An Explanation of the Symbols of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas.

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Main Entrance - Symbols

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

Approaching the church from Nueva Street, one realizes at once that the very entrance with its symbols wishes to convey a message. At the left we behold the shield of faith, a cross; at the right we see an anchor, which is the symbol of hope; above and at the side of each shield there is a heart; the symbol of love. “And now abideth faith, hope, love—these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The three cardinal virtues of a Christian are thus impressed upon the observer.

Examining the entrance more closely we behold a series of other symbols, which should remind us of the works of the Church. She should clothe the naked (cloak), feed the hungry (loaf of bread with knife), teach the ignorant (open book), free the captives of sin (broken shackles), cheer the sick (basket of flowers and fruit), and seek the lost (Lamb of thorns).
Above the doorway is an eagle. This is the symbol of St. John’s after which our church is named.

Narthex Symbols

Narthex

Narthex

This is the vestibule of the church. From here there are convenient entrances into the nave, the side aisles and the tower. In this anteroom the worshipper should give thought to the many services the Church renders unto the people. It is such thoughts that the tinted glass panels of the narthex wish to suggest.

In them we find symbols of two Sacraments—Baptism and Communion; also of instruction, confirmation, matrimony, burial, and of the strength, confidence, and hope with which the Church bestows by Means of Grace.

Christ, the Lord of the Church, is represented by familiar symbols in the nave doors. The side aisle doors picture Luther’s coat-of-arms.

The Window

The Window

Three panels in one window represent the Triune God. At the very top is the Apostolic Symbolization of the Trinity.

PANEL I – GOD THE FATHER: “I, the Lord, the first and with the last; I am He.” Isaiah 41:4 STAR OF DAVID is symbolic of the six days of the creation. OPEN HAND OF GOD means God abundantly provides for all our means. The ALL-SEEING EYE OF GOD is next. (This also appeared over the altar in the old church building). The HAND HOLDING THE FIGURES is from Revelation: “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God.”

PANEL II – GOD THE SON: At the bottom of this panel is the FLEUR DE LYS, a symbol of God made Man. The PELICAN IN HER PIETY represents Christ’s atonement and sacrifice: “O death, where is thy thing; O grave, where is thy Victory?” The RISEN CHRIST is the central theme of the window and of the entire building.

PANEL III – GOD THE SPIRIT: The DESCENDING DOVE is an ancient symbol of the Holy Spirit. The OPEN BIBLE is shown because the Holy Spirit operates through the Word of God. The SHELL AND STREAM OF WATER are symbols of Baptism through which the Holy Spirit enters our lives. The CHALICE AND HOST are symbols of Communion through which the Holy Spirit renews our Faith. At the top: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
they shall be the sons of God.”

The Lord's Supper

The Lord's Supper

The Lord's Supper

LORD’S SUPPER was carved by Alois Lang. Today it would cost around $8,000 to reproduce. Time of Jesus speaking about betrayal and disciples are asking, “Is it I?” Chi Rho (X&P) on top of the altar are the first two letters in Greek for Christ.
Pulpit

Pulpit

Pulpit

he four figures represent the four Gospel writersery

The Nave

The Nave

The nave is planned for solemn atmosphere. Height and length direct eyes upward and forward. Altar and the Window of the Holy Trinity are the focal point. Lofty stained glass windows and arched ceiling point upward toward God; also representing hands folded in prayer.

Nothing stands between you and the altar, symbolic of “Universal Priesthood of all Believers.”

Tower Symbols

The Tower

The Tower

Rising to a height of 70 feet, the massive tower symbolizes the strength of the Christian Church and reminds us of Luther’s familiar words: “A tower of strength our God is still.” At the west entrance, which leads into the tower, the symbols of faith, love and hope are repeated. In the tinted glass panels of the double door, one sees a walled city upon a hill and a massive rock with a cross. This should remind us that the Church, with its message of the Crucified Lord, cannot be overthrown. The north side of the tower shows symbols of God the Father, the west shows the Alpha and Omega in combination with a cross as symbols of God the Son, and the symbols in the south side represent the Holy Ghost.

The stairway in the tower leads up the gallery above the narthex. In the uppermost story are the three bells, which have invited worshippers to St. John’s since 1886 (names are Faith, Hope, and Love).

Side Entrance Symbols

Side Entrance

Side Entrance

There is a side entrance leading into the west transept. The carved panel above the door represents a baptismal font. This entrance leads into the baptistery
Lectern Symbols

Lectern

Lectern

Shows a prayerful attitude with which the Word of God should be heard.
Baptistry Symbols

Baptistry

Baptistry

The marble font is from the old church. It used to stand in the transept in front of a wood carving of Jesus with the Children; however, it now stands in the middle of the chancel floor. Alois Lang once again did the woodcarving.
Altar

Altar

Altar

The altar is open to all—Lutherans accept the doctrine of the UNIVERSAL PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS. Communion rail serves only as a place to kneel.

ALTAR MONOGRAMS are the Alpha and Omega, and the IHS symbol from the Greek abbreviation of the word for Jesus

Alpha

Alpha

Alpha

Greek letter Alpha
IHS

IHS

IHS

IHS Symbol
Omega

Omega

Omega

Greek letter Omega

Stone From Original Church

It is located in transept and reads “TO GOD ALONE THE GLORY,” in German.

This is repeated on the corner stone of the Wolff Chapel.

  • Original Church Stone

AN EXPLANATION OF THE SYMBOLS OF THE CHAPEL OF ST. JOHN’S