The carving on
Shadyside’s limestone pulpit is more than purely decorative.
It is an example of the church’s extensive use of symbolism
- unusual in the Reformed tradition.
The architectural design was the work of Charles Marcus Osborn as
part of Shadyside’s extensive sanctuary remodeling of
Six round arched panels form the pulpit enclosure.
In the triangular shaped spandrels on either side of each panel,
bas-relief carvings represent Christ’s Apostles.
(The abstracted style of the symbols is entirely in keeping with
the Art Deco fashion of the 1930s – as is low relief carving and the use
of light color in the selection of limestone.)
||There does not seem
to be a single authoritative list of who is considered an Apostle – and
Shadyside’s line-up of twelve is not exhaustive:
Nine original Disciples are included (Phillip, Andrew, Bartholomew,
Peter, James (the Greater), John, Matthew, Simon and Thomas) leaving out
Judas, James (the Less) and Jude. To
this, the two Evangelists who were not Disciples (Mark and Luke) are
added, as well as Mathias (the replacement for Judas).
tradition, there are numerous symbols associated with each Apostle.
As many as a dozen are listed for some individuals as delineated in
Church Symbolism by F. R. Webber and Ralph Adams Cram (1938, J. H.
Jansen), source of the shields below.
Many of these are confirmed and supplemented by George Ferguson in Signs
and Symbols in Christian Art (1959, Oxford University Press).
Symbols relate to the characteristics, the ministry and the
martyrdom of each Apostle. As
such, some seem quite gruesome. Much
that is attributed to the Apostles derives from non-canonical writing,
tradition and legend.
the Greater refers to a Disciple who was one of the sons of Zebedee
(along with John).
He engaged in extensive missionary travel and is believed to
be buried in
at Santiago de Compostella.
or Saint James) became a major destination of pilgrimages and the
scallop shell is found in abundance in the region.
Three such shells symbolize James and are associated with the
The shell’s converging lines may represent the many paths
of travelers to
winged lion recalls Mark, the Evangelist, and the royal divinity of
Christ. This is one of the
so-called "beasts of the
A legend also claims that lions are born dead and come to
life on the third day, an allusion to the Resurrection. Shown
here is one of four stained glass windows in Shadyside's transepts
depicting the four Gospel writers.
Greek letter Tau and a pilgrim’s staff tell something of the
traditional story Philip’s life.
He traveled widely in his missionary work and died on a
T-shaped cross. A
“pilgrim’s staff” is a walking stick with a crutch-like hook
at the top.
like Mark, is depicted as one of the beasts of the Evangelists –
As a Disciple and Apostle, symbols for John include a sword,
a pilgrim’s staff, a pilgrim’s scallop shell, a boiling
cauldron, a chalice or a serpent.
Legend says an unsuccessful attempt was made of John’s life
with a poisoned chalice and the poison departed in the form of a
serpent. In the stained glass depiction, he holds a chalice.
||The Gospels tell us little of Mathias, except his
selection by lot to replace Judas as one of the Twelve.
His symbol on the pulpit is easily confused with that of Paul
(which is a sword behind a Bible).
Here, we see a scimitar in front of a Bible.
There are at least six symbols for this Apostle, and most
contain stones, a spear, a halberd, or some other instrument of
||Luke is depicted as a winged ox, referring to
Christ as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world in his
Gospel. Luke was not a
Disciple. He is
sometimes shown painting a portrait of Mary and the Christ Child
(from life), an anachronistic reference to the legend that claims he
was an artist as well as a physician.
Luke is also seen in stained glass in the transepts
||The crossed (or saltire) keys are a familiar
symbol for Peter. They
represent the authority Christ gave to the church through Peter.
Often, they are combined with an inverted cross as seen at
the left, as Peter
wished to be crucified upside down, considering himself unworthy to
die in the same manner as his Lord
appears in his symbolic form as an Evangelist, a winged man.
This may represent Christ’s Incarnation, a subject of
Matthew’s Gospel. Typically,
when he is depicted as a Disciple, symbols make reference to his
former occupation as a tax collector (three purses or a money chest)
or his death (a battle-axe).
fish symbolize Andrew: He
was a fisherman and legend has it that he was crucified on an
||Legend claims that Simon was one of the shepherds
whom the angels told about the birth of Jesus.
If so, he must have been young at the Nativity: which might
identify the younger shepherd in Shadyside’s Tiffany Nativity
window as Simon (seen here looking upward).
His symbol, however, refers to his later occupation as
“fisher of men” who traveled by boat as a missionary with Jude.
Here, a fish is impaled on a boat hook.
Other symbols for Simon include an ax or a saw, in reference
to two supposed methods of his death
||Tradition has it that Thomas carried the message
of Christ to
, where he built a church with his own hands.
Thus, we find his symbol includes a builder’s square –
and the reason he is the patron saint of builders.
A spear indicates his method of death at the hands of a pagan
priest. Legend says that
before death, he was also attacked with arrows and stones, which are
found in some symbols for Thomas
||Common to many symbols for Bartholomew is the
flaying knife, a stark reference to his method of martyrdom.
Here, the knife appears with a book, representing the
Apostle’s faith in scripture.
Bartholomew is thought to be Nathaniel of John 1:43-51, who
was told of Jesus Christ by Philip, under a fig tree.
Some symbols for Bartholomew include a fig branch.