Three Vined Mice
Chancel Choir Stall Mice
Clockwise from top left Shadyside Presbyterian, Heinz Chapel, East Liberty Presbyterian
We often hear the
expressions, “poor as a church mouse” or “quiet as a church mouse.”
the 1930s, in
Choir Modesty Screens Heinz Chapel (l), Shadyside Presbyterian (r)
mouse are carvings of vines. In
Christian symbolism, the vine represents the connection of Christ to the
Church. In John 15:5, Jesus
says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
The way a vine continually grows and envelopes its environment
speaks of the Church’s mission carry the Gospel of Christ to the world.
"Creation Carvings" Shadyside (top), Heinz Chapel (bottom)
If the vine is
symbolic, we might expect the mouse to be so also.
At Shadyside and Heinz Chapel, the mice are among a wide variety of
animals carved on the modesty screens for the choir stalls.
As a group, the animals may be representative of God’s Creation.
This would mesh nicely with the metaphor of Church as vine.
Shadyside’s mouse holds a more prominent place, in that it is
repeated at each side of each panel in the screen.
The Heinz mouse is one creature among many.
Calvin the Mouse at East Liberty Presbyterian Church (above organ console)
Are these mice kin?
Each church has a different architect:
Ralph Adams Cram (the master late gothicist) for East Liberty,
Charles Z. Klauder (who also designed the Cathedral of Learning) for Heinz
Is there a link to
Figures at Shadyside, Heinz Chapel & East Liberty
The prominent use of
carved wooden church mice appears to be a relatively recent tradition.
Certainly, they can be found in medieval structures.
Romanesque and gothic stone masons and wood carvers were given wide
latitude in choosing subjects for their sculpture – and often they had
no religious meaning. However,
mice started showing up frequently in churches during the early twentieth
century in England.
Robert Thompson (1876
– 1955) of Yorkshire was a carver of church and domestic furnishings in
From Robert Thompson's Craftsmen Ltd (See Website)
Whether a connection
exists between Thompson’s mice and those in