Highlights of Our Art and Architecture

Highlights of Our Church’s
Art and Architecture


The Narthex

nar·thex  /ˈnärTHeks/
  1. An antechamber or porch at the western entrance of early Christian churches, separated off by a railing and used by catechumens,...
  2. An antechamber or large porch in a modern church.
The narthex of Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church provides a gathering space for those coming to the church before they enter the Nave or Sanctuary. Here people are warmly welcomed, stepping out from the world and preparing to enter the sacred space. As you look around, you already see signs and symbols, indicating that your point of reference has changed from the world to the world of the sacred. The Archangel Michael guards the door (see below) under a carved canopy which is a replica of two which hung over the altars in the Antwerp Cathedral in the early 1800's. On the opposite side of the door hangs a World War II Honor Roll which is a carved triptych bearing the names of all communicants of this church who served in the armed forces during the war years, 1941-1945.

Archangel Michael Bas-Relief
Unauthenticated date, 1431. Archangels, one of nine orders of angels, were the messengers and defenders of heaven.
Revelation 12:7


The Nave

 nave  /nāv/ The central part of a church building, intended to accommodate most of the congregation.

The nave or sanctuary of the church is the heart of the church, from it springs the worship that is the heartbeat of the congregation and the lifeblood from which all the mission and ministry of the church is nurtured and is given life. Here you see no clocks or calendars, but rather are surrounded by reminders of the heavenly kingdom. Angels trumpet from the walls and words of the Gospels are carved in marble. Symbols of the faith abound and the soaring architecture speaks of a heavenly realm beyond our daily existence that calls us to life.
The ceiling is over 70 feet high and resembles the hull of a large ship, a symbol of the church as a vessel that will see the pilgrims home safely to port. The columns are gothic in design and reminiscent of medieval cathedrals. The total length of the Church, from front to rear wall, is 160 feet; the width, 55 feet; width of nave, 34 feet; the height, from floor to ridge, 70 feet. The top of the finial on the steeple is 169 feet above finished grade at the base of the tower.

As your eye lifts upward, you see two angels, one on the left and one on the right between the first and second arches. The angels both hold a chalice, the cup of the new covenant. To your left the medallion is of a Winged Man, signifying the human nature of Christ; the Lion, on the right, His royal character. Panels on either side of the Angel contain opening words of the gospels, Matthew and Mark in Greek.
Angel of Light on the right carries a torch. The left medallion is an Ox, representing the sacrificial nature of Christ and on the right is an Eagle, representing the Holy Spirit which was ever upon Him. These symbols match those associated with the Gospel writers Luke and John whose opening words are inscribed in marble as well (in Greek).

Bas-Relief of Angel with Trumpet is located on the front wall of the chancel and is a plaster model from which the Angels over the main entrance of the church were cast, trumpeting the glory of God.

Keeping your gaze upward, you will notice several wrought iron lanterns lighting the main body of the nave. The lanterns are of hand wrought iron and ancient Flemish glass. Worked into each lantern are the figures of three Apostles (those who bore the light of Christ to the world).

The Chancel

chan·cel  /ˈCHansəl/ The part of a church near the altar, reserved for the clergy and choir, and typically separated from the nave by steps or a screen.

 The Chancel contains the Communion Table, the pulpit, the lectern and other symbols of the Christian faith. The Communion Table reminds the faithful of the Last Supper and is the place at which the sacrament of Communion is celebrated. It is not an altar, but a table at which those who are baptized are invited to share the feast which Christ has prepared. On Sundays when Communion is not being celebrated, a Chalice stands as a reminder of the New Covenant and the shedding of Christ's blood for the atonement of our sins. A Bible stands open proclaiming Christ as the Word become flesh, a Suffering Servant and a fulfillment of God's promise. Two candlesticks stand as reminders of the Light of Christ which has come into the world.

The pulpit stands as a theological witness to the high regard Presbyterians have for Christ proclaimed. The lectern stands as testimony to the high regard Presbyterians have for the Bible. At the back wall of the Chancel stands a Cross, now empty of the body of Christ in celebration of His Resurrection.


The Session Room

The Presbyterian Church, USA believes that all are called to ministry and some are set aside or ordained to specific callings. One such calling is to the office of elder. Elders are called from within the congregation and serve with the Minister of Word and Sacrament, now referred to as the Teaching Elder, to discern where Christ is leading His church and shepherd all the ministries and missions of the church. The Session Room was a place where the elders would gather prior to worship and for special meetings. Originally this room was referred to as the sacristy, and still houses vestments, paraments, and other items used for worship.. There are three pieces of art that grace this room.  They include:

An ancient wood carving from Spain representing a Spanish version of one of the Wise Men. Note the spelling of the name as carved in the wood itself.


St. Peter and St. Paul can still be faintly recognized in this antique icon of Russian orthodox origin. The images of the Saints, not too easily discernible, are painted on a wooden base.

Christ Blessing the Children - this is the work of the Brothers Reipenhausen, German painters of the early nineteenth century. It was produced about 1820. Luke 18:15-16


The Corridor

There are five symbols used in the orientation of the wooden lintels of the doors in the church house.  They are:

The Maltese Cross, which is places in two different positions, as shown in the pictures.  The eight points are reminders of the Beatitudes.  This cross was the emblem of the Knights of St. John on the Island of Malta.

The Cross Moline, with ends resembling bearings under a millstone, suggests equality and justice

The Fleur-de-Lis represents the Holy Trinity, also purity, chastity, the Virgin Mary.

The Five Pointed Star was early adopted as a symbol of Christ’s sovereignty

The four Bleeding Hearts are reminders of Christ’s sacrifice for all of us

The Assembly Room

The Tree of Life Plaques

Around the circumference of each plaque is a stylized representation of the Tree of Life.  Center medallions each symbolize one of the elements of life.

A Flaming Heart signifies zealous Christian Love

A Roman Lamp as a symbol of Knowledge.

A Rose symbolizing Beauty

Toy Balloons and Butterflies symbolize Play.

A Beehive and Plough stand for Work

The Guild Room

The Flemish Oak Fireplace was originally executed in 1645 as noted in the paneling.
It was brought to a New York mansion in 1889 and purchased for use in the Guild
Room in the 1930's. The panels contain biblical scenes from creation to resurrection
As well as secret compartments .
Archangel Michael