Ambry: St. Christopher Catholic Church

May 5th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer


Last month, Mary and I visited the Church of St. Christopher in Nisswa, Minnesota, for which we had designed a new ambry.

The ambry stores and displays the holy oils used in baptism, confirmation, and annointing. As such, it deserves to be a place of beauty and dignity and the vessels themselves ought do the same.

Phil Daniel designed and built the glass panel for the door, using circles and textured glass in response to the lakes area and the church itself, then designed the etched glass panel behind to work with and enhance the door.

Peter Zelle and I worked together to develop a design concept for the cruets that celebrates the oil itself and its organic, natural beginnings, then he formed the cruets, adding ribbons of color that nicely distinguish the oils and reflect their use. Clear: Purity, divinity – Sacred Chrism. Green: Healing, life – Oil of Annointing. Blue: Wisdom, learning, inspiration – Oil of Catechumens.

We transformed the existing two-way mirror between the sacristy and the worship space into a vibrant array of light and glass that celebrates oil and its role in the sacraments. The parallel panels of glass subtly shimmer and change as the viewer moves toward the ambry. The vessels’ fluid forms enhance the effect, and their color counterpoints the color of the stained glass. The sacristy, once hidden from view by a mirror, is now lightly veiled and is allowed to share the light of its windows.

In product and process, this ambry is a fine example of bringing together the gifts of many people for the service and glory of God.


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