In the crypt of our church is a chapel with Orthodox icons, designed by the architect, Jeremy Williams. It is a unique sacred space reminding us that monasticism has its roots in the Christian east.
In traditional Byzantine style, it takes the shape of a cross in a square with a central circle surmounted by a dome. Beneath the dome, in painted glass, the artist James Scanlon has depicted the mythical beasts of the Bible, symbols of the four Evangelists. The altar, in traditional Orthodox fashion, is in a small apse accessed by “royal doors”. Thus the whole structure is an iconic symbol of the cosmos:
- The highest heavens are symbolised by the dome,
- Heaven as it touches earth is symbolised by the sanctuary,
- The world is symbolised by the circle and four corners of the square.
The presence of the Evangelists shows that God reveals himself in the world through the Gospel, while the redeeming power of Christ’s cross links heaven and earth. Yet the circle on the ground is incomplete, a symbol of the fragile nature of all created things, compared with the perfection of God in heaven. Through the liturgy celebrated at the altar, heaven and earth become one.The icons (depicting Christ, his Mother, the feasts of the Church and the saints) are sacred symbols through which God manifests his presence to us and invites us to respond to his love. Formed both by divine grace and artistic skill the icons of the holy ones depicted invite us to enter their space and commune with God in prayer. As disclosure-zones of glory and standing invitations to contemplation, the chapel and its images testify to three monastic values cherished at Glenstal:
- The search for the vision of God’s face revealed to us in Christ and the Holy Spirit,
- The power of symbolism in articulating spiritual vision,
- The monastic call to prayer for the unity of all Christians, especially in the east, and the protection and wholeness of our fragile world.
Please note that visits to the Icon Chapel are by appointment only.