This is the eighth post in a series
about Boston’s angels.
Last year I wrote about the Back Bay’s outdoor angels: the George Robert White Memorial (currently under wraps for fountain renovations) and the Brattle Square Angels. This month we’ll go inside the Church of the Covenant to take a close look at one of the 42 windows designed by the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company during a sanctuary renovation from 1894-1896.
Angels appear in several of the windows, most notably the Nativity and the Resurrection. Both windows feature a chorus of heavenly angels and the latter window also gives us a luminous Angel of the Lord standing behind the tomb of the Risen Christ.
Cornelius and the Angel
But these angels, beautiful as they may be, serve as supporting actors in the stories depicted. Only in window Number 21, Cornelius and the Angel, does an angel plays a critical role.Here’s the story:
Cornelius was a centurion, a commander in the Italian Regiment of the Roman military, who lived in Caesarea.
Cornelius was a soldier and a commander of at least 100 men, and a powerful figure in Judea at that time. He was also a Jewish proselyte who was known and respected by the Jewish community as a devout man who regularly prayed and gave to charity.
In this story from Acts 10:3. This is the story of Cornelius’s vision from the New International Version of the New Testament:
10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.”
Obeying the angel of his dream, Cornelius sent two servants and a devout soldier to fetch the apostle Peter. That same day Peter had a dream of clean and unclean foods during which the Lord said, ““What God has made clean, do not call common.” Peter interpreted that as a message that God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile and that none of God’s creatures was to be considered unclean. This revelation opened the way to bring the Gospel to all peoples and nations.
In Cornelius’s house, Peter found a gathering of Gentiles. He baptized the Centurion and all his people. Cornelius thus became the first “unclean” Gentile to be baptized a Christian.
Window Number 21 shows two figures standing on a stone terrace with a sky of gray and purple clouds churning above them. On the left, a feminine angel in classical draperies holds a palm frond high. On the right, a Roman soldier in uniform holds his helmet and smites his chest. Inscribed above their heads are the Biblical words: “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.”
The Seven Angels of Light
Once you have absorbed the beautiful windows, stand in the center aisle and look up at the electric-light chandelier at the front of the church. This spectacular lantern was designed by Jacob A. Holtzer and is made of art glass and bronze filigree with dangling glass balls.
It incorporates seven sculpted female angels, standing linked, that represent the Seven Angels of the Seven Churches in John’s Revelation. They hold lamps in both hands and bring light to the sanctuary.
The chandelier, unmatched in any American church, measures six feet by 12 feet and was displayed in the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building at 1893’s Chicago Columbian Exposition.
After viewing the gorgeous angels, head out to finish your Christmas shopping on Newbury Street or just a get a cup of hot chocolate. The Back Bay is beautiful at Christmas and this is a pleasant way to spend a holiday afternoon.
About the Church of the Covenant
67 Newbury Street at
Boston, MA 02116
Web site: www.churchofthecovenant.org
Most parking in the Back Bay is by Resident Permit only. Put your car in the Boston Common Garage or the Prudential Center Garage and walk over. Or take the MBTA’s Green Line to the Copley or Prudential stations.