Ornately-sculpted in bronze relief, with overhead archways framing brilliant mosaic images, these fitted door panels have continued to make welcome the faithful for more than 1,000 years.
Much like stained glass windows that brought the Gospel message to life for the largely illiterate peoples of pre-Renaissance Europe, bronze doors – with their depictionof scenes from the Old and New Testament – helped unfold the story of Christ's life and teachings. And the gift of a church door was seen as both a tribute to the Divine and a reflection of the patron's own piety!
To renew this great tradition of bronze-clad church doors, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe commissioned eminent sculptors Giancarlo Biaggi and Jill Burkee. Their charge was to create a series of three arched portals that would invite visitors to experience the mystery of faith even before entering the sanctuary. And when those doors first opened in 2009, the invitation was clear, massive and unmistakable:
Indeed, the entire central façade of the church is itself an entrance portal – a trio of arched doorways that represent the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Living Church.
Greeting visitors as they cross the bridge leading to the Basilica are bold, larger-than-life mosaic portraits of Abraham, the Good Shepherd and Mary, each a backdrop for sculpted bronze figures atop the double-doors.
The double doors feature six 18–by-30" panels inset in traditional, old-style high-relief. Framing each set of doors are a series of rondelles -- six circles of bronze with high-relief scenes emerging from a flat base, 18" in diameter.Visitors can’t resist reaching out to touch the images and in doing so, connect even more deeply with the persons and stories so much a part of their faith.