“The Coronation of the Virgin” was created in plaster in 1932 from a cast of the altarpiece “The Coronation of the Virgin” by Andrea della Robbia. The terra cotta original, created by della Robbia in 1485, is in the Basilica dell’Osservanza (Chapel 7) in Sienna, Italy. The original altar piece was heavily damaged during WWII bombing in 1944, and has since been restored.
St. Luke’s altarpiece, known as a reredos, was created from a first generation cast owned by the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Although St. Luke’s obtained a perfect plaster cast, when the mold forms were removed from St. Luke’s cast, the museum’s mold was cracked beyond repair. St. Luke’s reredos is under the care of Mr. Behrooz Salimnijad, the Elaine S. Harrington Senior Conservator of Furniture and Woodwork, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
During the Renaissance period, only the very wealthy could afford to commission marble and/or bronze artwork. The Della Robbia family produced works in terra cotta which were less expensive, but not as durable. Andrea della Robbia’s artwork is noted for the individual faces of his figures and especially for the use of cherubs.
This magnificent sculpture shows the Blessed Virgin Mary being crowned as Queen of Heaven, supported by angels and surrounded by five saints. The five saints figured (from the left) are: St. Girolamo, holding a stone, gazing upward; St. Anthony of Padua, in Franciscan habit, holding a book mounted with a flame; St. Chiara is on her knees and holds a scroll; St. Lucy with a martyr’s palm; and St. Francis holding the cross. On top of the coronation scene there is an arched pediment featuring cherubs. Beneath the main scene are three panels showing the Annunciation on the left, the Nativity on the right, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the center.
Stained Glass Windows
Three of the eight stained glass windows were made in 1983 at the Edward Bryne studio in Doylestown for the sesquicentennial of the church. Starting from the front left they are:
- St. Mary and St. Martha in their home in Bethany with Jesus (1983)
- St. Luke holding the Gospel (unknown saint)
- St. Margaret, shown with lilies (symbol of the resurrection)
- Jesus with angel in the Garden of Gethsemane (1983)
- Jesus as the Good Shepherd/St. Ann, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- St. Cecilia, patron saint of church musicians
- Jesus blessing the children (Tiffany style)
- Jesus calling St. Peter and St Andrew on the Sea of Galilee (1983)