Information on this page written and/or compiled by the Art and Spiritual Tour Committee: Patty Skain, contact
photos by Dan Bernskoetter
Medallions of Mary
The medallions in the nave ceiling show Mary in various activities or well-known images. Originally these medallions were in each section between the ribs in the ceiling. After several renovations, some of those paintings have been lost.
Honoring our Mother Mary in her different roles and titles has been a tradition in the Catholic Church and specifically at Immaculate Conception Parish. The largest women’s group at Immaculate Conception, the Immaculata Club, has chapters that are all named for Mary in one of her different roles or titles.
The first medallion on the right side of the church is clearly a depiction of the nativity with Mary and the baby Jesus lying in the manger. The depiction of the nativity scene was made popular by St. Francis of Assis and does not appear in art prior to this time in any significant way. Prior to the time of St. Francis most art depicting Mary and the Christ Child, was that of the Theotokas or Mother of God figure. A version of that is directly opposite this medallion on the east side of the church. The medallion to the right of the Nativity shows Mary with her arms extended down and her hands open. This pose is traditionally associated with Our Lady of Grace or Mary of the Miraculous Medal. For More information on this go to the section on Statues and see Our Lady of Grace Statue.The third medallion on the west side of the church most likely shows an image of Mary, Our Lady of Fatima. Our Lady of Fatima is traditionally shown with a crown on her head and a rosary hanging from her hand or arm. Throughout the Old Testament God, in His great mercy, chose prophets to call His people back to Him. In recent times God is sending His Mother. One of the apparitions of the Mother of God in this century took place in 1917 at Fatima, a little village in Portugal. Our Lady came there to warn us of the harm we would inflict upon ourselves as a result of our sins: wars, famines, plagues, persecution of the Church and the loss of many souls in Hell. God, in His great mercy, wished to save us from these miseries through the Immaculate Heart of His Mother. Our Heavenly Mother revealed at Fatima a plan of hope for this world which continues to plunge headlong toward its own destruction. Read more
Moving to the east side of the church, the medallion of Mary adjacent to the choir loft depicts Mary in a heavenly realm with a crown and angels around her. The is most likely a depiction of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
The beginning of the concept that Mary is a Queen is found in the annunciation narrative. For the angel tells her that her Son will be King over the house of Jacob forever. So she, His Mother, would be a Queen.
The Fathers of the Church soon picked up these implications. A text probably coming from Origen (died c. 254: cf. Marian Studies 4, 1953, 87) gives her the title domina, the feminine form of Latin dominus, Lord. That same title also appears in many other early writers, e.g. , St. Ephrem, St. Jerome, St. Peter Chrysologus (cf. Marian Studies 4. 87-91). The word "Queen" appears about the sixth century, and is common thereafter (Marian Studies, 4, 91-94).
The titles "king" and "queen" are often used loosely, for those beings that excel in some way. Thus we call the lion the king of beasts, the rose the queen of flowers. Surely Our Lady deserves the title richly for such reasons. But there is much more.
Some inadequate reasons have been suggested: She is the daughter of David. But not every child of a king becomes a king or queen. Others have pointed out that she was free from original sin. Then, since Adam and Eve had a dominion over all things (Genesis 1. 26) she should have similar dominion. But the problem is that the royalty of Adam and Eve was largely metaphorical.
The solidly theological reasons for her title of Queen are expressed splendidly by Pius XII, in his Radiomessage to Fatima, Bendito seja (AAS 38. 266): "He, the Son of God, reflects on His heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty and the dominion of His kingship, for, having been associated to the King of Martyrs in the unspeakable work of human Redemption as Mother and cooperator, she remains forever associated to Him, with a practically unlimited power, in the distribution of the graces which flow from the Redemption. Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular choice [of the Father]. And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion."
We notice that there are two titles for the kingship of Christ: divine nature, and "right of conquest", i.e., the Redemption. She is Queen "through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him." The qualifications are obvious, and need no explanation. Her Queenship is basically a sharing in the royalty of her Son. We do not think of two powers, one infinite, the other finite. No, she and her Son are inseparable, and operate as a unit.
Of the four titles Pius XII gave for her Queenship, we notice that two are closely parallel to those of Jesus:
(1) He is king by nature, as God; she is Queen by "divine relationship" that is, by being the Mother of God. In fact her relation to her Son is greater than that of ordinary Mothers of Kings. For she is the Mother of Him who is King by very nature, from all eternity, and the relationship is exclusive, for He had no human father. Still further, the ordinary queen-mother gives birth to a child who later will become king. The son of Mary is, as we said, eternally king, by His very nature. (2) He is king by right of conquest. She too is Queen by right of conquest. We already saw that this title for Him means that He redeemed us from the captivity of satan. She shared in the struggle and victory. Since the Pope expressed her dependence on Him in a threefold way--something we would have known anyway--then it is clear that he did not have in mind any other restriction which he did not express. So, maintaining this subordination, "by right of conquest" means the same for her as it does for Him.
