Sacred art, architecture, and music
Even with the many additions to and modifications of Saint Patrick Church over the years, it retains its original rustic charm. There is something about it that simply cannot be duplicated in more recently constructed churches.
The majestic steeple rules the skyline as one approaches Falmouth village from the east. The dappled gold steeple cross glistens in the Cape Cod sun. The church streetscape helps to beautify the entire neighborhood. Once inside the church, the restored oak beams are especially stunning, reminiscent of the ribs of a great ship or the throne room of a medieval monarch. Our church interior is enhanced with sacred art.
Here is a description of some of the art pieces in our worship space.
The liturgical furnishings: The altar, ambo, sanctuary lamp stand, paschal candle stand, baptismal font and ambry are all made of honey oak. Both the altar and the ambo are adorned with intricately carved images of grape clusters and grapevines, with a gilded emblem of the Holy Spirit in the center. There is a full set of oak candlesticks matching the hand-carved oak sanctuary crucifix. There is also a full set of brass candlesticks and altar crucifix which match the tabernacle.
- The four Evangelists are each represented in delicately-colored windows in the north addition of the church. A figure of an angel is holding each of their respective iconographies. Saint John in symbolized by an eagle, Saint Matthew by the face of angel, St. Mark by a lion, and St. Luke by an ox. In the loft can be seen two windows of trumpeting angels in the same style as the Evangelist windows.
- The stained glass windows in the nave are basically identical, with some design modifications to fit the size of the opening. The central figure is a Celtic cross (also called the cross of Iona) festooned with the laurel wreath of victory. The arms of the cross are adorned with figurative shamrocks. In the center is a shield with a fleurie cross, surmounted by a crown. The three-fold endcaps of the fleurie cross remind us of the Most Holy Trinity. The shield is flanked by two stars. The background on which the Celtic cross is set features a repeated design of oak leaf and acorn clusters. Because of its solidity and endurance, the oak is a symbol of the strength of faith and the endurance of the Christian against adversity. The outer border of the windows shows blue cornflowers. The cornflower is one of the many symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is called “cornflower” because it frequently grows wild in fields of grain (or “corn”, in the European usage). You may know it as the “bachelor button”.
- A large round window is located on the back wall of the sanctuary. It features an imaginative scene of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing in a vision to Patricus (“The Patrician”), fourth century Roman Church missionary bishop headquartered in Armagh. Our Lady is shown presenting Patrick with his legendary teaching tool, the Trinitarian shamrock. St. Patrick is wearing contemporary Mass vestments in the Roman style, along with the miter of a bishop. Although the vestments are red, Saint Patrick did not, in fact, die a martyr’s death. Oddly, Patrick is not holding his crosier (staff of office) in his left hand, as is customary. Instead, the crosier appears to be planted in the ground. The artist has also included an enigmatic white flag tied to the crosier. In conventional vexillology, a white flag is linked to surrender, perhaps a reference to Patrick’s surrender to God’s will. To the left can be seen the Cliffs of Mohr overlooking Galway Bay and the Aran Islands beyond. The rocky terrain at the base of the window reminds one of the area of County Clare called the Burren. To the right is a small country church built on the shores of a lake. Lakes are a major part of the Irish landscape. On the lake swim two swans. Due to its grace and beauty, the swan is sometimes used as a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of spiritual transformation. What appears at first to be a steeple on the church is actually an Irish round tower (cloigtheach). Built between the 8th and 12th centuries, the purpose of the round towers has yet to be determined. Some say they were built to protect the monks and their sacred objects from Viking raiders. They seem, though, to have actually been stone bell houses or belfries. Along with the harp and the shamrock, the round tower has become a symbol of Ireland. In the background are the famous green hills of Ireland. There are schools in both Knock and in Belfast named Our Lady AND Saint Patrick, but Our Lady OF Saint Patrick is a devotion particular to our parish.
- Two smaller round windows flank the sanctuary. The window on the left features a chalice, a Host, and a staff of wheat – all symbols of the Eucharist. The window on the right includes symbols of the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation – a font, living water, and a descending dove representing the Holy Spirit. Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation are the Sacraments of Initiation.
