THE REREDOS behind the high altar at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the City of Albany was designed and executed by Mr. H. Lee Hirsche and was two years in the making.
Iconography of the Reredos
The twelve circles represent the twelve apostles.
Starting from the top they are as follows:
The small panels between the Apostles and at the bottom of the Reredos are stars. The star is a symbol of divine guidance or favor since it lights the darkness of the heavens at night.
The two large archways on either side of the Reredos represent St. Paul, who was not one of the original Apostles and is treated separately because this church takes his name. The two swords are the instrument of his martyrdom and also represent his crusading fervor as the greatest missionary of the Christian faith.
The ivy which surrounds the fire is the symbol for death and immortality. Because it is forever green, it symbolizes fidelity and eternal life and, because it clings to its support, also suggests attachment and undying affection.
Among the ivy is a butterfly and a swallow. The butterfly represents the Resurrection of Christ because of its three stages of life; the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly, suggesting life, death, and the Resurrection. The swallow also symbolizes the Resurrection because it was thought to hibernate in the mud during the winter and to be reborn in the spring.
The wooden cross in the center of the Reredos is the universal symbol of the Crucifixion of Christ, as is the crown of thorns around its center. The color red is used here as symbolic of blood and the emotions, and so both love and hate are represented.
The aureole or rays of light which emanate from behind the cross and also from the dove at the top of the Reredos is symbolic of divinity, therefore of supreme power. It is also used in conjunction with the trinity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as represented here by the dove in a circle. The circle symbolizes eternity and never-ending existence.
The large wings between the cross and the Trinity are symbolic of divine mission and are associated with angels, archangels and the heavenly hosts.
The lilies across the top of the Reredos are traditional symbols of purity and are the flowers of the Virgin
H. Lee Hirsche
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