The Church's Art - Paintings
A Bit of History
Of the thirty-six original paintings in the church, most were done by Erasmus Humbrecht, an itinerant artist who also did some beautiful work at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. According to legend, Mr. Humbrecht painted for a jug of wine, daily meals, and lodging; however, records indicate there was also money involved. For each of the canvases he painted of the first fourteen Mysteries of the Rosary, Mr. Humbrecht received a mere $15. For the large oval work above the sanctuary, the Coronation of the Blessed Mother which is the fifteenth Mystery of the Rosary, the painter was paid a grand sum of $65! This extraordinarily beautiful work is a popular favorite of parishioners and visitors.
The painting of the Sacred Heart over the main altar is European in origin and dates back to 1862. It once belonged to the Duchess of Sagan, a prominent socialite in Paris at the time of Napoleon III.
Paintings of St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus and of Our Lady by Erasumus Humbrecht adorn the walls above the two side altars.
Paintings representing the four Evangelists can be seen on the walls of the transcept of the church.
The Evangelists are symbolized in art by figures that are usually winged: a human head, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. These are described in the prophetic vision of Ezechiel and in that of Saint John in his Apocalypse. The human head indicates Saint Matthew because he begins his Gospel with the human ancestry of the Messiah. The lion which dwells in the desert represents Saint Mark because he opens his narrative with the mission of Saint John the Baptist, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." The sacrificial ox is the symbol of Saint Luke for his Gospel begins with the story of the priest Zachariah. The eagle which soars high into the heavens is the emblem of Saint John who, in the opening words of his Gospel, carries us to Heaven itself: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
These paintings were done by Brother Burt Rivet, a Jesuit who left behind numerous paintings and ceramic works in every place that he was assigned.
High up on both sides of the nave of the church are the canvases painted by Erasmus Humbrecht illustrating the mysteries of the Rosary.