The other two titles: (3) She is Queen by grace. She is full of grace, the highest in the category of grace besides her Son. (4) She is Queen by singular choice of the Father. A mere human can become King or Queen by choice of the people. How much greater a title is the choice of the Father Himself!
Pius XII added that "nothing is excluded from her dominion." As Mediatrix of all graces, who shared in earning all graces, she is, as Benedict XV said, "Suppliant omnipotence": she, united with her Son, can obtain by her intercession anything that the all-powerful God can do by His own inherent power.
In the Old Testament, under some Davidic kings, the gebirah, the "Great Lady", usually the Mother of the King, held great power as advocate with the king. Cf. 1 Kings 2:20, where Solomon said to his Mother Bathsheba, seated on a throne at his right: "Make your request, Mother, for I will not refuse you." Here is a sort of type of Our Lady. Read More
Moving to the right from that medallion we have a painting of a youthful Mary with her hair uncovered. She has a crown of stars around her head. This image most closely resembles Mary as the Immaculate Conception. Older versions of the Immaculate Conception that predate the visions of Mary at Lourdes traditionally show her as in a heavenly realm, surrounded by angels and with no mantle or head covering. For more information on Immaculate Conception go to the Statues section of this tour.
The last medallion shows Mary as Theotokas or Mother of God. As noted previously (Nativity medallion) prior to the time of St. Francis, when the Nativity scene was made popular by St. Francis, this image of Mary and the Christ child was the one most often produced. The image always shows Mary as holding the Christ Child on her lap. While other images of Mary also show her with the Christ child in her lap, i.e. Mother of Perpetual Help, etc., this image usually shows Mary and the Christ child looking out at the viewer in a stately pose. Among the many titles appropriately applied to Mary by the Church, Mother of God is one such singular and honorable title. This English title follows upon what was solemnly declared at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), wherein Mary was given the title “Theotokos” (God bearer). The word “Theo” means God and the word “tokos” means to bring forth. Hence, the title is literally understood as “The One Who Brought Forth God.” Notice that the Church does not restrict this title to the humanity of Christ. Had the Church wanted such a limited application of the motherhood of Mary, such a title would no doubt have been applied and now be the norm. But the Church fully intended what sounds to many so incredible: that Mary is the Mother of God. This title is based upon an essential theological principle and not simply by nature. This is not to suggest that she as a creature is the biological mother of God in His divine Essence but follows upon the fact that she was and is the true mother of the humanity of Christ and what can be said of one aspect of Christ can be affirmed of Christ as an individual. To fail to acknowledge this has dire consequences, for then we could not say that God suffered and died for, in which case we would remain unredeemed. In short, the Church affirmed that Mary is the Mother of God qua God, in the qualified sense that she is creature and God is an eternal being. And while there is no explicit statement in the Bible, "Mary is the Mother of God," we do have the words of Elizabeth in the Visitation, "Why is granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" I suggest that the title "Mother of my Lord" is foundational to what the Church has articulated, "Mother of God." The OT uses "Lord" and "God" interchangeably when referring to God. So the title applied by the Church is biblically based, though also a matter of Tradition.
Choir Loft Medallions
The Medallions in the choir loft depict St. Cecelia on the right side and King David on the left side.
St. Cecilia, from her marked dedication in singing the divine praises (in which, according to her Acts, she often joined instrumental music with vocal), is regarded as patroness of church music and the patron saint of musicians. Cecilia has become a symbol of the conviction that good music is an integral part of liturgy.King David, is generally regarded as the author of most if not all of the psalms. From scripture, King David was known to be a musician and often sang liturgical songs.
When the ark of God was taken from the house of Abinadab to the city of David, the king himself and "all Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of wood, on harps and lutes and timbrels and cornets and cymbals. II Sam 6:5 King David himself established the order of the music and singing used for sacred worship. This order was restored after the people's return from exile and was observed faithfully until the Divine Redeemer's coming.
