Emmanuel's exterior, seen from Cathedral Street. 

Emmanuel's exterior, seen from Cathedral Street. 


It all started in 1854...

When Emmanuel held its first service in its fashionable Italianate building, complete with a Tuscan bell tower, rubble-stone walls, clear glass lancet windows, and a vibrantly painted interior--all reflective of Victorian tastes. The architects were the prestigious local firm of Niernsee & Neilson, who designed many notable extant Baltimore buildings.

The building, costing approximately $52,000, and the lot, were completely paid for before the first service due to strong pew rental and the generosity of one of the original vestry members, Henry Bash.

The original building is seen today only in the exterior walls and lancet window openings of the nave. When called to Emmanuel in 1912, the Rev. Dr. Hugh Birckhead embarked on an extensive renovation, essentially the campus one sees today.

The 1854 building included the nave, with a low-ceilinged, shallow chancel three steps above the nave floor, galleries or balconies on two sides, and the choir and organ over the narthex, at the west end of the nave. The narthex was small, with the central exterior door giving access only to the nave. The north and south exterior doors gave access to the galleries, the choir loft, and the Sunday School building located next door. The priests’ sacristy was next to the chancel on the north, where the Peace Chapel is today. The baptistery has always been in the southeast corner of the nave.

The Interior

The first of Dr. Birckhead’s renovations was to enlarge the chancel, deepening it, and raising the roof and floor. This created the necessary height for a new East Window and reredos, as well as opening up space for the organ console and the “English choir” configuration that we see today. The architects for this were the Boston firm of Goodhue, Cram & Ferguson. Mr. Woldemar Ritter, the on-site project architect, later left the firm to begin his own practice and was chosen as the architect for all further renovations to the church. Master carver Johann Kirchmayer was engaged to provide all the stone and wood carving on the interior and exterior of the buildings.

The chancel was dedicated in 1914, the cost borne by the congregation as a memorial to Dr. Eccleston, whose bronze bas relief by Baltimore sculptor Hans Schuler is on the south wall--the face of Dr. Eccleston is from his death mask. The original East Window is now on the south wall of the chancel.

By raising the floor of the chancel, room was created on the lower level for a beautiful chapel also named in honor of Dr. Eccleston. In this chapel, General George Marshall, author of the Marshall Plan for the Reconstruction of Europe after World War II, was married, with General John “Blackjack” Pershing as his attendant.

The Great East Window, showing the fathers of the church, what is known as the Tree of the Church, was made by C. E. Kempe and Company. Ltd., of London. The style of glass is late 15th century, from the time Columbus discovered America, and is the same period used for the stained glass throughout the buildings. The center is Our Lord Emmanuel in an attitude of benediction, crowned and robed as King of Kings, Lord of Lords. The 14 subsidiary figures represent the great movements in the history of the church, bringing that thought down to Phillips Brooks, who once preached at Emmanuel. The figures were chosen by the Rev. Henry Washburn, Professor of Ecclesiastical History at what was then the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The window was to be shipped at the onset of the First World War, but there was concern as German U-Boats were sinking English transatlantic ships. After a number of letters between London and Baltimore the decision was made to ship, and the window arrived safely. It was dedicated on Sexagesima Sunday, 1915, and today continues to provide a punctuation point of glorious light at the end of the nave.

The reredos, the carved panel over the altar, was designed by Woldemar Ritter and carved by Johann Kirchmayer. (The altar it stands over was designed by Henry Vaughan, the architect of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.) It is carved of Indiana limestone, and, while the style or configuration is English, the detailing in the figures represents the best in 13th and 14th century French Gothic style. This magnificent piece is centered on the risen Christ, Christus Emmanuel, being crowned with the crown of the Empire of the World, flanked by adoring angels and the archangels Michael and Gabriel. In the lower row are figures from the Hebrew Scriptures representing the growth of the thought of God; the upper row figures are from the New Testament and include on the left St. Matthew, who alone uses the name Emmanuel. The reredos was dedicated on December 1, 1918.

