Sharing the Artwork in Mount Angel

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

In the journalism class I teach at Mount Angel Seminary, Luis Trujillo, a college seminarian studying for the Diocese of Yakima, chose to focus on art reviewing for his Unfamiliar Genre Project.  I am pleased to share his final centerpiece with the readers of Incarnate Beauty.

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A Walk in Catholic Mount Angel: An Art Review by Luis Trujillo

Benedictine brothers and sisters, Carmelite friars, Missionaries of the Holy Spirit and diocesan seminarians all have their specific place of worship in Mount Angel. All of these places have beautiful chapels and in them artwork that represents who they are and their charism within the Catholic Church. Walk with me as I visit the chapels, drawing special attention to religious art in their residences.

St. Joseph’s Chapel
St. Benedict is one of the smallest towns in the United States; it is basically a town on a hill in the north end of Mount Angel. St. Benedict is made up of a monastic and a seminary community. In the crypt of the main Abbey church is St. Joseph’s chapel. This chapel was built for the use of the seminarian community and is to this day the place where the Liturgy of the Hours and mass is celebrated every day of the academic school year.

Icon of the Annunciation
To the left of the altar is an icon of the Annunciation written by Brother Claude Lane, O.S.B. Seminarians sing the Regina Caeli and the Salve Regina in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary after Evening Prayer as well as meditate on the encounter between the Archangel Gabriel and Mary which gave us salvation. The icon’s major figures are Mary whose pose is that openness and Gabriel who seems to be rushing to tell her the divine message.

Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross are a mosaic made by Louisa Jenkins in 1955 and rest on the back wall of the chapel. They bring into St. Joseph’s Chapel colors that take life with the light.The mosaic is mostly made up of glass and shimmering stones. More importantly the mosaics portray the passion of the way of Calvary that Jesus endured up to his death. The 2x2 feet mosaics are unusual because they are not a complete depiction of the bodies, but in some cases just a symbol makes the major part of the piece. Such is the case of the fourth station which offers a close up of the face of Jesus and Mary. One other example is the sixth station where the veil of Veronica is the main part of the mosaic, which is when Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

The Mount Angel seminarians follow the spirituality of the Benedictine monks since their foundation as a school for the Lords’ service in 1887 and are welcoming of all guests. Mass is celebrated daily at 8 a.m. and all are welcome.

Elijah House of Studies

Only one mile from the seminary is the Elijah House of Studies for the Discalced Carmelites. Three brothers study at the seminary and one is a formation director. Founded in 1999, the house has a total of 8 members, and their chapel is the center of their spirituality. A recurring theme is the arches in the structure, which are represented in the cathedra, altar, podium and ceiling, as well as the outside front entrance. The same arches are also in some of their icons, as is the case for the icon of St. Therese.

Icon of St. Therese
This beautiful icon, written by the hand of Brother Claude Lane of Mount Angel Abbey, is mounted in a niche of the back right hand side of the chapel. St. Therese is in a walking pose with one hand about to knock. The icon is written after her favorite passage of God knocking at the doors of our hearts: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). The icon was written to commemorate the visit of her relics to the Abbey in 2003 and was gifted to the Carmelites.

Tabernacle
When you are inside the chapel your eyes are drawn almost automatically to the tabernacle that is in gold leaf shaped as an arch to fit the reoccurring theme of the architecture and furniture. The tabernacle was a gift to the community from a parish in Tucson that they administer. The detail of the tabernacle shows Christ holding a host and a chalice. One angel at each side is prostrate in adoration and wraps their wings around the top, giving it the arch shape. When I asked Fr. John Melka, O.C.D., a formation director for the house, what makes this chapel particularly Carmelite, he said, “The simplicity and focus on the tabernacle.”

The chapel of the Elijah House of Studies

The tabernacle

Detail of the tabernacle

Icon of Elijah                                                                        
One other very attractive icon is that of the prophet Elijah which rests in the opposite niche of the icon of St. Therese. This particular icon is written on a piece of driftwood, so it is in an uncommon shape. Elijah takes up most of the icon’s space, but details such as the fiery chariot he is on are carefully detailed. The icon was written by Fr. Robert Barcellos, O.C.D., in San Jose, and is a piece that sits on a flat surface.

The icon of Elijah

Detail of the icon of Elijah

The Carmelites live a contemplative life; guests are welcome for Sunday mass at 8:00 a.m. and for Evening Prayer on the same day followed by adoration from 5 p.m. onward.

