Ralph Adams Cram & The Winged Creatures
At entrance to Chartre Cathedral - Photos courtesy Mary Ann Sullivan
The amount of explicit
Christian symbolism at
manufactured by the Pugin Company, 19th C., England (photo credit - http://www.beatitudo.org/
In addition to pictorial
representations in the four rectangular windows in the transepts,
Shadyside has three instances of ancient symbols for Matthew, Mark, Luke
and John. Each is associated
with a winged creature (a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle, respectively).
Sometimes called the “Beasts of the Evangelists,” similar
symbols date to the early centuries of Christian history.
This particular set of connections is attributed to
At Shadyside Presbyterian
The beasts support the desk platform of Shadyside’s Lectern. Here, they are well developed three dimensional sculpture. Their wings touch, as in Ezekiel, but their relative placement follows neither Old nor New Testament arrangement.
Across the chancel, in the spandrels of the round arches on the Pulpit, the four Evangelists appear individually in bas relief. The Pulpit and Lectern were furnished contemporaneously during the 1937-38 remodeling of the sanctuary. The chancel furnishings were designed by Charles Marcus Osborn, coincidently a cousin of Shadyside member Elizabeth Macfarlane. Osborn performed similar work at the same time for Heinz Chapel.
Miss Macfarlane noted that
Osborn had once worked for Ralph Adams Cram.
Cram, the great Gothicist, placed heavy emphasis on Christian
symbolism in architecture. For
Osborn’s work in
The third occurrence of these symbols at Shadyside is found at the doorways at the Parish Hall. The carvings are alto relief, intermediate between the Lectern and Pulpit. These are helpful in an instructive sense, as they are labeled with the Evangelists' names.
The winged creatures were favorite symbols of Cram’s. In the 1938 book, Church Symbolism, (for which Cram wrote the Preface) nearly a whole chapter is devoted to them. That book stipulates that it is only proper to depict the creatures with a nimbus (a halo like disk reserved for holy beings. Cram’s designs here are “nimbed.” For his 1906 Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside, he designed the baptismal font. The pictures here are of that font.
At Holy Rosary
Cram returned to
At Bryn Athyn Cathedral
While many of his churches
were for Episcopal congregations, Cram was twice commissioned by
Swedenborgians. They undertook
the construction of a cathedral at Bryn Athyn in eastern
Cram had a falling out with Raymond Pitcairn, who took over the project after his father’s death. However, much of Cram’s design was retained, as were several of his draftsmen who were working on site at Bryn Athyn. The cathedral was dedicated in 1919, but work actually spanned decades. On column capitals at one entrance, the creatures appear. (Since none of these has a nimbus, they may have been designed after Cram departed.)
Other than the Cross and the Fish, these winged creatures are some of the most ancient and most enduring Christian symbols. They are certainly the most ubiquitous symbols for the four Evangelists.