Chapel of the Twelve Apostles
The Chapel of the Twelve Apostles is so named because of the twelve wonderful windows of the Apostles. The windows have the same basic structure except that each one has a central panel with the iconographic details appropriate to each apostle. The use of symbolism dates to earliest Christianity, and for the illiterate, saints were recognized, not by a written name, but by a symbol that related to a story in their life.
Depicted are studies of the central panel of each window with a description of the symbol and its significance. The panels are in the order in which they occur, from left to right when you are facing the windows.
St. Matthias: Bible and Two-edged Ax
Matthias was chosen to take the place of Judas. He is symbolized by an open Bible and a double-bladed battle-ax because he is said to have been beheaded after his mission work.
St. Simon: Bible and Fish
Simon the Zealot is shown by a fish upon the gospel. Simon was the great fisher of men through the power of the gospel.
St. Bartholomew: Three Knives
The tradition is that St. Bartholomew was flayed alive. His symbols are, therefore, the knives and skin. A remarkable statue of him by Marco Agrati (1500-1571) in the Duomo Cathedral, Milan, Italy, stresses his skin.
St. Thomas: Spear and Carpenter’s Square
The carpenter’s square is appropriate for the highly-educated technical person of today who can only believe what he can see and touch. Jesus does not rebuke the doubting St. Thomas but allows him to touch the wounds and see for himself. St. Gregory remarked that Thomas’ doubt helps us more than the faith of others. The Anglican stress on reason is here affirmed.
The symbol also reflects the later legends that Thomas went to India and stated, “I am a carpenter and builder.” There are many St. Thomas Christians (Syrian Christians) in India who would trace their origin to Thomas’ appearance as an architect at Gundafor’s Court; he was also speared on the “Big Hill,” eight miles from Madras, illustrated by the spear in the window. He was the first Apostle to call Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”
St. Matthew: Three Bags of Money
St. Matthew’s three purses referred to his original calling as a tax collector. There are many famous paintings of St. Matthew’s calling which incorporate accounting and economic iconography.
St. James the Less: The Saw
James would become the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He was called “the Less” or “the Just” in order to distinguish him from James, our patron, brother of John. Legend says that James the Less was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Pharisees, and then was killed by the blow of a fuller’s club. His body was cut apart with a saw.
St. Jude: The Ship
According to tradition, St. Jude traveled on many missionary journeys in company with Simon, so his symbol is the ship. Jude was the one who asked Jesus at the Last Supper why he would not manifest himself to the whole world after his resurrection. He is honored as St. Jude Thaddeus as a patron saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Their tradition claims he was martyred in Beirut about 65 AD and sometime later, his remains transported to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St. Philip: Cross and Loaves of Bread
The two loaves of bread are in this symbol because St. Philip was present at the feeding of the five thousand. Before Jesus fed the multitude, he asked the disciples, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Philip’s reply was realistic, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Jesus does not rebuke him for having little faith, but goes ahead and performs the miracle of feeding the multitude.
St. John: Chalice and Snake
The snake and the chalice is perhaps the most intriguing of all the symbols in the windows. The story goes that St. John went to live at Ephesus where he was persecuted by the Emperor Domitian. The Emperor was jealous of John’s appeal and twice tried to kill him. On one occasion, he ordered John to drink a cup of poisoned wine. When John took up the cup, the poison left the cup in the form of a snake.
St. James (Great): Three Shells
St. James, after whom our Church is named, is illustrated by three scallop shells which are the symbols of pilgrimage. Pilgrims to the hallowed shrine of Santiago da Compostella in Spain wore the shell as a symbol of their zeal. It is also the symbol of the St. James Center for Spiritual Formation.
St. Andrew: The “X” Cross
According to tradition, while St. Andrew was preaching at Patras in Achaia in Greece, he was put to death on a cross of this type. He was lashed to the cross rather than nailed out of a deep humility to the sufferings of Jesus Christ. He preached to the people two days before he died. This type of cross is called saltire or decussate to stress its x-shaped form. He is the patron saint of both Russia and Scotland. It was thought that his relics were transported to St. Andrew’s in Scotland.
St. Peter: The Keys
St. Peter is the only Apostle to appear on two separate days in the Anglican Church Calendar. The Confession of St. Peter is also celebrated on January 18. The keys are a reflection of Jesus’ gift to him of the keys of the kingdom.
The Story of The Chapel of the Twelve Apostles
When Atkinson Hall was built, this space was originally planned to be the vestry room, but that was removed to the second floor and the room became a chapel. In its original layout, however, the altar was on the east end of the room; liturgically traditional, but the beautiful windows were rarely observed. Many people had no idea what they depicted.
In the late 1990s, the St. James Episcopal Church Women’s Decorating Committee grew anxious to turn the focus of the room toward the windows. Jane Middleton, Margaret Culbertson, Mary Sentell and Nora Say championed the cause. Paula Manship funded the renovation in memory of her husband, Charles P. Manship.
The simple rearrangement, however, grew to include aisle and space considerations for weddings and funerals, and new, subtle lighting as well as evening lighting to highlight the windows.
The original architect, William Hughes, graciously volunteered his services, as did Dixon Smith who worked to complete the interior design. Master builder S.F. Middleton along with his son, Jimmy, and his son-in-law, Preston Brown, agreed to take on the job.
Hughes designed the post and beam system, found the old timber, and showcased his creative genius in designing a system to raise the 500-pound beams into place with three men using a boat lift hoist. The wood veneer floor was replaced with a Brazilian slate laid in a diagonal pattern to distinguish it from the foyer.
Other parishioner contributors included St. Clair Bienvenu, Jr. who recommended the exterior lighting on the windows, floor lights for the new steps and the exit lights. Joe Benton’s firm fabricated the new doors to meet new building codes. A new lectern and font were designed and crafted by Ford Thomas. Artist Anne LaNasa did the wall glazing.
The renovation was truly a community work resulting in a beautiful community worship space.
We appreciate the work of Bill Campbell, who originally compiled the information and created the background booklet for The Chapel of the Twelve Apostles.