated by: Pühl & WagnerInstalled by: Ravenna Mosaics

Rear wall and altarpiece in mosaic

Rear wall and altarpiece in mosaic

Following her painted altarpiece for St. Paul’s Chapel at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Meière designed decoration in glass mosaic for both the upper rear wall of the chancel and an altarpiece below for St. Aloysius, a Catholic church in downtown Detroit.

The Byzantine style of her composition is in keeping with the Romanesque-revival style of the church designed by Donaldson & Meière in the late 1920s. Meière’s mosaic of Christ as the Good Shepherd recalls a medieval mosaic of the same subject in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy:

Christ as the Good Shepherd set into barrel vault at Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna

Christ as the Good Shepherd set into barrel vault at Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna

Like the fifth-century Italian prototype, Meière’s mosaic of Christ as the Good Shepherd is set into the end of a barrel vault:

Christ as the Good Shepherd at end of barrel vault, St. Aloysius

Christ as the Good Shepherd at end of barrel vault, St. Aloysius

In contrast to the Italian prototype, however, Meière depicted the figure of Christ standing against a gold ground rather than seated against a ground of blue.

Christ as the Good Shepherd, St. Aloysius. Courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit

Christ as the Good Shepherd, St. Aloysius. Courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit

Christ as the Good Shepherd, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Christ as the Good Shepherd, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Meière also included four full date palms, rather than palm fronds;

Date palms at St. Aloysius. Courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit

Date palms at St. Aloysius. Courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit

Palm fronds at Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Palm fronds at Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

and she arranged her more numerous sheep in rows below the figure of Christ.

Rows of sheep at St. Aloysius

Rows of sheep at St. Aloysius

On the tympanum-shaped panel above the altar, Meière depicted the Death of St. Aloysius:

Death of St. Aloysius. Courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit

Death of St. Aloysius. Courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit

Below in three vertical inset panels she represented Mary on the left; the Young Christ in the center; and Joseph on the right.

Mary, the Young Christ, Joseph

Mary, the Young Christ, Joseph

In addition to her black and white sketches for Mary, the Young Christ, and Joseph, Meière’s extant sketches include those for the Four Evangelists and the symbols Alpha and Omega and Chi Rho set into the marble walls of the sanctuary. Symbols of the Seven Sacraments are also set into the arch above the tympanum:

Black and white sketches for Mary, the Young Christ, and Joseph

Black and white sketches for Mary, the Young Christ, and Joseph

Black and white sketches for the Death of St. Aloysius, symbols of the Seven Sacraments, Four Evangelists, Alpha and Omega and Chi Rho

Black and white sketches for the Death of St. Aloysius, symbols of the Seven Sacraments, Four Evangelists, Alpha and Omega and Chi Rho

An example of Meière’s color studies can be seen in her study for the figure of Christ as the Good Shepherd:

Color study for Christ as the Good Shepherd

Color study for Christ as the Good Shepherd

Meière displayed her sketches and cartoons for St. Aloysius in 1931 at the 46th Annual Exhibition of the Architectural League of New York. A photograph of the Meière’s mosaics was included in the Architectural League’s Annual Year Book.

The architecture of St. Aloysius Church is unusual. In order for as many as 2,000 people to have a clear sight line to the altar, Donaldson & Meière created three levels—a main floor, a balcony above, and a large “well” on the floor below, each with seating that affords a clear view of the altar.

View of three levels of seating as originally designed

View of three levels of seating as originally designed

The design was inspired by the Cathedral of Milan, where the body of St. Charles Borromeo “could be seen below the main floor of the Cathedral. . . protected by a circular railing”:1

View of altar from balcony showing main level and “well” at St. Aloysius. Photograph by CNS, Mike Stechschulte, The Michigan Catholic

View of altar from balcony showing main level and “well” at St. Aloysius. Photograph by CNS, Mike Stechschulte, The Michigan Catholic

1

Information on St. Aloysius Church was provided by Father Tod Laverty. See Rev. John M. Doyle, Saint Aloysius Church: The Old and the New, 3rd ed. (Detroit, Centennial Publishing Co., 1935): 3-32.

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Emblem

St. Aloysius Catholic Church
1234 Washington Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48226

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