Beginning 2 p.m. Sunday, All Saints Catholic Church at 215 E. 10 St., will open their doors for tours of their recent 100 Year Anniversary addition of twelve icons on display.
The first cornerstone at All Saints was laid in 1909, and the church has grown with its surrounding community since then. The church itself is unique in Houston, not only for the Gothic style cathedral, but also for the interior faux painted marble columns, stencils and gold starred ceiling. All of that and the amazing stained glass windows should be enough to get you to have a look, but there is more. The church has 12 icons of modern Saints, a true rarity anywhere.
An icon is a flat panel painting of Jesus, Mary, along with saints and angels. All Saints chose modern saints, in keeping with the times, and all of the saints but one were canonized by Pope John Paul II. That means the church declared that person a saint when they were alive. Mother Teresa for example is among the twelve icons.
As the 100th Anniversary approached, Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar was brought in to oversee the redecoration of the church
in 2006. Lentz is world renowned for his icons. An iconographer is a theologian as much as he is an artist, and the message is brought through the icons themselves.
What I found to be most fascinating when I got to preview the tour, is the icons each have something representative of the Saint’s life and what they did. Mother Teresa is holding a baby. St Maximilian Kolbe has a Nazi prison camp uniform draped over his arm. Kolbe was arrested at his Polish monastery for publishing anti-Nazi material and protecting Jews. He conducted Mass and heard confessions as a prisoner (secretly) in Auschwitz, where he was killed.
Directly behind the altar is the Blessed Trinity icon which is ten feet tall and eight feet wide. Standing underneath this masterpiece is amazing. A really cool fact here is that Lentz painted a facial trait from each of the board members of the church into the angel’s faces that border God and Jesus. Also, Jesus is depicted young, without a beard as was popular before the 4th century. On each side of the Trinity are the twelve icons.
On the tour, each of these Saints and the amazing things they did while living are explained, as well as the meaning behind the colors chosen, why they are two dimensional and the symbolism found in each. It really is like a guided art opening. For those of you wondering, the saints are: St Andrew Dung-Lac, St Josephine Bakhita, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, St Martin de Porres, St Pio of Pietrelcina, St Pedro Betancur, St Toribio Romo, St Edith Stein, St Maximilian Kolbe, St Katharine Drexel and St Faustina Kowalska.
As an artist, I love finding hidden items, and meaning in a painting, and that is really what icons are all about, windows to heaven. There are many rules about painting icons, and as you’ll hear in the tour, Brother Robert Lentz is a master. Take time out to see this amazing treasure. This should be a must see for any visitor or Houstonian alike.
The tours are scheduled to begin Sunday, April 19 at 2 p.m. and then Saturday May 16, coinciding with the Taste of the Heights festival 6:30 – 9 p.m. Sun., May 1 at 2 p.m. And then every third Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. All Saints is located at 215 E. 10 St. Houston, Texas 77008. For more information about the tours contact Bonnie Sheeren 832-428-4104, and visit the website allsaintsheights.com/icons
Cohen is the founder and manager of First Saturday Arts Market. Contact him at ArtValet@gmail.com or visit him on the web atArtValet.com.