First Presbyterian Church - Table of Contents

Chancel - First Presbyterian Church
One Symphony Circle, Buffalo, NY


Green & Wicks


Exterior - Richardsonian Romanesque
Interior - Byzantine Revival

Chancel - The space around the principal altar of a church for the clergy and choir, often separated by a screen or railing (in this church, by steps) from the body of the church.

The interior, measuring 92 feet long and 100 feet wide at the transept, seats 954 people. The Byzantine Revival decoration of the sanctuary is the result of work by William Carson Francis, a member of the congregation. Completed in 1924, it depicts a variety of Christian symbols.

The main dome, towering 64 feet above the floor of the nave, is decorated in a Persian design 'The designs on the pendentives are adapted from the sixth century Placidia Chapel in Ravenna.

The soffit of the arch supporting the semidome of the apse features four medallions depicting the Four Evangelists, adapted from carvings on the doors of St. Mark's in Venice.

Byzantine Revival style

Semidome in apse

Suspended rood

In the upper half of the chancel above the wood carving appear eleven small arches supported by double marble columns. These are architecturally reminiscent of the small windows high in the apse which served to throw light on the high altar. In later times these window frames were used as niches to hold statues of the eleven faithful disciples.

Following an early custom of representing in the apse or chancel some symbol of The Creation, in the semidome there is an original composition of Mr. William Francis [like architect E. B. Green a member of the church], a Buffalo artist. In the first chapter of Genesis it is written, "And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

The circle and the Assyrian "Stepped Temple Motif" which both represent infinity, appear in the half-dome of the chancel directly above the word "love" as the source of the Greek wave scroll used to represent the River of Life.

Above the waters appear conventionalized flower forms and butterflies symbolizing fixed ideas or the ever recurring forms of the natural world.

The ivory Byzantine cross represents Christ. Around the cross is the Persian style of the vine or tree of life representing eternal life.

Greek wave scroll is used to represent the River of Life. ...
Hence above the waters, representing the unformed ideas, appear conventionalized flower forms and butterflies symbolizing fixed ideas or the ever recurring forms of the natural world.   ... 
The flower symbols (in the form of arches) suggesting the lily, the rose, and, the vine, are twelve in number signifying the twelve apostles or the twelve powers of man.    ...
Above these symbols of the fixed forms of the natural world appear the suggestion of constellations and heavenly bodies symbolizing the higher qualities of the human mind.

Suspended roodThe symbols of the Four Evangelists are mentioned in Revelation 4:7, "And the first beast was like a lion (Mark) and the second beast was like a calf (Luke) and the third beast had a face like a man (Matthew) and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle (John)."

The medallions here were adapted from the carvings on the portal of St. Mark's in Venice which dates back to the sixth century. These same symbols were used on the carved wooden cross, in memory of Hazel Mielke, now hanging from the great arch, erected in 1975.





The curved screen of the chancel is composed of a beautiful frame of decorated wood carving, setting off seven symbolic panels carved by the Lippichs of Bowmansville.

Each panel has for its design a carved candlestick, reminiscent of the seven golden candlesticks seen in the vision of Zechariah and the seven churches of Revelation.

Far left: The candlestick is supported by two seraphs and is framed by an arch supported by cherubim, surmounted by flying birds.

The central panel represents an elaborate candlestick surrounded by an intricate design of interesting vines supported by two seraphim and crowned by two birds.

The panels on either side of the center are alike in design and represent an ornate candlestick framed by a conventional design of vines and cherubs supporting an arch.

Special thanks to Dr. David Bond, Business Manager, Choirmaster and Organist, for his cooperation and assistance
Photos and their arrangement 2018 Chuck LaChiusa
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