The fresco represents Christ glorified in heaven surrounded by some of the saints.  Since it serves as a background for the altar, it represents him on the Cross of Calvary, symbolized by the blue stripes, but also on the Tree of Life.  The grape vines grow from the Tree in recognition of Christ’s words, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  This symbolizes the union of all the faithful, who are one body in Christ.  As man fell because of the Tree of Knowledge in the first Paradise, so he triumphs with Christ on the Tree of the Cross in the true Paradise, which is Heaven.  Christ offers the Sacrifice of the Mass as priest and victim.  He is with the Father in Heaven offering the sacrifice of our Redemption, present there now with the glorified wounds of his Passion for all eternity, present also among us to offer the same sacrifice.  Since it is the means no longer of his physical death, the Cross is now “the most beautiful of all trees, situated in the midst of Paradise.”  It is so represented in the fresco.  Since Christ is also the “victim,” the “Good Shepherd” who offered his life for his sheep, he wears the traditional shepherd’s robe with two purple stripes in the manner he is shown in the early frescoes of the catacombs of Rome and in the seventh-century mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna.

To the right, in the position of honor, stands Mary, the Mother of God.  She is represented in a stylized manner in contrast to the portrait style of the other figures at the foot of the Cross, for her beauty transcends the standards of ordinary human beauty.  Next to her, Cardinal John Henry Newman, founder of the English Oratory, kneels in prayer. 

To the left of the Cross stands St. Philip Neri, first founder of the Oratory.  He holds his rosary, the same rosary which is now a treasured possession of the Rock Hill Oratory.  

Next to St. Philip kneels Cardinal Baronius, one of his first disciples and the Father of Church History.  The twelve volumes he wrote are shown before him, and he holds the little volume of the Oratory Constitutions which he wrote.  Next to the books stands Capriccio, St. Philip’s dog, as a reminder that all things in creation are holy.  



[1] Christ as the Vine, with Saints.  The Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Rock Hill, South Carolina, 11 X 15.  October 19––30, 1959.  Lightly edited by John Charlot.