Once you cross the Tympanum and enter through the main door of the church, you will be entering the Narthex. The Narthex houses many artistic elements unique to the church which can be viewed before even entering the main part of the church.
The Narthex is dominated by two large and magnificent tapestries. Commissioned by George Booth for the church, they were designed and produced at Merton Abbey Looms in London, a workshop acquired in 1881 by the firm founded by William Morris, who pioneered the Arts and Crafts Movement in England. Each tapestry measures 12’ X 22’ and when they were made in the 1920’s they were the largest single tapestries woven in one piece. On the right, the “Old Dispensation” or The Rule of Law is depicted. The central panel shows Moses on Mt. Sinai holding the tablets of law. The other panels include Adam and Eve, Abraham saved from the sacrifice of his son Isaac and in the bottom right corner, Solomon and David planning the temple. On the opposite wall, the “New Dispensation” or The Rule of Love, includes at its center Christ delivering the Sermon on the Mount. Also included are the Flight of the Holy family into Egypt, the adoration of the Wise Men and the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
On the south wall of the Narthex is a stained-glass window portraying Saint Barbara. Legend has it that her father opposed her marriage and had her imprisoned in a tower where she was later converted to Christianity by a follower of Origen. When her father, who was a pagan, learned about this he had her beheaded. On his way home, her father was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes. Saint Barbara is known as the patron saint of gunsmiths and the Hunt.
A decorative lead and glass screen separates the Narthex from the Nave, and the front doors are adorned with ornate metal locks. Both reflect the longstanding interest in metalworking of the church’s founder, George G. Booth, and serve as an introduction to the fine craftsmanship throughout the building.
The lead and glass screen was crafted by G. Owen Bonawit.
The metal locks on the front doors were done by Samuel Yellin.
In the corner of the Narthex is the tall marble Pascal candle. It is an exact copy of one that was seen by George and Ellen Booth in the Cappella Palatine at Palermo, Sicily during their travels through Europe. The original was made in the 12th century, except for the four figures at the top which were added later. The candle is lit once each year as part of the vigil service held in the church on Easter Eve.
The wooden screen at the north side of the Narthex shows the Lamb of God. A squirrel and a toad top the sides of the screen.
The woodwork in the church, except where noted, was done by Irving and Casson of the A. H. Davenport Company, Boston.