Felix de Jesus Rouguier House of Studies

The next stop is at the Felix de Jesus Rouguier House of Studies, home to the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit at only 0.7 miles from the Carmelite House of Studies. The chapel is named La Capilla de la Soledad and is dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude. Brother Jorge Haro, M.Sp.S, a student of Mount Angel Seminary in his third year of college, explained it was a fitting title because of the order’s particular devotion to Our Lady after the death of Jesus in her solitude. The chapel, built in 1992, is in a rectangular spacious wing of the home; large windows give a glimpse of the garden and the garden plaza.

The Altar Cross
Upon entering your eyes will immediately go to the cross that crowns the front wall. The cross fashioned of wood was designed by Roberto Saldivar, M.Sp.S. It features a whole theology of salvation and the most intimate mystic revelations of the Heart of Jesus as He explained to the foundress of the order, Conchita Cabrera. Its central part is a cross, representing the cross Jesus carried to Calvary for our salvation. A human heart is His heart in flames representing the zeal He has for our salvation. A smaller cross piercing the heart represents the suffering of Christ at the hands of people not striving for salvation and the suffering caused to His heart at the sins of His priests and religious.  At the top is a dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit who is the sanctifier and the guide to those who want to become holy. This piece of work is framed by a circular piece of wood that represents the clouds and God the Father. In conclusion, it is a Trinitarian cross that encompasses the spirituality of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.

The chapel of the Felix de Jesus Rouguier House of Studies

The Altar Cross

Tabernacle Altar
In their chapel is also a tabernacle to the left side of the main altar. The shrine for the tabernacle has a stained glass door behind it as if Jesus were knocking and the viewer had to open from the inside because there is no handle. The way it lights up makes the colors of the glass pieces stand out and reflect a colorful shine on the cylinder shape of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a generous gift from Sister Teresa Gould, F.H., a hermit who teaches and shares her musical talents with the seminary and monastic community.

The tabernacle

Crucifix
One other piece that causes awe in viewers is the crucifix on the right wall of the chapel, which is made of banana leaves and coated in resin. The crucifix has been coated with an overlay of paint because it was too bloody, causing emotional reactions in the visitors. The dates of the modifications are unknown, but the viewer can still see the scars on the skin of the Lord, which were at one time probably very much a crimson red.


Detail of the Crucifix

The Missionaries of the Holy Spirit offer a welcoming attitude to all who visit them. They host a community event with affiliates of the spirituality of the community and an open house for all visitors every last Thursday of each month starting at 6 p.m. with the mass.

Queen of Angels Monastery

In Mount Angel there is also Queen of Angels Monastery, which belongs to the Benedictine Sisters. Two are staff members at Mount Angel Seminary, Sister Hilda Kleiman, O.S.B., and Sister Judith Bloxham O.S.B., and Sister Juanita Thurlow, O.S.B., is currently a student. The chapel that serves the community of sisters was dedicated in 1998, and guests are welcome to join them for the liturgies.

The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God
Inside the biggest icon sits on the back wall of the chapel, an icon written through the hand of Mary Katsilometes as a commission in 2009. The icon measures 11’x8’ in which the central figure is Mary (5’) holding a veil, giving the icon its title “The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God.” The triptych shows Mary as the central figure and two angels on the side panels.

The triptych has as its background models of the buildings of the monastery; the one on the left has the monastery with the steeple, as well as a small figure of the Mother of God that represents the one above the front door of the monastery.  The background of the angel on the right has the architecture of the current chapel displaying the reoccurring rose window alight.

The icon of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God

Detail of the Mother of God

Detail of monastery architecture

Detail of the small Mother of God

Detail of monastery architecture

Throughout the chapel you may notice that a recurring theme is represented in the windows, doors, holy water font, icons, and even in the inner door of the tabernacle. That is a rose window design. This design gives the chapel a sense of common embodiment and a singular seal of style. The architect David Richen said he aimed for a “noble simplicity.”

The tabernacle

The holy water font

Wall Hanging
Before you exit through the main chapel doors the viewer may be caught up looking above at a tapestry inspired by St. Gregory’s description of St. Benedict’s mystical vision: Benedict “saw the entire world in a single ray of light.” (Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great).  Made mainly of silks, the seven white beams and numerous other cuts make up a perfectly round piece set on a blue background that matches the chapel chairs and carpet. The artist Eleanor Van de Water who completed the piece in 2000 expresses that the wall hanging “becomes another window in the sisters worship space.”

Chapel wall hanging

The chapel is suited for all liturgical celebrations and has elements of the previous chapel paying respect to its history. Sister Hilda Kleiman, O.S.B., explained how different elements of the chapel support the arts, for example by supporting Mary Katsilometes and Kathy Sievers who are teachers and iconographers for the Iconographic Arts Institute held at Queen of Angels Monastery. Other examples are the holy water font which is a ceramic made to fit the theme of the rose window.