With the Study Committee’s determination that communion was to be central in the sanctuary, the design, execution, and placement of the communion table received significant attention. The table made of walnut and marble was designed by the architect, William Benson. The copper panels on the four sides of the table were designed and executed by Heri Bartscht, Professor of Art at the University of Dallas.
The table is a gift to MHCC from Tom McNiel to honor his wife Maura McNiel.
The sides of the table are covered with panels representing each of the 12 apostles. Mr. Bartscht did much research to determine appropriate symbols for each of the 12 apostles, identifying each with their name and symbols to represent his vocation or an act during his lifetime with Jesus.
In commenting about the table, Mr. Bartscht said, “The treatment of the copper was exciting. It is the first time copper had been added, by soldering or welding, to achieve the raised three dimensional figures. I used the contemporary approach, occasionally using leftover pieces of materials for certain effects. In the Judas panel, there are places for 30 pieces of ancient silver coins to be added.”
The two ends of the table are covered with one panel depicting the burning bush and the tablets of the Ten Commandments representing Moses, and one with the Star of Bethlehem and the Alpha and Omega, which are symbols of Jesus Christ, fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament.
- Peter: Keys of the Kingdom of God, which witnesses his testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the foundation of faith and key to the realm of God.
- James the Greater: By tradition traveled to Spain, thus depicted by shells or scallops and a pilgrim’s staff referring to long pilgrimages.
- Thomas: A carpenter’s square and spear, first for his role in building the church in India and the spear for his martyrdom.
- Jude: A boat with a cross-shaped mask reminding us of the tradition that he was a missionary who travelled long distances.
- John: A serpent arising out of a chalice following a story that there was an attempt to poison John, but the poison vanished in the form of a serpent.
- Andrew: A fish confirming Andrew’s role as a fisherman.
- Matthew: The tax collector symbol is an ax with a bag of coins, interestingly in this rendition, the coins are U.S. minted.
- Judas: Because of his betraying Jesus, his symbol is a slate with slots for 30 coins where ancient coins were to be added.
- Philip: A staff surmounted by a cross speaking to his role as a missionary journeys among barbarians in Asia where he spread Christianity.
- Bartholomew: A sword, testimony to his martyrdom by knife or sword.
- Simon: A fish on a book by which we remember he was a fisher, a fisher of human beings through the Gospel.
- James the Less: A saw speaks to his martyrdom by a crowd when he was ninety-six years old.
Heri Bert Bartscht (1919—1996)
Designer and Fabricator of the Copper Panels on the Communion Table
Heri Bartscht was a noted Dallas sculptor and professor of art at the University of Dallas from 1961 until 1990. He worked in wood, stone, clay, bronze, and copper and often his figurative subjects were influenced by his devout religious beliefs.
Born in Breslau, Germany in 1919, Bartscht studied for six years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and was a two-time recipient of the City of Munich Scholarship.
After arriving in Dallas in 1953, his artistic career continue to thrive. In 1954, he received the top award at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts annual art exhibition. He quickly became very involved with the local art community by founding and directing the Dallas Society for Contemporary Arts, the forerunner of the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art. In 1958, Bartscht helped create a private school of art in Dallas and in 1961 was asked to establish a sculpture program at the University of Dallas, which led to his thirty-year teaching career at the university.
Though active in creating numerous community art projects in Dallas, he completed over fifty commissions for churches throughout the Southwest. As a devout Roman Catholic, Bartscht was always at his best with liturgical art. In addition to his work for MHCC, he created the double life size Crucifixion for the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Ross Avenue, and the rooster bell tower for the First United Lutheran Church on Mockingbird Lane.