In the nave, the balconies were removed and the great stone columns and arches were constructed. They were put in place not just for aesthetics, but to support a dangerously sagging roof. On the west wall of the nave, the former choir and organ loft were covered; later a second set of organ pipes was installed there. Donors came forward to convert the plain glass windows into memorials of leaded stained glass. Four of the windows are by Tiffany and Company, one is from Gorham in New York, and the balance are by English firms. One of the columns, by the pulpit, was carved with the names of the rectors to that point, a tradition that continues to this day.

North of the chancel is the Peace Chapel, dedicated November 11, 1920, to mark the two-year anniversary of the end of World War I. This space, in the original building, was the vesting room for the priest. The chapel contains a 15th century style medallion window, again by C. E. Kempe, Ltd.; a medallion window contains small vignettes that tell stories rather than focusing on one object or person. The top three medallions contain the three central teachings of the Creed concerning Christ: the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the Resurrection; the bottom three represent the foreshadowing of these events in the Old Testament. Tradition has it that the donor requested to have yellow flowers placed by this window each Easter because there is so much yellow glass in the design.

The Peace Chapel was designed in its entirety by Woldemar Ritter, including the hammered silver cross and candlesticks on the altar and the beautiful wrought iron grille over the radiator. The altar itself is carved of pink Tennessee marble with niches representing four figures associated with the crucifixion: Joseph of Arimathea; Mary, mother of Jesus; John, his beloved disciple; and Mary Magdalene. Around the ceiling amusing gargoyles are carved out of antique oak, including a horse reading a book, a rabbit holding a shotgun, an owl holding a lantern, and a toad under a toadstool.

The glory of the Peace Chapel is the triptych over the altar. The central portion is carved of a single piece of oak and, in high relief, shows the risen Jesus breaking bread with his disciples whom he met on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). This section is surmounted with delicately carved Gothic tracery with a cresting of vines and grapes and at the center, Emmanuel’s emblem: the pelican plucking her breast to feed her young, a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice to us, his children, and of the Holy Eucharist. Above this is carved the crown of World Empire, in contrast to the crown of thorns in the tablecloth below.

The entry to the Peace Chapel from the nave is carved of Indiana limestone, with the figures of St. George and Joan of Arc representing our English and French allies in World War I. The foliage carved here is ivy, the symbol of constancy.

South of the chancel is the Baptistry (created during the rectorship of Dr. Eccleston), an octagonal space sheathed at the base in marble and containing two extraordinary artworks. The first is the stained glass window showing St. John baptizing Jesus in the river Jordan, flanked by two royal blue windows with cruciform Biblical quotations in yellow glass. These windows are by John La Farge, and the pictorial window is considered to be a masterpiece of the glassmaker’s art. As many as eight layers of paper-thin glass are used to create the atmospheric effects found in this window. The second great work of art is a kneeling angel holding the baptismal bowl. This was carved by the renowned American sculptor Daniel Chester French, best known for his representation of the Minuteman in Lexington, Massachusetts, and for the moving sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Here, Baltimore native Bessie Wallis Warfield was baptized. She later became the Duchess of Windsor after King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to “marry the woman I love."

The baptistery is entered from the nave through an arch that duplicates that of the Peace Chapel. Here, though, the two figures are associated with children: St. Christopher and St. Nicholas. The beautifully carved foliage is water lilies, indicating the water of baptism.

The raised octagonal “hour glass” pulpit, designed by Woldemar Ritter and carved by Johann Kirchmayer of quartered oak, is surmounted by a sounding board. It was dedicated on January 23, 1921. The sides of the pulpit have six full relief figures representing the history of Christian preaching, and five bas reliefs representing the history of the prophetic office. The pulpit is reached by a flight of steps with intricately carved balustrade and newels posts surmounted by carvings of Samuel and St. James. The masterful sounding board is carved with Gothic tracery and on the underside is again the pelican-in-her-piety, the symbol of Emmanuel Church.

