First Baptist Church, Huntsville, AL
Friday, April 18, 2014
The mosaic which adorns the facade of the sanctuary was created by artist Gordon Smith, of Smith Stained Glass Studios, Fort Worth, Texas. This art work began in 1966 and was finished in 1973.
The mosaic was designed to express the Biblical theme, "Creation and Redemption." Revelation 1:12-20 serves as the primary biblical text inspiring the design. The artist makes use of many references to the person of Christ expressed in the great Christological passages in Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians 2, 11 Corinthians 4:6; 11 Corinthians 5:16-21, Romans--Chapters 1, 2, and 8, John 1:1-16, and Hebrews-Chapters 1, 11, and 12. They supply important ideas and combinations of ideas basic to the symbolism of the mosaic. The huge symbol of the cross laid over the Christ figure is an example.
Photo: Eric Shindelbower
The artist exhibits the central position of Christ in relationship to creation and man in the use of contrasting colors which are deep and fiery at the center, but surrounded by cool blue shades with their sweeping effects on the circumference. The distinct traces of pure white sweep like ribbons of mercy around the center portion. The sinless character of Christ is mingled freely with the whole creation. He is the source of all moral perfection and holiness.
In the midst of the seven churches, symbolized by lampstands, Christ stands. He is ever present to encourage them as they battle with opposing forces. This is the scene of the most striking colors in the design. The Christ figure occupies the center panel. This is the focus of the confluence and movement of the mosaic as a whole. Nothing less could represent the scriptural references to "the Cosmic Christ." The Greek letters, Alpha and Omega, are superimposed on the bosom. The kingly crown is suspended above the head ready for that final coronation "Day of the Lord" II Thessalonians 2:2-3). Redemption is complete when He shall be crowned Lord of all creation in the consummation of the ages to come (I Cor. 15:24, 25).
Various components heighten the interest of the Christ figure pictured in the center panel. He holds the seven stars in His right hand. A beam of light representing Revelation's two-edged sword, God's Word, spreads from His mouth. The Alpha and Omega are superimposed across His breast as is the cross. In each of the other panels there is a lampstand. These represent the churches which orbit around the Christ figure. The churches are luminaries in a dark world (Phil. 2:15).
While the primary emphasis is on Christ, the seven churches as mentioned in Rev. 1:4 are represented by lampstands in each panel or bay. they function as a visible part of the glorious destiny over which Christ.
Himself presides and Who is the center. Both the becomingness of the lampstands and their orbital movement seem to illustrate the same truth. Inherent in the design is an impression of the process of creation, of order evolving out of disorder. No doubt is left about the ultimate destiny of all things in Christ whether past, present, or future (Colossians). In the background of the upper part of the Christ figure is an expanding dimension of depth where the colors and lines flow together, forming a horizon of mystery lying behind the head and shoulders.
Furthermore, the art may be viewed as a symbol of the expanding work of the church in all the centuries since Jesus first sent forth His disciples. The viewer can see and feel the centrifugal force of the mosaic. Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord of Creation. He initiates the movement of all redemptive forces. the centrifugal viewpoint appears obvious, as all things appear to move outward from Christ as Source. The grandeur and the mystery of His power are represented by radiations which project and mingle in the whole design.
On the other hand, if the idea of movement is reversed, the design as a whole further suggests a centripetal movement - a pulling toward the center of all the galaxies orbiting around Christ. Christ is the center of the universe. He is the Lord of life and the Lord of history. No element of the historical process-past, present, or future escapes His judgment or obstructs the manifestation of His love.
The Christ figure stands 43 feet high. The head is more than 5 feet high, and each eye in the Christ figure is about 8 inches in diameter. About 14 million pieces of Italian tile - none larger than a man's thumbnail - comprise the mosaic. Each piece was set in place by the artist with tweezers and/or fingers.
The hands of Jesus are extended and appear to be engaged or involved in the motion and process of everything depicted in the mosaic. The art work is a strong reminder of the presence of Christ, Whose work of redemption is not only past. but always present and continues toward the future. The facade has been designed not only to capture the attention of the eye, but to issue a strong invitation to come inside the church.