Boston – Back Bay: Trinity Church – Facing the Chancel
Image by wallyg
The chancel and altar at Trinity Church, designed by Charles Donagh Maginnis and Timothy Walsh in 1938, are backed by a series of seven stained glass windows and seven gilded marble bas-relief panels. The panels, executed by Ernest Pellegrini, depict from left to right: Phillips Brooks, John Wesley, John Wycliffe, St. Francis, St. Augustine, St. Athanasius and St. Paul. The stained glass windows, by Clayton and Bell, from left to right, are: The Nativity, Jesus in the Temple with the Doctors, The Baptism, The Preacher, The Last Supper, The Resurrection and The commission to the Apostles.
Facing the Chancel, Trinity Church’s mural featuring figures of scriptual writers, was executed by John La Farge in 1877. It features St. Peter, St. Paul, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David and Moses. In only 5 months, an unknown at the time La Farge and his team executed 21,500 square feet of murals and decorative design. Trinity’s mural decoration is significant in that the art was not an afterthought, but was designed with input from the artist, architect, and client to seamlessly integrate with the architecture.
Trinity Church, at 206 Clarendon Street, was built from 1873 to 1876 by Henry Hobson Richardson. The Episcopal parish, founded in 1733, originally worshiped on Summer Street until it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872. Under the direction of Rector Phillips Brooks, Hobson was commissioned to design a replacement in Copley Square. Trinity Church helped establish Richardson’s reputation, becoming the birthplace and archetype of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, characterized by a clay roof, polychromy, rough stone, heavy arches, and a massive tower.
The building’s plan is a modified Greek Cross with four arms extending outwards from the central tower, which stands 211 ft tall. Situated in Copley Square, which was originally a mud flat, Trinity rests on some 4500 wooden piles, each driven through 30 feet of gravel fill, silt, and clay, and constantly wetted by a pump so they do not rot if exposed to air. The Church’s windows were originally clear glass at consecration but later adorned. Four windows were designed by Edward Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris. Another four windows were done by La Farge, who used a revolutionary style of layering opalescent glass.
In 2007, Trinity Church was ranked #25 on the AIA 150 America’s Favorite Architecture list.
Trinity Church National Register #70000733 (1970)