St. Gregory the Great Church Design
In March 2004 the doors to the new church building of St. Gregory the Great Parish opened. This dream was realized through the hard work, sacrifice and generous giving of time, talent, & treasure of our parishioners. Our beautiful church gives glory to God and is a sign to the local community of our faith in Christ Jesus.
As we begin additional church enhancements in 2013, here’s a tour of our church, highlighting important features and explaining the significance of important elements. May our church building help to gather and form us into the living Body of Christ!
Take a Tour of our Church
Long ago, the church building was in the center of town. It was the gathering place for the people of the community. Church buildings were prefaced by a large gathering area, called a piazza in Italy. We have tried to emulate this by creating a large plaza area in front of our new church, leading up the front steps and then leading up to the front doors. We hope people will feel free to stop and mingle with one another before and after Liturgies. When we gather well, we pray well.
The GATHERING SPACE AND BAPTISTERY
As you walk through the front doors of the church, you immediately enter a large, open area – perfect for meeting friends and making new ones before or after Mass.
Our Gathering Space is also the Baptistery, the place where infants and adults alike will be welcomed into the Church, becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, through the living waters of Baptism.
Baptismal Font and Pool
The first thing you’ll notice is that the font and pool stand in a direct line to the altar in the sanctuary. It is through Baptism that we are invited to the Lord’s Table to celebrate Eucharist with the people of God.
The font/pool is made of the same marble as the altar, again emphasizing the relationship between the two. All sacramental life of the Church flows from Baptism. The font sits on three columns of marble, (recalling the Trinity, in whose name we are baptized. A little later you will again see these three columns supporting the altar.
On the floor of the Baptismal Pool is a beautiful mosaic of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending (recall how John Baptist said of Jesus, “I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove,” (John 1:32) and how the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost (Acts 2).
Seasonal Prayer Niches
The spaces to the left and right of the font are decorated according to the liturgical year. So, for example, here is where our Nativity scene will be housed, accessible to everyone for prayer and reverence.
As you approach the doors leading to the nave of the church, don’t forget to observe the wooden ambry to the right of the center doors. The ambry is where the blessed oils are stored that are used for the sacraments throughout the year. Once a year during Holy Mass at the Chrism Mass, the Bishop blesses the oils and then distributes them to every parish. There are three oils: Oil of the Sick (for the Anointing of the Sick); Oil of Catechumens (for those coming into the Church); Sacred Chrism (for Confirmation, Ordinations, and the Anointing of new Churches and their altars).
St. Gregory the Great Window
Before leaving the Gathering Space to enter the nave, take a look behind you and you will see overlooking the front doors a beautiful window depicting St. Gregory. In Christian art, St. Gregory is always represented with a dove, generally whispering in his ear. You will notice we varied the theme a little, with a dove touching his lips, symbolizing the Holy Spirit inspiring him. The window uses the same dynamic style as found inThe Creation window and in the baptismal pool. At night, you will see the image of our patron shining over the parish campus.
The Nave refers to the space between the church entrance and the sanctuary; it comes from a Latin word meaning “ship.” We wanted our nave to lift up one’s spirit to the Lord God, and at the same time create a sense of unity within the congregation.
The wide, generous center aisle calls and invites the community to the table of the Lord. The wide aisle gives plenty of room for processions, especially during weddings and funerals.
Can you find the thin line that runs across the center aisle? This line is the footprint of our old church. On the “old church side” of the line you see written, 1954, the year our original church was dedicated. On the “new church side” is, of course, 2004.
Windows Telling the Story of St. Gregory the Great
Facing the wall closest to Mario Drive, you see three large windows. The window on the left, closest to the sanctuary, depicts a bird’s eye view of people gathered around a table. The center column of light is the table and the dense circles of red are people. Tradition has it that every day, Gregory would feed the hungry at his own table. This particular day Gregory noticed there was one extra, upon investigation the hungry stranger turned out to be Christ himself (lower right hand corner).