One of the most prominent features in the decoration of Immaculate Conception church are the two large angels that flank the main arch. Angels of this type have been a feature of IC for decades. In the renovations done in the early 80s, the angels were removed. The replacement of the angels harkens back to our parish heritage. They and the round angel windows in the sanctuary and even the small angels above the rosary scenes in the nave windows remind us that during the Sacrifice of the Mass, hosts of angels are present and rejoice as Jesus becomes present on the altar. At Mass, in the Preface before the Eucharistic Prayer, we join with all of the angels and saints to sing the hymn of praise, "Holy, holy, holy..." In Eucharistic Prayer 1, the priest says, "Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven." Angels see, praise and worship God in His divine presence. Jesus said, "See that you never despise one of these little ones. I assure you, their angels in heaven constantly behold My heavenly Father's face" (Mt 18:10), a passage which also indicates that each of us has a guardian angel. The Book of Revelation describes how the angels surround the throne of God and sing praises (cf. Rev 5:1 1, 7:1 1). Angel comes from the Greek angelos, which means "messenger," which describes their role in interacting in this world. St. Augustine stated that angels were "the mighty ones who do His word, hearkening to the voice of His word." Throughout Sacred Scripture, the angels served as messengers of God, whether delivering an actual message of God's plan of salvation, rendering justice or providing strength and comfort. Both of the painted angels at Immaculate Conception holds a Coat of Arms.
On the left side, the pontifical coat of arms is of Pope John Paul II, who was Pope at the time of the renovation in 2000.
The coat of arms of Pope John Paul II is intended as an act of homage to the central mystery of Christianity, the Redemption.
And so the main representation is a cross, whose form, however, does not correspond to the customary heraldic model. The reason for the unusual placement of the vertical section of the cross is readily apparent if one considers the second object inserted in the coat of arms the large and majestic capital M. This recalls the presence of Mary beneath the cross and her exceptional participation in the Redemption.
The great devotion of Pope John Paul II to the Virgin Mary is manifested in this manner, as it was also expressed in his motto as Cardinal Wojtyla: TOTUS TUUS (All yours). Nor can one forget that within the confines of the ecclesiastical province of Krakow, there is situated the celebrated Marian shrine of Czestochowa, where the Polish people for centuries fostered their filial devotion to the Mother of God.
The angel on the right side, holds the coat of arms or crest of our Bishop, John Gaydos. By tradition, the coat of arms of the bishop of a diocese is joined to that of the diocese and has its roots in medieval heraldry. As viewed from the front, the left side of the coat of arms presents the symbols of the diocese of Jefferson City. The principal symbol, the red Phrygian Cap on the staff, honors President Thomas Jefferson for whom the See City is named. The Phrygian (from the Greek word for 'freeman') Cap was placed on the heads of Greek and Roman freed slaves. During the French Revolution it became known as the mark of a patriot. Thomas Jefferson and other writers of the Declaration of Independence prepared a Seal for the United States of North America which included the Phrygian cap and staff. Although that design was not adopted, it shows the significance that Jefferson placed on these symbols. Above the cap and staff are two blue crescents and a blue cross of the Faith. One of the crescents honors the state of Missouri and the other is for the Blessed Virgin Mary in her title of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the Catholic Church in the United States. The right side of the crest, as viewed from the front, represents Bishop Gaydos. The motto he has chosen, 'With A Shepherd's Care," is taken from 1 Peter 5:2-3. The shepherd’s staff honors his heritage; “Gaydos” is a Slavic word for shepherd. The eagle is the symbol for St. John the Evangelist, Bishop Gaydos' baptismal patron. On the eagle's chest is a red rose, called the ‘Orsini Rose,’ which represents the North American College in Rome where Bishop Gaydos studied. The Rose also represents the Blessed Virgin Mary and has come to indicate a reverence for all human life.
The information on the Bishop's coat of arms was obtained from the Diocesan office.
Celestial Sky Above the Altar
Painted above the altar in the ceiling vault is a celestial sky. Approximately 75 gold and silver stars gild the ceiling. The sky has been frequently used in religious art over the centuries. Man has associated God and Spiritual beings as existing in a heavenly realm somewhere “above us.” In particular, when church ceilings began to be heavily painted with scenes in the later Renaissance and Baroque periods, the sky was commonly used as a background for the ceiling paintings. The blue painting in the upper sill of the sanctuary windows can be seen as sky lights looking out to the same celestial sky.
Below the painting of the celestial dome and below the windows in the apse is another painted element. Originally the crown molding that circles the interior of the church adjoining the plaster capitals was carried out through the apse wall as well. This was removed in the renovation that took place in the early 80s. To return the architectural integrity in the design of the church, the crown molding was painted in. This artistic device is called a Trompe-l'œil (French for deceive the eye.) It is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that depicted objects existing in three dimensions.
We also see an example of this in the two side arches which contain the sacred heart of Jesus and Mary, Our Lady of Grace. (See statues section) The painting in the arches is done in such a way as to give a three dimensional look to the arches.