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St. Michael's Monastery Church (Hudson Korean Presbyterian Church)

Union City, NJ

Main sanctuary, chancel walls

Christ Enthroned in Glory, Surrounded by Angels and Saints (tympanum above west wall of chancel); St. Michael Banishing the Fallen Angels from Heaven (west wall of chancel, on left); Last Supper (west wall of chancel, in center) St. Michael Weighing the Souls of the Just and Wicked (west wall of chancel, on right); Old Testament Figures Who Prefigured the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament (south wall of chancel); New Testament Saints Devoted to the Blessed Sacrament (north wall of chancel), 1936

Commissioned by: Maginnis & WalshMedium: oil on canvasExecuted by: Hildreth Meière; Lynn Fausett; Dean FausettPartially visible

St. Michael

St. Michael's Monastery Church, Union City, New Jersey, after fire, May 1934, Passionist Historical Archives Collection, McHugh Special Collections, The University of Scranton, Scranton, PA

Rebuilt main sanctuary with Meière’s decoration 1936

Rebuilt main sanctuary with Meière’s decoration 1936

In 1936, two years after the fire that destroyed the main sanctuary of St. Michael’s Monastery Church, Hildreth Meière entered a competition to decorate the rebuilt interior. It did not matter that Meière had successfully completed an earlier commission to decorate St. Michael’s Chapel of the Passion—she was still required to win a competition to be awarded the commission to decorate the rebuilt main sanctuary. As she explained to her old mentor Hartley Burr Alexander:

I was invited into a small competition for a big church job—about 1400 square feet of Renaissance character painting. It would pay me $10,000, of which I would get about half, so of course I am desperately anxious to get it. I think my sketches, which go in on Saturday, are what is needed, but there are more elements besides the merits of the designs which will govern the award, I am afraid, and I am not over-confident.1

Having won the competition, Meière went to England to design murals for the chancel walls. She was accompanied by her assistant Dean Fausett. As Meière’s daughter recalled:

In 1935 we went to Epsom, England, taking with us the late Dean Fausett, then a young assistant who helped [my mother] execute studies for St. Michael’s Passionist Monastery in Union City, New Jersey. She had a studio in the attic in the home of Mabel Batley, who was an aunt of actor John Gielgud. Recently Dean told me that Gielgud and the actor Maurice Evans used to come up to see how the work was going.2

Meière’s murals for the main sanctuary included seventy over-life-size figures. All were completed in time for the rededication of St. Michael’s in 1936:

Rebuilt main sanctuary of St. Michael’s Monastery Church with Meière’s designs. Tympanum above west chancel wall: (1) Christ in Glory; west chancel wall below tympanum, left to right: (2) St. Michael Banishing Fallen the Angels from Heaven; (3) Last Supper; (4) St. Michael Weighing Souls of the Just and Wicked; south wall of chancel: (5) Old Testament Figures Who Prefigured the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament; north wall of chancel: (6 and 7) New Testament Saints Devoted to the Blessed Sacrament; tympanum above left side chapel: (8) Annunciation; tympanum above right side chapel: (9) Christ at Work with St. Joseph

Rebuilt main sanctuary of St. Michael’s Monastery Church with Meière’s designs. Tympanum above west chancel wall: (1) Christ in Glory; west chancel wall below tympanum, left to right: (2) St. Michael Banishing Fallen the Angels from Heaven; (3) Last Supper; (4) St. Michael Weighing Souls of the Just and Wicked; south wall of chancel: (5) Old Testament Figures Who Prefigured the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament; north wall of chancel: (6 and 7) New Testament Saints Devoted to the Blessed Sacrament; tympanum above left side chapel: (8) Annunciation; tympanum above right side chapel: (9) Christ at Work with St. Joseph

For the tympanum above the west wall of the chancel, Meière depicted Christ in Glory Surrounded by Angels and Saints. Architect Charles Maginnis described Meière’s design as the “striking climax of the decoration.”3

Tympanum as it appears today

Tympanum as it appears today

Directly below the tympanum in the center of the west wall, Meière painted the Last Supper. In a scene to the left, she depicted St. Michael Banishing the Fallen Angels from Heaven; in a scene to the right, St. Michael Weighing the Souls of the Just and Unjust.

St. Michael Banishing the Fallen Angels, Last Supper, and St. Michael Weighing the Souls, in place on west wall of chancel, 2009

St. Michael Banishing the Fallen Angels, Last Supper, and St. Michael Weighing the Souls, in place on west wall of chancel, 2009

For the south wall of the chancel Meière painted Old Testament Figures Who Prefigured the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament in oil on canvas:

Color study for Old Testament Figures in oil on masonite for south wall

Color study for Old Testament Figures in oil on masonite for south wall

For the north wall of the chancel Meière painted two scenes in oil on canvas of New Testament Saints Devoted to the Blessed Sacrament:

Color study for New Testament Figures in oil on masonite for north wall

Color study for New Testament Figures in oil on masonite for north wall

Color study for second scene of New Testament Figures in oil on masonite for north wall

Color study for second scene of New Testament Figures in oil on masonite for north wall

All of Meière’s figures were executed in a Venetian Renaissance style in keeping with the original style of the decoration of the nineteenth-century main dome that the fire had destroyed. The canvases are in place today, although they are hidden from view by a curtained wall.

A curtained wall today hides all of Meière’s murals in the chancel except for Christ in Glory Surrounded by Angels and Saints on the tympanum

A curtained wall today hides all of Meière’s murals in the chancel except for Christ in Glory Surrounded by Angels and Saints on the tympanum

Because of its architectural importance and its having served the community for over 100 years, in 2014 St. Michael’s (Hudson Korean Presbyterian) Church was added to the list of Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey.”

1

Hildreth Meière, letter to Hartley Burr Alexander, May 30, 1935, Hildreth Meière Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

2

Louise Dunn, “Travels with my Mother,” 2, n. d., HM Papers.

3

Souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee of the Passionist Fathers in the Diocese of Newark and the Rededication of St. Michael’s Monastery Church, September 29, 1936, (Union City, New Jersey: St. Michael’s Monastery): 47, 51.

Commission Location

Emblem

Hudson Korean Presbyterian Church
2019 West Street
Union City, NJ 07087

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