This reflects the teaching of Christ that He is to be found in the least of the brethren, “For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food" (Mt 25:35). St. Gregory is represented in each of the windows by a star, see if you can find him.
The center window is a side view of a column of light; angels are seen ascending and descending or dancing. The window recalls a legend that St. Gregory, trying to avoid election as Pope and wanting to pursue a simple monastic life decided to leave Rome. He made a plan with his friends to hide in a wine barrel (an empty one!) and have them roll him past the guards, right under their noses. When they got close to the city gates something extraordinary happened – a column of light shone on the barrel with angels surrounding it. Upon checking out the contents of this remarkable barrel who did they find hiding there but St Gregory, curled up inside!
The last window to the right depicts a series of hands reaching out for help, for alms, indeed if you look careful you will see coins falling. This represents St. Gregory’s generosity and concern for the poor. He came from a noble family but chose the monastic life and over a lifetime gave away his family’s wealth to the needy. Finally, towards the end of his life he even gave away a gift from his mother, a silver platter; see if you can find it.
Music and Education Window
St Gregory gave his name to the chant of the Church and was a renowned teacher and scholar, as well as a reformer of the liturgy. In the parish named after him we have endeavored to continue those traditions in our elementary school, religious education program, pre-school, youth ministry and adult faith enrichment programs, and also in our liturgical celebrations. This window recalls the themes of Education and Music represented by a harp, a lute, an inkwell, a pen and a book.
On the left hand side of the nave is a huge window – it’s impossible to miss. This window connects the new church to the old one. The idea of joining the two buildings with a window came from St Albert’s in Huntingdon, PA. People see many things in this window but the artist entitled it “The Creation.” It is a series of dynamic swirls and colors. In it you will find The Holy Trinity, the planets and the colors of the liturgical season.
The Sanctuary is that space immediately around the altar.
The altar is marble, permanent and strong and reminds us that Eucharist is both a sacrificial offering and also a sacred meal. So, our altar has legs (three columns at each corner), as opposed to a solid base, just like your kitchen table at home. Yet, it also has a larger column in the center, suggesting an altar of sacrifice. The center column represents Jesus Christ; the 12 smaller columns represent the apostles, and therefore, us, the church.
Ambo (lectern, pulpit)
To the right of the altar is the ambo, the place where the Word of God is proclaimed. The same marble used in the altar is again used here to demonstrate the close relationship between the Table of the Eucharist and the Table of the Word, as Vatican Council II called them.
Much consideration and deliberation was given to the style and design of a cross/crucifix. The obligation to have a cross in the sanctuary could have been fulfilled by the processional cross, as was the practice in our old church, but parishioners preferred a cross on a larger scale. The question of scale and location resulted in a hanging crucifix above the altar. The silhouette of the cross is made of mahogany and is Franciscan in style, recalling the illuminated cross of San Damiano, Assisi. The outline is delineated by gold mosaic tesserae. The corpus on the cross depicts the crucified Christ. The cross, a unique piece, was hand carved by Signore Matteo Moroder, in Ortisei, Italy, an area renowned for wood carving and artistry. Look closely at the processional cross it is a miniature of the crucifix above the altar. We hope that the cross, the preeminent sign of God’s mercy, reminds us of His great love, calls to mind His redeeming sacrifice and invites us to take up our own cross each day and follow him.
Coming from a Latin word meaning “tent,” the Tabernacle is the sacred ‘container’ or ‘cupboard’ in the church in which the Eucharist is reserved for the sick and for adoration and devotion outside of Mass. Our current Tabernacle door carries the same cross you see on the Presider’s Chair, the Ambry and the four dedication crosses placed throughout the nave marking the places where the bishop and priests anointed the walls of the church. Our new Tabernacle, seen at left, will be centered behind the Altar in the Sanctuary Apse, and the Credence table moved to the area of the existing Tabernacle.