THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: The Chapel
The Spiritual Formation of a Seminarian is the crux of his life, not only as a promising priest but also as a disciple of Christ. Spiritual Formation includes a Life of Prayer manifested through daily Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, devotional prayers, frequent confession, devotion to the Blessed Mother, regular retreats, personal reflection, meditation, and guidance.
Needless to state, the Chapel forms a very integral part of the Goregaon Seminary. Every floor of this ‘Sermon in Stone’ is equipped with a House of Prayer. However, the Main Chapel is housed in the Middle Wing, above the Hall. It holds a capacity for accommodating at least, 400 people.
Like most Churches, the Bombay Seminary Chapel has a cruciform ground plan. It consists of a long rectangular structure with a central nave and arched windows along each of the side walls. The beamed ceiling is unadorned except for rose medallions from which are suspended metallic chandeliers. The nave terminates with a semi-circular apse adorned with a beautiful mosaic of the Last Supper.
A decorative form of art, a mosaic pattern/picture is made up of small regular/ irregular pieces of colored stone, glass, marble, ceramic, or other materials set in a bed of cement, plaster, or adhesive. Originally developed in ancient Greece, mosaic patterns popularly decorated the ancient Christian Basilicas. It fell out of fashion during the Renaissance and was replaced by fresco paintings.
Let’s take a closer look at the Last Supper mosaic in the Seminary Chapel. The arena is a closed rectangular room. The balance of the scene is set by the gigantic white table cloth. Christ occupies the center of the composition while six apostles are seen on His either side. Unlike popular depiction, notice that Christ stands. His right hand is raised in benediction, blessing the chalice placed before Him. The work reflects the moment of significance, i.e. the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. This is affirmed by the words below – ‘HOC FACITE IN MEAM COMMEMORATIONEM’ which translates as ‘Do This In Memory Of Me’.
Notice the reaction of the apostles. They are tense and upright, attempting to grasp the meaning of the moment. All but one – Judas Iscariot, to our extreme right, seems impassive. With his head turned towards the exit, he awaits the opportunity to escape the Passover which would then provoke the Passion.
The significant sacramental iconography of the Last Supper is meant to create an extension to every Holy Eucharist celebrated in the Seminary Chapel which would transfer the seminarians to the first Holy Eucharist instituted in the ‘Upper Room’.
The magnificent mosaic of the Last Supper glistens as streams of colored light flood in through the stained glass windows that surround the structure. The glass largely includes deep blue, red, gold, white, and green colors – thus creating a sacred space that recalls the Divine.
These windows are not just beautiful. They tell stories. The apse consists of eight tall windows with a large primary scene and a small secondary scene. The narrative includes:
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – The Creation (?)
The Miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish – An Angel announcing a message (?)
The Crucifixion of Christ – Moses and the brazen serpent
The Assumption of the Blessed Mother – Mary, Mother of Mercy
St. Pius X, patron of the Seminary – St. Pius X with the clergy and religious kneeling around him
The prophecy of Simon – The Resurrection (?)
Elijah, the ravens, and the Widow at Zarephath – The Supper at Emmaus
The Sacrifice of Isaac – The Agony of Jesus in the Garden
The windows on the side walls along the nave vividly unfold the Life of Christ. The scenes include:
To the right:
The Nativity of Jesus
The young Christ among the doctors in the Temple
Christ at Nazareth, in the house of His Parents
The Baptism of Jesus
The healing of the Blind Man
To the left:
The Agony of Jesus in the Garden
The Condemnation of Christ
The Carrying of the Cross
The Death and Burial of Jesus
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven
The Descent of the Holy Spirit
The Chapel of the Bombay Seminary also includes an ambulatory consisting of nine Chapels, each provided with an altar and decorated with a long arched stained glass window. The beautiful stained glass is infused with symbols relating to Christ, Mother Mary, the Holy Trinity, Eucharistic motifs, papal iconography as well as Indian elements such as the Lotus, a Diya (oil lamp), peacocks as well as the map of the country.
The nine Chapels are connected to the main Altar through a metal grille – gate adorned with an amalgamation of modern designs, rhythmic geometry, zigzags, and visual expressions of sacred sacramental iconography.
In the main Sanctuary, the simple but elegant frontal of the altar is etched with the symbols of the Angel (St. Matthew), the Bull (St. Luke), the Lamb (Jesus Christ), the Eagle (St. John), and the Lion (St. Mark). Upon the Mensa rests the Tabernacle surmounted by a wooden crucified Christ.
Interestingly, Christ instituting the Holy Eucharist (mosaic), Christ crucified on the Cross (wood) and the Body of Christ reserved in the Tabernacle are vertically aligned. This is Christ, the High Priest who offered Himself as the Sacrificial Victim for our Salvation. Thus as the priest celebrates the Holy Sacrifice, in persona Christi, he inspires the seminarians to aspire to be an alter Christus!
Please feel free to share this story with others and your story of the Seminary with us! You will get regular updates at this blog site on this exhibition.
© – Archdiocesan Heritage Museum