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 | By Theresa Stratford

Mosaic creations at St. Clare of Assisi help turn a building into the Lord’s home

In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to build a grand Temple. The instructions had symbolic significance; they were thoughtful and nothing short of extravagant. But since these temples represented the presence of the Lord and a closeness to God, it was only fitting that they would be beautiful with ornamental details and handcrafted touches.

When St. Clare of Assisi Church on Daniel Island broke ground in 2020, it was important to the community, and a major consideration, to create a church that exhibited the beauty of a house of worship worthy of God. It had to reflect the teachings in the Bible.

So much detail went into the planning of St. Clare. The 12 stained glass, 120-year-old windows were purchased from the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Pittsburgh. The 26 bells were forged in and brought from France for the bell tower. This Catholic church, dedicated in spring of 2023, impresses with its grandeur and glory.

However, it was the people behind the scenes that made the new construction what it is today. Catherine August, a local artist, interior designer and parishioner, was on the Design and Build Team for the parish. One of the handcrafted touches to the edifice were three mosaic pieces of art inlaid in the floors.

“Our sacred building is a current example of how traditional art and architecture work together in harmony to reflect the long-established customs of the Catholic religion,” August explained. “It was the consensus of the congregation that we adhere to this tradition in the design of our new church.”

She said the idea for the mosaics came about in 2016. The inception of the parish occurred in 2014 and since then, a new building for a church was being planned, even though groundbreaking didn’t occur until 2020.

Once an idea sprouted, August got to work researching and studying other mosaic pieces placed in Catholic churches around the world. She developed a team of other parishioners to help her construct the pieces — all of which were created at her residence on Daniel Island.

With financial support from a family member of a fellow parishioner, she and her team got to work. “We would work on it when we could here and there. All the volunteers had different schedules. I would often be working on them late into the night or very early in the morning.”

Three mosaics, located in the Narthex, Transept of the Nave and in the Sanctuary Landing were completed in early spring of 2023 before the consecration of the church in May of that year.

August explained that the Narthex features the Star of David mosaic.

“This star motif was used in the door of the entrance to St. Clare. It has a strong connection to a very generous family member of one of the parishioners because it represents the shared history between Christianity and Judaism.” This mosaic measures in at eight feet by eight feet.

The next mosaic is called Jerusalem’s Cross. It measures four feet by four feet. August explained that Father H. Gregory West, founding pastor of St. Clare, has a strong affection for this style of the cross, and he requested this one specifically.

White Dove, measuring six feet by six feet, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit inspired by Jesus’ baptism. “The dove was referenced throughout the Old as well as the New Testament,” August explained.

She also explained that one of the hardest parts of the installation was the transportation from her home design studio and garage to the church. “We had been working out of my home for years,” she said. “A contractor I was working with on something at my house volunteered to help. It was a nerve-racking process. We had to tilt the eight-foot one to carry it out of my garage and bring it in sideways in the church. Plus it was very heavy. I was so thankful for the help.”

The mosaics were installed on the floor. One of the challenges was making sure all the pieces were flesh and smooth.

“The biggest nightmare was whether the completed mosaics were smooth enough not to cause any tripping,” she explained. “This was because we used different stone types and manufacturers to get the right color combinations. The whole mosaic was covered in epoxy coating to help protect and smooth out the surface for use.” The epoxy will have to be renewed in five to 10 years.

August said that there were about 70 total volunteers and a core group of about six volunteers that brought the whole project to completion. She said they were made up of Catholics and non-Catholics, parishioners and non-parishioners and they ranged in age from 10 to 90 years old. All, she said, were novices.

They helped with cutting the tiles into shapes and correct sizes; sorting the tiles by color and type; placing the tiles in layers; installing and transporting the mosaics at the end; and preparing the flooring for placing and epoxy coating.

“The mosaics just seemed to be a necessary component to the overall wholeness of the design of the church,” August added. “After starting to work on this project, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many historical and beautiful churches and cathedrals all over Europe. There was a lot of studying and picture-taking involved in this.”

The whole process from conception to completion took about five years.

Father West said, “The mosaics represent the love and hard work of so many parish volunteers under Catherine's leadership. These works of art testify to the role of the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Mother and St. Clare, not only in our Catholic history but also in our parish's development.”

August concluded, “As spelled out in the Bible, it’s important to make a church beautiful and worthy of being a home for our Lord. I think our mosaic creations have made our Lord’s home quite special.”

Theresa Stratford is a freelance writer for The Miscellany. She lives in Charleston with her husband and three children and attends the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Email her at