Can you imagine how those first
parishioners must have felt when they first
toured their newly built Church of
St. Bartholomew the Apostle for the very first time?
This was the day, the dream, they had
worked, sacrificed and prayed for since the
very beginning of their parish in
1919. Their "Little Cathedral" was a long cry from the humble
beginnings on Birdsall Street. How thrilled and reverently curious they
must have been to see it all come true.
Making a similar
mini-pilgrimage today, you might try to share some of their
reverent excitement, step by step,
realizing that over those fruitful 75 years there have been some
innovations. Approaching from the parking lot, one of those additions is
the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Mother of God, who in 1917 appeared in
Portugal to three shepherd children, Lucia, who is living to this day in
a Carmelite convent in Coimbra, and her younger
cousins Jacinta and Francesco.
Our Lady asked them to say the Rosary, to do penance, and
make sacrifices daily for peace in the world, a
message still urgent and vital today.
Dedicated on Veterans' Day 1956 by Bishop
Walter A. Forey the shrine is a
prayerful tribute to the servicemen from the parish who performed
military service for their country during World War II including those
who "made the supreme sacrifice." Handsome evergreens and beautiful
flowers embrace the shrine, years
past the work of Charles Magistro who kept the grounds and
nurtured the plants. Also of interest are those parishioners who
apparently posed for the figures depicted on the shrine: Our Lady of Fatima, Frances Sidote;
Lucia, Vincenzo Mirabito;
Jacinta, Catherine Beninato; and Lamb, Salvatore Mirabito. As our
pilgrimage approaches the main entrance of St. Bartholomew's. Our Mother
Mary seems to beckon us to first
view the exterior of our magnificent edifice. The meditation
bench at the Fatima Shrine was given in memory of Onofrio and Margaret
At the corner of the
church on East Main and Silver Streets you will notice the Wayside
(3) that was blessed in
October 1933 to commemorate the 1900th
anniversary of the Crucifixion of
Viewing the facade of the
building, visitors today can only imagine the awe, amazement, and
satisfaction of those first parishioners on their first visit to the
completed church. Framed by trees and evergreens and manicured hedges,
the Romanesque-styled church bears a double cross beamed crucifix at its
peak. Beyond it, a portion of
its sturdy and attractive tall tower looms in the background as does
part of the charming red
tiled roof which adds to the church's "Old World" charm. Below the
cross, a majestic stone statue of St. Bartholomew the Apostle,
greets the passerby. The saint
stands on a pedestal in an alcove centered over a large circular stained
glass rose window
(4), surrounded past
Christmases by a large lighted wreath, installed with the help of
the Norwich Fire Department's aerial ladder and parishioner Al Wehrli.
As we view the main entrance with
its pillared vestibule leading to the three-door
main entrance, we might ponder over
the work of those first parishioners, many of them immigrants and
recent citizens. Most of them came from Lipari or Aeolian
Islands. Those pioneers wanted a
house of worship that would endure the ages. Every
right, after a hard day's labor on
the railroad or in other occupations, many of these
dedicated men used pick and shovel to
make way for a rugged foundation. Then
handsome bluestone was hauled from
Norwich and Oxford quarries for the walls and
Indiana limestone combined for the
Ascending the few steps to the
vestibule, observant visitors will discover three linettes
(5) above the three main
doors. From the left, these scenes of carved stone
are of the Birth of Christ, the
Comforting of the Afflicted, and the Burial of Christ.
On the wall of the vestibule is a
large bronze tablet
(6) recording the founding of
the church. It was dedicated
on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1927, and the
inscription reminds visitors that "as
long as this church stands, the prayers of priest
and people will be offered for those whose names are inscribed in loving
memory on this tablet, who by
their generosity built this Temple to the greater glory of God."
Entering the nave of St.
Bartholomew's, the eyes of visitors are drawn to the gold
tabernacle in the center of the
pristine white altar which is covered by a marble canopy supported by
four large black and white marble pillars imported from Italy. The
pointed apex of the canopy
bears the church symbol for peace and is bordered by a beautiful
mosaic design of blue and gold.
Beyond a tall gold and silver crucifix above the
tabernacle, is a handsome statue of
St. Bartholomew the Apostle whose left hand
holds a dagger and whose right bears a realistic model of St.
Bartholomew's Church. Our
patron saint looks down in welcome on those gathered in the pews
providing seating for 360.
Across the semicircular background
of the sanctuary wall is a colorful array of favorite saints, depictions
painted on a heavenly blue firmament with subtle rays of
sunshine or grace. However, the first
saint on either side is done in relief, their images protruding from the
wall. On the left is St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and on the right,
St. Anthony of Padua, holding
the Child Jesus.
(8) The two saints are
followed by paintings of six
other saints. These renderings were brought in on canvas by artists
and affixed to the sanctuary
wall and have remained ever since. They include: St.
