Apse Mosaic depicting the Transfiguration - Shadyside Presbyterian Church
know little about the artistic conception of Shadyside’s stunning
mosaic of the Transfigured Christ.
Rudolf Scheffler, a native German artist, designed the mosaic
located in the church’s apse.
The apse was an addition to the chancel that was created from the
space formerly occupied by the organ and offices.
This graceful termination was suggested by John Weber, Secretary
Detail of Shadyside Mosaic
has been some analysis of symbolism
the mosaic, although nothing has been discovered of Scheffler’s
There is, however, ample and ancient precedent for subject,
medium and location of this work of art.
Two sixth century Transfiguration mosaics still exist, apparently
completed within decades of one another.
earlier, at Sant'Apollinare in Classe the harbor town of
Detail of Heads, St. Apollinaris (Ravenna) & Christ (Pittsburgh)
Close examination of the details above shows Scheffler using techniques similar to the Byzantine mosaicist in depicting highlights and shadow. Both appear to have eyes of exaggerated size. Both figures are outlined in a line of black tiles. Both appear to be more than two-dimensional, yet somewhat flatter than a realistic portrayal. It is interesting to note that mosaics from eras both earlier and later than the sixth century example exhibit a more three-dimensional appearance. They also have such features as cast shadows, not seen in the Ravenna or Pittsburgh mosaics. Scheffler seems to have carefully evoked the style of the early Byzantine era.
Church of the
Virgin Monastery of St Catherine at
Photo Credit: Katapi Bible Resource Pages
about 565 A.D., the Church of the Virgin at the Monastery of Saint
Monastery at Dafni, Greece
Photo Credit: Christian Frescoes and Icons Studio
The subject and medium continued to be joined in Christian art. An eleventh century example exists in a monastery at Dafni, Greece. Similarities with the Ravenna mosaic are apparent. Here Moses, Elijah and the disciples each are shown with a nimbus (without the tri-radiant feature that indicates Christ's divinity).
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican
Photo Credit: St. Peter's Basilica.org
1767, a mosaic reproduction of Raphael’s painting of the
Transfiguration was completed in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the