Carved images of the saints: Three images of saints are located in the sanctuary. These are representations of the Blessed Virgin carrying the Christ Child, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Saint Patrick, patron of the parish. The statue of Mary is shown presenting the Child Jesus with an orb surmounted by a cross. This globus cruciger is the Christian symbol of authority. At the base of the statue of Saint Patrick can be seen a snake. This is a reference to the legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland. All three statues are hand-carved polychromatic oak from the Tyrol region of Germany.
Other images of saints: Images of saints for whom parishioners have particular devotion have been gathered together in a shrine area. This is a space dedicated to private prayer. When the north section of the church was added, this space was designated as a baptistery. The baptistery is now relocated on the opposite side of the center aisle; closer to the most frequently used church entrance. Saints represented in the devotional shrine include: Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis of Assisi, St. Anne with her child, Mary, and Saint Jude. These statues are made of various materials.
There is also an outdoor shrine. It features a marble statue of Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. St. Patrick Church opened in 1899 as a mission of St. Joseph Parish in the Woods Hole section of Falmouth. The statue of Saint Joseph is surrounded by an extensive wildflower garden, with walls of native stone.
Head of Christ: This piece of fine art is highlighted with its own niche (to the right of the nave) in a space that was once occupied by a confessional. A small window with the symbols of the Sacrament of Penance can still be seen. The bust is cast bronze. It is signed at the base by the Austrian artist Franz Seifert (1866-1951). Also on the base appears the location of his studio. Wein or Wieden is an art district just outside the center of the City of Vienna.
The display setting for the Head of Christ includes a rustic wooden cross. Three local men harvested an indigenous tree and, using ancient woodworking techniques, crafted it into this cross.
Madonna and Child icon: Located at the baptismal font is an Eastern Church styled icon depicting the Blessed Virgin carrying the Child Jesus. This “window into Heaven” is painted in tempera on aged oak. The iconographer who painted (or, more properly, “wrote”) this icon is Russian-born artist Olga Ziatarski. The ritual of writing an icon involves extensive prayer and fasting. Out of humility, an iconographer never signs the work.
Stations of the Cross: The oil on canvas Stations of the Cross are painted and signed by local artist K. Rinaldo. They are dated 1998. It is the centuries old custom of the Church is engage local artists.
Sacred Music: Music is essential to prayerful worship. Music is a form of liturgical prayer that belongs to the entire assembly. Choirs and choral groups exist to assist the congregation, as do musical instruments.
- The Allen organ in the nave is a gift from Saint Peter Episcopal Church, Buzzards Bay. There is a second Allen organ in the loft. In some church music (notably French), two organs are played simultaneously.
- Saint Patrick Church also has a very fine grand piano. Crafted in 2001, the piano is encased in rare satinwood. It is from the Steinway Company’s “Crown Jewel” collection. It is one of only seven in the world.
- Saint Patrick Church also has a set of twenty-five leather handled brass handbells custom cast by the Schulmerich Company, the world’s largest and oldest manufacturer of handbells in the United States.
Sacred Vessels: The sacred vessels used in worship should be made of authentic and durable materials; the finest and most beautiful available to the assembly. Saint Patrick Church has many sacred vessels worthy of use in worship. Pictured here are several from the parish’s collection.
- The tallest pieces are bejeweled monstrances used in Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
- The chalices shown include
- A plain sterling silver cup made in the “Silver City,” Taunton, Massachusetts
- A red-enamel and pewter chalice (gold lined) featuring the Last Supper
- A chased bronze chalice (gold lined) ornamented with ICTHUS (fish) symbols and flowing water
- A simple gilded silver chalice (dated 1953) with a single ruby mounted at the base. This chalice is inscribed with two Latin phrases. Around the rim are the words, “This is the cup of my blood”. Around the base, in Latin, is the phrase, “I adore you, O God.”
- The most ornate of the chalices pictured is dated 1908. It is made of gold and adorned with rubies, amethyst, and pearls.
All of this art, architecture and music is dedicated exclusively to the greater glory of God and all of it is sacred.