Nicholas; St. Thomas Aquinas; St.
Christopher bearing the Child; then, Saints Cosmas
arid Damian flanking the statue of
the church patron, followed by St. John the Baptist
with banner announcing 'this is the Lamb of God'; St. Lucy, patroness of
sight; and St. Calogero
accompanied by a young deer.
At the apex of the sanctuary
background is a large rendering of Christ the King
reigning on his heavenly throne. He
is surrounded by four doctors of the church, from left: St. Jerome with
a lion; St. Ambrose with a beehive; St. Augustine with arrow; and
St. Gregory, the pope known for the
(9) Directly below these
images are four Archangels, Michael, Raphael, Urlel, and Gabriel
dressed hi red garments
holding symbols representing the four evangelists: St. Matthew, a human
being, representing wisest;
St. Mark, a lion, representing nobility; St. Luke, an ox meaning
strongest; and St. John, an eagle, meaning swiftest.
A realistic three dimensional work of
the Crucified Christ looks down on the
congregation from the highest point
just in front of the sanctuary.
(10) The rich brown
supporting beams frame the cream
colored high ceiling over the nave. The ceiling
beams were enhanced with 24-karat
gold leaf when Msgr. Festa was pastor.
The stained glass windows of 15th
century glass along the skies of the church
proper depict the 15 decades of the
Holy Rosary starting at the left front with the
Joyful Mysteries – the Annunciation,
the Visitation, the Birth of Our Lord, the
Presentation of the Child Jesus, and
Finding in the Temple. Proceeding to the back and then sequentially on
the opposite side to the front with the Sorrowful Mysteries
–the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the
Carrying of the Cross, and the
Crucifixion; and Glorious Mysteries, the Resurrection, the
Ascension of Jesus, the Descent of
the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Our Blessed
Mother, and the Crowning of Mary,
Queen of Heaven and Earth. Each window
contains a medallion symbolizing
each meditation. The last of the sixteen windows at
the right front honors the Most Holy
A unique statue of St. Joseph with
the Child Jesus looks out at the congregation
from a former side altar to the
right of the main altar. The foster father of Our Lord, as if
in presentation, is holding out a
smiling Child Jesus with his small arms outstretched
A large image of Mary Immaculate
stands on a similar pedestal at the left side of
the sanctuary. Wearing a large gold
crown surrounded by twelve stars and dressed in
a regal robe of gold and blue, her image symbolizes her triumph over
Appropriately, at Our Lady's right,
a black wrought iron gate, hand-designed by New York artist Robert
Robbins, leads to the shrine of Mater Dolorosa.
(12) It awaits visitors
wishing to pray as she must have when Our Lord was taken down from the
Cross. Here, a statue modeled
after Michelangelo's Pieta shows Our Mother of
Sorrows holding the body of her
The chapel is partly lighted by a
stained glass window showing St. John the
(14) at the time of Christ's
baptism n the River Jordan with a Dove
representing the Holy Spirit. A
Mosaic over the Silver Street door is of our patron, St.
(15) The Baptistry also
contains several statues, Risen Christ, Mary,
Mother of God, and St. Bartholomew,
including St. Anthony and Our Lady of Grace or
Blue Madonna from the original
mission church on Birdsall Street, along with the
Mother of Pearl Crucifix
(16) given to the people of
St. Bartholomew by their first
pastor, Father Sinnott in remembrance
of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
As our pilgrimage turns towards the
main entrance to leave, the Stations of the
(17) face us from each side.
They trace the steps of the Passion and are made
Before reaching the main doors, our
pilgrimage must stop to observe the choir loft
overhead and, particularly the
spectacular scene of happy young minstrels and
dancers. Called "The Singing Boys"
it is a copy of one of the masterpieces done by the
Della Robbia family of Florence.
(18) The parade of celebration
adorns the railing along the
choir loft and joins the sidewalk of the nave and apparently is sculpted
from white marble.
Upon leaving the church and strolling
the grounds you will notice a statue of St.
Bartholomew on the front lawn of the
(19) This was given to the
church in memory of Antonio Paino. The statue of St. Joseph between the
church and the convent was
given in memory of Joseph and Nunziata Biviano.
(20) The convent which
houses Sisters of St. Joseph
Carondelet was dedicated on October 22, 1966.
(21) In the front
of the parish center is a fountain honoring our Blessed Mother and was
given in memory of Antonio and Catherine Zieno. The parish center was
dedicated originally on February 15, 1970, and rededicated St.
Bartholomew's Rev. Msgr. Guy A. Festa
Parish Center on July 27, 1986.
As our pilgrimage concludes, we
cannot help but join those wonderful founders of St. Bartholomew's and
the priests who guided the parish during those first 75 years by
shouting joyfully to the Lord:
"Thanks be to God!' It is a time for rejoicing!