Exploring the Sacred

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Beholding the Sacred

"Be Full of Courage" - Mosaic of Saint Boniface

The Story
On the vigil of Pentecost in the year 754, many pagans, living in Friesland, Holland, were received into the Church and were baptized. These same neophytes were to return on the following Wednesday to be confirmed, in a place close to the city of Dokkum, where all the arrangements had been made, and tents were erected for the purpose. 

At dawn of this important day, soon after the sun came up, a group of hostile men from Friesland made their appearance and made an assault on the camp of Saint Boniface and his missionaries. 

 Saint Boniface’s men engaged the enemy, resulting in quite the battle. 

Saint Boniface begged the crowds not to render evil for evil, and speaking in the Anglo-Saxon language, he encouraged his priests and deacons, while he made himself held a large Gospel book over his head for protection. 

A blow from a heavy sword cut the book in half and killed the venerable missionary, while at the same time fifty-three Christians were exterminated.  The murderers then entered the tents and stole whatever they wanted.  The books and manuscripts were torn.  the public library in the city of Fulda keeps fragments that were later found.   

The faithful brought the remains of Saint Boniface to Utrecht;  they were later translated to Mainz, Germany, and later again, his body was interred in its final resting place in the monastery of Fulda. 

The Mosaic
In the background, one can see the sailboats used by Saint Boniface, since Dokkum in those days was on the coast.  The blue tent which can be seen in the background was most likely the tent used as a chapel.   Saint Boniface is the prominent figure in the center.  He is dressed in red chasuble and wears a pallium which is the sign of an archbishop.  His bishop’s mitre has fallen off his head.  His staff is also depicted mid-fall from his right hand.  This cross, used only by an archbishop, has a smaller bar above the cross bar which supports the crucified Christ. The origin of this smaller bar lies in the representation of the small plaque, on which was written the inscription I.N.R.I. for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). This cross is the primary symbol of the rank of archbishop.  The cleric next to him wears the vestments of a deacon.  A flying magpie can be seen before the blue tent.  The other bird depicted is a guillemot. 

Right in front of the mosaic one can see the spring that sprung at the place of martyrdom.  This spring is still flowing today.   

The text was well chosen for the occasion; it is taken from 1 Corinthians 16.  The strong words are as follows:  "Be on the watch, stand firm in the faith, act as men, be full of courage.“

There are several coats of arms depicted.  First, that of the province of Friesland and Rheingau, they represent the missionary territory of Saint Boniface.  In the coats of arms of Friesland, you notice seven golden blocks, one for each free state of Friesland on the sea. 

 The coat of arms of Rheingau, the region bordering the Rhine, has a blue background decorated with vineyards and grapes of gold indicates its principal industry.

 The coat of arms of the then Archdiocese of Mainz are depicted, two wheels attached by a plow. 

Toward the right one will notice the arms of the city of Dokkum where Saint Boniface was martyred.  Next is the coat of arms of Fulda where he is now buried. 

The half-moon on the arms of Dokkum was added after the city of Damietta had been conquered by soldiers from Dokkum.  (This is a relic from the time of the Crusades to many). 

The arms of Fulda, on the other hand, shows a two-fold shield.  The left one has a silver background with a black cross, which indicates the spiritual power of the abbots of Fulda.  The other side shows a triple green mountain on a red background which represents the worldly power of Fulda in those days. 

The mosaic is crafted of glazed colored ceramic tiles.

So often Saint Boniface is associated with the city of Anaheim- may its inhabitants and parishioners demonstrate some of the zeal and stamina of this great Saint.  Always, and all times, "stand firm in the faith… be full of courage.”

The Artist
This impressive mosaic depicting the martyrdom of Saint Boniface was created by Dutch artist Alex Asperlagh (1901-1984).  Asperlagh is responsible for the design of the mosaics and stained glass windows in this immense church.  His work is prominently featured throughout the Netherlands.  


The parish of Saint Boniface was established in 1850.  It is a parish with deep roots in the early settlement years of Southern California, the Missions, and the German roots of Anaheim.   Several church buildings have served the community, but none is more recognizable and majestic as the current church, built in the early 1960′s.   

The church in use today was the project of  Monsignor John Quatannens who served as pastor of the parish from 1958 to 1971. Quatannens was born in Belgium and was a graduate of the American College of Louvain.   Quatannens’ European roots are evident in the architecture, style, and art chosen for Saint Boniface.  European artists were commissioned to create the artwork for Saint Boniface– from the stained glass windows to the bells, to the grill work that once decorated the communion rail and the statuary.  

The overall design of the church fell in the capable hands of Quatannen's country man, Gerald L. Van de Ven.  Van de Ven, contracted the best European artisans of the time period to fill the church with worthy and dignified appointments. The sixteen foot statue of St. Boniface on the travertine facade above the principal entrance is the work of Jos Pirkner, the Austrian sculptor who in recent years gained fame for his installation of larger-than-life bronze bulls at the Red Bull headquarters in Austria.  

The Church is the design of famed architects Barker and Ott. Other churches designed by the duo include, St. Robert Bellarmine in Burbank, St. Anthony's in Long Beach, Sts. Felicity and Perpetua, in Marino, and Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills.  

It is rumored that as Msgr. Quatannens planned for the new church, he had hopes that it would be the cathedral church, for the soon-to-be-formed Diocese of Orange.  Only the best would do and he built accordingly.  Unfortunately, his dreams of seeing Saint Boniface serve as a cathedral church never became a reality.  

Saint Boniface, much like the cathedrals and churches of old, is rich with art that functions beyond mere decoration.  The colorful mosaics and stained glass windows educate in the faith and inspire one to a deeper connection with the divine.  

Anaheim, CA

Sanctuary Windows

Saint Boniface

Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit Windows

Seven Sacraments Windows

Lower Windows

Stained Glass Windows

The crown jewel of the church building are the stained glass windows.   They are the design of the Dutch artist Alex Asperlagh (1901-1984), a student of the Academie van beeldende kunsten in The Hague.  

Sixteen 12′ foot tall windows adorn the clerestory.  The East clerestory windows depict the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; the West clerestory windows depict the seven sacraments.   Opposing windows depicting the Sacrifice of Abraham and the Sacrifice of  Melchizedek decorate the sanctuary.  

Other windows depict moments from the life of Mary (lower east side of Church) and St. Joseph (lower west side of Church), the Virtues and seasons (old baptistery), Angels with musical instruments (stairwell to the choir loft) and Angels with scrolls with avocations of Mary (Marian side altar).  

Each window is full of meaning, and small details are not haphazard; the windows are a catechesis rich in theology and symbolism. Contemplation fully appreciates the genius of the artist before these works of sacred art.  

It’s an amazing sight to walk into the church and be taken by the beauty of natural light filtering through the windows gently bathing everything it touches in a kaleidoscope of color.  It’s a beautiful analogy of grace breaking through the darkness and bathing our existence with its radiance.  

The stained glass windows are in dire need of repair.  The lead is becoming loose, and water seeps through the brittle seams. The community is raising funds to restore the windows.  Parish leaders estimate that each window will cost approximately $20,000.  Judson Studios is collaborating in the restoration process.     

An explanation and an image of the original cartoons follows. 

These detailed sketches, known as cartoons, are works of art in their right, but they unfortunately usually receive far less exposure than the translucent finished product.  

Saint Boniface Catholic Church is located: 
120 N. Janns St., Anaheim, CA  92805  
(Corner of Lincoln and Harbor Blvd.)

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