The lectern, dedicated in 1913, was again designed by Ritter and carved by Kirchmayer and is of the ambo type, meaning “mountain” or “elevation.” It is the traditional spot from which the Gospel and Epistle were once chanted or read and from which communications of all sorts were delivered to the congregation. Open Gothic tracery topped by angels makes up the base of the lectern while the top supports a bible facing the congregation and the lectionary from which the lessons of the day are now read.

The great rood was the last of Dr. Birckhead’s renovation to be installed. It was dedicated on October 5, 1930--the year after his death and the 18th anniversary of his first service at Emmanuel. It shows, of course, the crucified Christ here flanked by his mother and “the disciple he loved most,” St. John. Symbolically, the Rood indicates that one must enter the gates of heaven, the sanctuary, by way of the cross. The Emmanuel rood was carved in Italy.

The narthex includes two relatively modern paintings and a copy of an Andrea della Robbia bambino found on the façade of the Foundling Hospital in Florence, Italy. The paintings, representing the Adoration of the Magi at the birth of Jesus and his Crucifixion, were painted by Baltimore artist Evan Keehn. Interestingly, in the Adoration, completed in 1960, the robes of the Three Kings are copied from Emmanuel’s own Eucharistic vestments and the objects they are holding are based on our communion vessels. The standing figure in the background represents the donor of the mural, Dr. Mason Faulconer Lord, and the Virgin and child are the wife and son of the artist. The vibrantly turbulent Crucifixion was dedicated on Palm Sunday in 1963.

The interior narthex doors are surmounted by carvings, once again by Kirchmayer, of Christian missionaries and teachers.

The Exterior

On June 27, 1920 the soaring Christmas Tower was dedicated, as a memorial to Ida Perry Black, who died and left a substantial legacy to Emmanuel on Christmas Day. This tower is in the Flemish Gothic style. Woldemar Ritter was exposed to Gothic architecture in the Northern European states as a young man, traveling with his father, the president of Zurich University, and his mother, an American, the daughter of Ludwig Jacoby, who is credited with introducing American Methodism to Northern Europe.

The tower features a band of merry angelic musicians carved in the arch of the central door and, above them, the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus. Halfway up are the three Magi, each over 14 feet tall; the Magi have sometimes been thought to also represent the three ages of man and the three continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Flanking Mary are: St. Anne, her mother; and St. Joseph, holding a carpenter’s square; a young shepherd holding a lamb; and an old shepherd cupping his ear to better hear the musicians. Carved in the woodwork above the door is the young Jesus holding a lamb with the pelican seal of Emmanuel and the Christmas message, “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men” at his feet. On either side of the doorway are representations of the two Testaments of the Bible--Old (a figure, perhaps Moses, holding the tablets of the law and the staff with serpent) and New (a crowned figure holding a cross and chalice). The carvings are similar to those at Strasbourg Cathedral.

This magnificent tower, reaching to the heavens, progresses from rusticated granite at the base to smooth white limestone at the top, stepping back to further create the feeling of pointing toward heaven.

The Parish House was begun in 1921, completed in 1923, and has been remodeled several times over the years. This building includes: the offices; the church parlor (known as the Brent Room); the library; the working sacristy; and the beautifully paneled vesting sacristy. On the second floor are the Great Hall (in the Gothic)--with stage and professional lighting--and the choir room. On the lower level are the Sunday School rooms and the Undercroft, all remodeled in 2006-2007. A professional kitchen is located here as well.

If you view the buildings from Read Street you will see the extension of the chancel defined by the copper roof; if you look from Morton Street, in back of the church, you will see how the extended chancel cantilevers over the sidewalk there. The rubble stone side walls and the lancet windows remain from the 1854 building, but everything else is from the period of Dr. Birckhead.

The interesting aspect of the church, an aspect of all Gothic-style church buildings, is the telling of the story of Christianity. In all the ways noted above, of course, but the entire building is the story of Jesus: the Christmas Tower tells of his birth; the narthex is the great teachers and missionaries; the rood his crucifixion; the reredos his resurrection; and the Great East Window his reign in heaven.